Writer's widow dismisses claim


London - The widow of the writer and poet Laurie Lee last night angrily dismissed claims that her husband never fought in the Spanish Civil War, and had made up large chunks of his most recently published autobiography.

Cathy Lee described as "madness" an article in this week's Spectator magazine which accuses Lee of "a great deal of falsifying and embellishment. I am just overwhelmed by this nonsense," she said.

In A Moment of War, published in 1991, Lee graphically describes the few days he spent fighting in the snow outside the walled city of Tereul in eastern Spain. He also recalls shooting a man with "shocked, angry eyes". The account is entirely fictitious, the magazine claims.

There is no dispute that Lee entered Spain in December 1937 as a young man by walking over the Pyrenees. He was also imprisoned for two weeks as a spy.

But according to Mr Bill Alexander - the British commander of the International Brigade, now 87 - Laurie Lee did not take part in the battle. "He wasn't at Tereul; he never got beyond Barcelona. The book is pure fantasy," he said.

Lee died in May at the age of 82.