A nation with two literary languages but one soul that speaks passionately through its writers - here is the guide to the modern literary scene covering circa 100 works that sum up the currents and corners of Welsh life from the 1920s to the present. This little book puts the lot at your fingertips.

Contributions by Ray Keenoy, Rhian Reynolds and Sioned Rowlands

Guide

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Griffri

Meredith, Christopher

One of the characters in Christopher Meredith’s debut novel, Shifts (1988), was an amateur historian whose investigations into the industrial origins of his Valleys town lead him towards a partial reclamation of a Welsh-language culture and identity lost to the present. Meredith’s second full-length fiction, Griffri (1991), might similarly be seen as an attempt to reclaim the Welshness of this same south-eastern corner of Wales, taking the reader back to a period, the twelfth century, when the region (Meredith’s own) stood at the vanguard of Welsh resistance to Anglo-Norman invaders. In a vivid first-person narrative,



this powerfully imagined and met..READ MORE

Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere

Morris, Jan

The author of more than forty books, including studies of Venice, Oxford, Manhattan, Sydney and Hong Kong, Jan Morris states in her Prologue to Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere that this is to be her last publication. Fitting, then, that this portrait of a city which has ‘curiously haunted’ her since she first visited it as a soldier at the end of World War Two (an explanatory note tells readers that the author ‘completed a change of sexual role in 1972’), should also be, in many ways, her most personal book. It is as much a reflection on the search for her own identity as on Trieste itself. ‘For years,’ she writes, ‘I felt myself an exile from normality’. The book is also, to a large extent, a reiteration of themes — nationalism, empire and indeed exile — which have preoccupied Morris since her first book was published in 1956.

‘The average traveller,’ according to ..READ MORE

Brothers

Rubens, Bernice

My maternal grandfather, like one of Bernice Rubens’ grandfathers, grew up in the Tsar’s Russia and passed on three things from his life there: a gleaming brass samovar — the sine qua non of Russic domestic pride; my mother’s frankly rather broken Yiddish, faint echo of a thousand years of Jewish Europe and one single, short but deafening item from the word-horde of the mighty Russian language: pogrom.

If anyone doesn’t quite know what a pogrom was, then see Rubens’ evocation here — description would be too bland a term — on pages 111 to 123.

..READ MORE

The Dust Diaries

Sheers, Owen

The Dust Diaries is the ambitious and accomplished first novel of poet Owen Sheers. It is a multi-faceted work on the life of the Reverend Arthur Shearly Cripps — at once a novel, a biography, a memoir, a travelogue, an account of social history, war and imperialism and a love story. Sheers describes Dust Diaries as ‘the story of Arthur Cripps’ life reflected through my imagination’ but it is based on extensive research into the life and surroundings of this socially aware missionary to the Shona people of Zimbabwe.

The book is constructed from intricately layered narratives — the novel spans the twentieth century as author Owen Sheers’ experiences of contemporary Zimbabwe are interspersed with accounts of Cripps’ last days, memories of his time in Africa as well as of the life he left behind in Britain. Cripps’ ..READ MORE

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog

Thomas, Dylan

Wales’ most famous literary export is in delightful form with this collection of short stories first published in 1940. Like Joyce’s masterpiece Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which the title comically echoes, this collection is also



strongly autobiographical. It traces the early influences of people and places on Thomas’ boyhood, adolescence and early manhood, with most of the stories told in the first person, adding to their immediacy.

The collection moves, almost chronologically, from pre-adolescent play and comedic schoolboy experiences through to a more self-conscious adolescence with its awareness of growing sexual and creative forces. The first two stories, ‘The Peaches’ and ..READ MORE

In and Out of the Goldsh Bowl

Trezise, Rachel

In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl is a vision of the Rhondda Valley in the 1990s, as witnessed and experienced by a teenage girl, Rebecca Trigianni. An account of life in one of the most deprived communities of Western Europe, where the mines have closed, but life remains as dark as the pits and the humour as black as the coal. A place where marginally employed adults drink and fight until they pass out, and where their children look for escape in alcohol, class B drugs, crime and underage sex.



The novel is a confessional memoir of youth, but Rebecca’s memories of family life serve as a metaphor for the experience of south Wales’ post-industrial communities. Among the episodes of a childhood, Trezise weaves sociological facts of the period, recounting how in 1985 in the aftermath of the Miners’ Strike, unemployment in the Rhondda Valley stood as high as sixty-five percent; for her family however, this was a good time as both her mother and stepfather remained employed. Rebecca’s contented home life i..READ MORE

Sugar and Slate

Williams, Charlotte

Sugar and Slate contains many valuable lessons within its pages — and one of them is to be wary of labels. Labels like ‘black’, ‘white’, ‘British’, ‘Welsh’, ‘West Indian’, ‘African’, ‘immigrant’. Even such apparently indisputable, ‘factual’ labels as these are shown to be politically charged, loaded with assumptions and full of contradictions. Then there are other labels, widely used in the recent past but now seen as offensive: terms like ‘coloured’ and ‘half-caste’, words all too familiar to Charlotte Williams when she was growing up in Llandudno, a faded Victorian seaside resort on the north Wales coast. And then, of course, there are yet harsher labels… Though rarely the victim of such highly unpleasant taunts (the Llandudno of the 1950s and 1960s was, after all, a most polite and genteel town), Williams spent her formative years struggling to escape the labels society had burdened her with and, more insidiously, inculcated with the prevailing racist mentality, the labels she had given herself. One of five daughters of a black father from Guyana and a white ‘Cymraes’ (Welsh-speaking Welshwoman), perhaps the acceptable term to describe Williams nowadays would be ‘mixed-race’. Part memoir, part travelogue, part ..READ MORE

Prince of Wales

Williams, John

The crime thriller, immensely popular as a genre, is not everybody’s cup of tea (or should that be ‘mug of java’). Prince of Wales, one of a series by Cardiff-based journalist John Williams, was published both separately and in a cheap omnibus edition alongside two similar works under the title The Cardiff Trilogy. It has, as well as the hard-bitten one-dimensional types that constitute a crime writer’s vision of the criminal world, an interesting portrayal of the interlocking elites of the Welsh capital. Williams’ Cardiff has, in his dark, cynical vision, ‘micro celebs of the Welsh media’, local authority and Welsh Assembly fixers, gangland henchmen and journalists all mix ’n matching in dire schemes for mutual enrichment.

..READ MORE

Border Country

Williams, Raymond

Raymond Williams is a writer better known for his work in literary and cultural studies than his fiction, but his often overlooked novels are nonetheless important and interesting. Border Country, Williams’ first novel and part of a border trilogy, is the story of the experiences of Matthew Price, a London-based lecturer, on his return to his family home in Glynmawr in the Welsh Marches. His visit is prompted by his father’s poor health, and his return home causes both characters to (re)consider aspects of their lives and their relationship. Their exploration of their shared memories — especially those of the 1926 General Strike — reveals both personal histories and the social history of mid-twentieth century Wales.

Borders are a central motif of this novel — it was completed at the end of the 1950s, a time when the boundaries between literary and cultural theory were becoming more permeable. ..READ MORE