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  • Announcing Story, Vols. I & II
  • Brenda Chamberlain Centenary 2012
  • Women's Writing from the Library of Wales
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2014 M. Wynn Thomas Prize Winners awarded full Library of Wales range!

This year’s winners of the M. Wynn Thomas prize, a celebration of excellence in the field of Welsh writing in English, were awarded last Friday during the annual conference by AWWE ‘In/Dependent Wales’, held in Gregynog Hall.
 
Dr Matthew Jarvis (Aberystwyth University/University of Wales Trinity St David) and Lisa Sheppard (Cardiff University) won respectively in the ‘Open’ and ‘New Scholars’ categories, and both received a £150 prize along with a full set of the Library of Wales books series, courtesy of Parthian.
 
The panel, which included Professor Diana Wallace (University of South Wales), Dr Tomos Owen (Bangor University) and Dr Alyce von Rothkirch (Swansea University), is reported to be “very pleased with the quality of the submissions”, as well as “impressed with the increasing international reach of this prize. Submissions came from Wales, England, Ireland and the USA”.
 
The Association of Welsh Writing in English, originated in 1984 on initiative of five major Welsh universities, is aimed at preserving and promoting Welsh studies as evidence of important cultural diversity in the academic world.
 

New Partnership between Parthian, Library of Wales and the Dylans Mobile Bookstore

Last Saturday the monthly edition of the Uplands Market in Swansea hosted the distinctive Dylans Mobile Bookstore and its latest addition in terms of car-accessorizing: a brand new sign marking the recent partnership with Parthian Books and the Library of Wales.
Jeff Towns, author, treasure-hunter, book collector/dealer (and skilled bus-driver) was there to celebrate the event. Jeff is the editor of A Pearl of Great Price, a collection of previously unpublished Dylan Thomas’ love letters to his American mistress Pearl Kazin. A second edition of the book is imminent, following a successful February debut to coincide with the kick-start of the DT100 festival.  
 
As one of most prominent authorities on all Dylan Thomas ‘matters, Jeff is  currently working on a book about Nora Summers, painter, photographer and close friend of the Thomas’ household. She lived in a community with her husband, fellow artist Gerald Summers, and Yvonne Macnamara’s family, later becoming her lover and muse. Yvonne was the mother of Caitlin, future wife of Dylan Thomas, who later bitterly described Nora as “the father figure of our girlhood and an evil one”. Being so intimate with the family, Nora portrayed Dylan and Caitlin in several occasions, shooting them in one of their most iconic photograph, the one at the Baker Hotel in 1938.
 
Also at the event was Andrew Green, former chief executive of the National Library of Wales and author of the forthcoming In The Chair: How to Guide Groups and Manage Meetings (Parthian, September 2014). 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Photographs by Michael Watson from Swansea University. You can have a look at his brilliant portfolio here).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Jo Mazelis: A story in pictures at the Library of Wales launch

At 6pm on Wednesday, 26th March, Parthian Books and the Library of Wales launched Story, a two-volume anthology that boasts an unsurpassed selection of the very best Welsh fiction from the last one hundred years. The launch took place at Swansea University's Singleton Abbey, where Professor John Spurr from Swansea University talked about the significance of the Library of Wales series for education and research on Welsh identity. Afterwards, the anthology’s editor, Dai Smith, gave an introduction to the two volume series. In his introduction, he explained that, in selecting eighty-four short stories written by well-known Welsh writers such as Dylan Thomas, Rhys Davies, Gwyn Thomas and Leonora Brito, he had attempted to compile a collection of works by English-speaking writers which enable the readers to understand what it was and is like to live in Wales. After Dai Smith’s talk, three authors – Stevie Davies, George Brinley Evans and Rachel Trezise – read excerpts from their short stories.

Have a look at the following pictures from the book launch taken by Jo Mazelis.

Dannie Abse joins Welsh Cultural Embassy Wheatsheaf event!

Parthian are delighted to announce than the legendary author, playwright and poet Dannie Abse will be joining our literary event at the Wheatsheaf in Fitzrovia, London on April 6th. The afternoon will begin at 2pm with readings by two young debut authors Daniel Tyte (Half Plus Seven, Parthian Books 2014) and Rhian Elizabeth (Six Pounds Eight Ounces, Seren Books 2014), before we'll later be joined by some poetic types, including the emerging poet Jonathan Edwards (Seren Books), recent Planet Essay Prize winner / 2nd place Terry Hetherington Prize 2014 winner Sion Tomos Owen, and, of course, the night’s special guest - Abse himself. Finally, we will be launching Kit Habianic's debut 1984 miners’ strike novel Until Our Blood is Dry (Parthian Books) at approximately 4pm. 
 
Dannie Abse was born in Cardiff in 1923. Though a doctor by profession, he has simultaneously had a long and successful writing career; He has published some sixteen books of verse, including After Every Green Thing (1948), Funland(1973), Ask the Bloody Horse (1986), Arcadia: One Mile (1998) andRunning Late (2007), and has also written a number of prose works, which include Ash on a Young Man’s Sleeve (1954) and A Poet in the Family (1974). He was also made president of the Welsh Academy of Letters, the national association of writers, and edited the anthologyTwentieth Century Anglo-Welsh Poetry (1997).
 
Two of Abse’s acclaimed texts, the autobiographical Ash on a Young Man’s Sleeve and his biography Goodbye, Twentieth Century, have been published by the Library of Wales, the latter in an expanded and revised form, as was the Poetry 1900–2000 anthology, which features ten of Abse’s poems. (Some of which you’ll undoubtedly hear on the night, and one of which you can read below!) Widely acclaimed for its warmhumour, lyricism and honesty, as well as its accurate evocation of the thirties, Ash on a Young Man's Sleevehas become a sung-after classic. In this delightful autobiographical novel, he skilfully interweaves public and private themes, setting the fortunes of a Jewish family in Wales against the troubled backcloth of the times - unemployment, the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, and the Spanish Civil War. Meanwhile, his rich mixture of Welsh and Jewish backgrounds, and his dual occupations of doctor and author, have led to what is widely regarded as one of the most readable, humorous and poignant autobiographies available today. Goodbye, Twentieth Century incorporates his acclaimed first volume of autobiography, A Poet in the Family, and in this new edition from the Library of Wales brings his life up to the present day and the outset of a new century. It includes a moving epilogue that speaks of his recent years which brought tragedy and dramatic change to his life.
 
Returning to the Wheatsheaf event this coming Sunday, entrance is £5 on the door. Social good times shall continue into the night, although the venue may switch as night falls. All queries can be sent tosusiewild@hotmail.com. Join the Facebook event here.
 
'Epithalamion' by Dannie Abse
 
Singing, today I married my white girl
beautiful in a barley field.
Green on thy finger a grass blade curled,
so with this ring I thee wed, I thee wed,
and send our love to the loveless world
of all the living and all the dead.
 
Now, no more than vulnerable human,
we, more than one, less than two,
are nearly ourselves in a barley field –
and only love is the rent that’s due
though the bailiffs of time return anew
to all the living but not the dead.
 
Shipwrecked, the sun sinks down harbours
of a sky, unloads its liquid cargoes
of marigolds, and I and my white girl
lie still in the barley – who else wishes
to speak, what more can be said
by all the living against all the dead?
 
Come then all of you wedding guests:
green ghost of trees, gold of barley,
you blackbird priests in the field,
you wind that shakes the pansy head
fluttering on a stalk like a butterfly;
come the living and come the dead.
 
Listen flowers, birds, winds, worlds,
tell all today that I married
more than a white girl in the barley –
for today I took to my human bed
flower and bird and wind and world,
and all the living and all the dead.
 

The Library of Wales' 'So Long, Hector Bebb' by Ron Berry nominated for Greatest Welsh Novel!

Shortly after the nomination of Stevie Davies’s novel Awakening for as a contender for their title of Greatest Welsh Novel, Wales Art Review, who are searching for the greatest work of long fictional prose written by a Welsh author, have nominated another novel published by Parthian, So Long, Hector Bebb by Ron Berry, for this very same award. Altogether, over the course of the year, Wales Art Review’s committee will select twenty-five novels to be long-listed for their Greatest Welsh Novel award and present them in a nominating essay. At the end of the year they will reveal the winner of the literary award.
 
To come back to So Long, Hector Bebb: On 17th December 2010, a review written by Niall Griffiths appeared in The Independent in which the author describes his first encounters with this classic of Welsh literature in English as well as his rediscovery of the book, and explains how this novel influenced his own style of writing. Sad about having lost his copy and being aware of the fact that the title, which had first been published in 1970, had gone out of print, Griffiths rediscovered this ‘Book of a Lifetime’ in the new Library of Wales series. For him, this novel “has been, and continues to be, a guide and pilot to my genesis and evolution as a writer.” Talking about his first reading experience of So Long, Hector Bebb, the reviewer wrote: “I realised, for the first time, that the ways in which ordinary, non-TV people spoke - their rhythms and elisions, their slang, their ungrammatical but identifying linguistic tics - were important and valuable and uniquely expressive and possessed of a huge communicative power. Ordinary people could be the subjects for books; they mattered. Their lives were worthy of exploring in literature. This was seismic.” Impressed by the distinct characters and the thrill of Berry's language, Griffiths goes on: “It remains an extraordinary novel: 14 different voices tell how Hector Bebb, a Valleys boxer, punches and kills the barman who has been openly having an affair with his wife, and then escapes to a hill farm for five years where he is looked after by an admirer, a one-armed ex-soldier. On discovery, Hector flees further into the mountains, turns feral, and is destroyed during a pursuit by armed police. The plot of a thriller, then, or something like one: but the manner of its telling rings and lingers; the voices capture, perfectly and utterly without caricature or condescension, the rich and swirling interior monologues of the cast. Unmawkish, unjudging, it can only have come from the pen of one completely unafraid to write from the centre of his own culture.”
 
For Craig Austin from Wales Art Review, So Long, Hector Bebb “is a great Welsh novel, maybe the great Welsh novel, because much like its ultimately doomed pugilist of a protagonist, it defiantly refuses to play by the antiquated rules of its predecessors. This is no work of dewy-eyed, verdant-valleyed whimsy; there are no heroes here, no bleeding hearts of solid Welsh gold, no ultimate redemption, or hackneyed working class valour. It is a work ultimately defined by fatalism and claustrophobic conditions, and given that it was written in the raw aftermath of the Aberfan disaster, by a former coalminer no less, one wholly devoid of the voices of children; an entire generation erased in a single moment of unfathomable catastrophe.” 
 
Ron Berry, the author of the novel, was born in 1920 in Blaen-cwm in the Rhondda Valley and worked as a miner from the age of fourteen. He was also a gifted sportsman who had played for Swansea Town, and an occasional boxer. Austin points out that although So Long, Hector Bebb is a ostensibly a story about a boxer, and boxing itself, in its essence it is no sports book but rather “a granite-hard thriller entirely bereft of romance; a story underpinned by an unholy ragbag collective of lumpen, wanting men and duplicitous, disillusioned women.” Refering to Berry’s style of writing, Austin warns the reader of “the brutally industrial language that punctuates Berry’s prose like ’80s hedgerow pornography”, but adds immediately that despite the rough tone it is precisely Berry’s dialogue which is the real thrill in the novel. He explains this paradoxon as follows: “Words mangled and disfigured by razor-sharp tongues and broken teeth to create a brutal beauty of indeterminate virtue. Even the swearing, and there is plenty of swearing, has its own deliciously delightful appeal. (…) These voices ring true, and the fact that they don’t conform to clichéd museum-piece images of rolling hills, kindly hearts, and earnest noble toil only adds to their aggregated impact upon the reader.” 
 
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this controversial novel will convince Wales Art Review’s jury at the final vote for the Greatest Welsh Novel at the end of the year.
 

Story anthology launch details

As has been previously revealed, the two volumes which comprise the Library of Wales Story anthology are to be released on March 26th, 2014. The volumes, which between them span 1200 pages and feature over eighty stories by a myriad of authors, make up the most comprehensive collection of Welsh fiction in English ever released.

We can now confirm that the launch event will take place at 6pm in the Abbey building in Swansea University, Singleton. The collection will be introduced by series editor Dai Smith, before several stories from both volumes will be read by their original authors, including Rachel Trezise, Stevie Davies and George Brinley Evans. Drinks and nibbles will be available at the reception, as will copies of the anthology, which retail at £14.99 each. However, as a special prepublication offer, we are offering a bundle of both volumes which will retail exclusively at the launch and on the Parthian Books website at £20.

 

You can read more about the Story anthology here (Vol. I) and here (Vol. II).

 

Go here and here to preorder the volumes individually. Alternatively, keep checking the Parthian website over the coming days for news about the slipcase bundle.

Library of Wales e-book deals and giveaways!

The sun finally seems to have got its act in gear and reared its coruscating head, banishing the gloom that has hung over South Wales and beyond for many a month. So for all you purveyors of literature hitting the beach, outdoor café tables or other clichéd libraries-outside-of-libraries, look no further over the coming days than the following digital offers to stock your e-reader's virtual shelves full of quality Welsh fiction! Indeed, the Library of Wales has reduced its entire digital lineup to £2.99 or under, meaning that you will be able to get classics such as Arthur Machen's The Hill of Dreams, W. H. Davies' The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp and Raymond Williams' Border Country for next to nothing! However, why stop at next to nothing? Indeed, you'll also be able to get two titles absolutely free – Dorothy Edwards' Rhapsody and Dai Country by Alun Richards.

***

Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards

A remarkably talented writer who tragically died by throwing herself under a train at the age of 31 in 1934, Dorothy Edwards contributed much to Anglo-Welsh literature through both this collection (1927) and her lone novel Winter Sonata, published in 1928. She was born in 1903 in Ogmore Vale, a small mining community in Mid Glamorgan. She took a degree at Cardiff University in Greek and philosophy, but literature was her passion and soon after graduating her short stories began to appear in magazines and journals. These were collected in Rhapsody, along with several previously unpublished stories written during the nine months Edwards spent in Vienna and Florence. Winter Sonata followed shortly afterwards. She spent the following years trying to supplement her mother’s meagre pension by writing stories and articles for magazines and newspapers, and doing some extra-mural teaching at Cardiff University, but she never undertook full-time employment. She died in 1934. Her suicide note read: ‘I am killing myself because I have never sincerely loved any human being all my life. I have accepted kindness and friendship and even love without gratitude, and given nothing in return.’

Synopsis: A collection of short stories from English and American magazines, by the Cardiff born author, first published in 1927. The pieces are distinctive in voice and sensibility.

The ten stories of Rhapsody, together with the three previously uncollected pieces added to this edition, are utterly distinctive in voice and sensibility. At least three of the Rhapsody stories – 'A Country House', 'Days', and the brilliant, allusive and enigmatic 'A Garland of Earth' – are small masterpieces. Not bad by the age of twenty-four. All of them are extremely controlled studies of constrained desire, loneliness and incomplete relationships for which Edwards was developing a non-realist world of imagery and symbolism and her own language. Music is one of the motifs. For Edwards, music represents art, but also the possibility of sexual passion which is otherwise largely unstated but is everywhere a powerful undercurrent.

Review: Rhapsody is a collection of ten truly exquisite short stories...It is a rare pleasure to read such a fine collection, in which each story is a self-contained masterpiece that also builds and draws upon its predecessors to create a greater whole that reaches its consummation in the final story...Edwards’s prose style and use of language are deceptively simple and skillfully lead the reader to contemplate what is not being said, the secrets that lie behind the surface. Her stories are sad and beautiful and highly enigmatic; they are to be read slowly and to be savoured...Using music, literature and nature as connecting forces, Edwards captures the way in which people move towards and away from each other, the tentativeness and fragility of human relationships. Many of her stories have a mythical or fairy-tale quality about them...Edwards’s stories narrow the divide between pain and beauty and show how they can be one and the same. – Suzy Ceulan Hughes (A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.) 

The ten stories that make up Rhapsody...are undoubtedly fine works, taut and elegantly wrought narratives with never a single word wasted. – Jon Gower (Wales Arts Review)

***

Dai Country by Alun Richards

Alun Richards was born in 1929 in Pontypridd. After spells as a schoolteacher, probation officer and as an instructor in the Royal Navy, from the 1960s he was, and successfully so, a full-time writer. He lived near the Mumbles, close to the sea which, coupled with the hills of the South Wales Valleys, was the landscape of his fiction. Alongside plays for stage and radio, screenplays and adaptations for television, a biography and a memoir, he wrote six novels and two collections of short stories, Dai Country (1973) and The Former Miss Merthyr Tydfil (1976). As editor, he produced bestselling editions of Welsh short stories and tales of the sea for Penguin. He died in 2004.

Synopsis: At the heart of Dai Country - the central valleys of twentieth-century South Wales from the 1930s to the 1970s - was the metropolis of Pontypridd, and it is from this vantage point in time and space that Alun Richards casts his baleful eye on the personal relationships and social ambitions of the inhabitants of this much-fabled country. In this compendium volume, the best of his short stories, as funny and savage as they are scathing and compassionate, are combined with his entrancing autobiographical memoir Days of Absence to take us to the core of those incomparable valleys, with their lived experience stripped bare for once of their usual cloak of cliché and sentiment.

Review: It’s a judicious selection, offering a taste of Richards’ writing that will undoubtedly lead many readers to seek out more of his work...Some of the recollections are vivid and compelling, and the whole is suffused with his deep affection for his hometown of Pontypridd and with a sense of belonging, rootedness and identity...This looking back, this seeing first through the eyes of youth or innocence and then again through the lens of maturity and experience, is a stylistic device that Richards uses to consummate effect in his stories, giving his characters a complexity and emotional depth that are quite extraordinary...Working on many levels, Richards’ stories and characters linger long in the mind. – Suzy Ceulan Hughes (A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.) 

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All these titles can be downloaded from a variety of webstores, including Amazon, Waterstones, Gwales and Kobo. The price changes mentioned above should come into effect around Wednesday, April 12th.

These offers will run throughout summer, and we will be adding more titles throughout April and May, so keep checking back!

Announcing Story, Vols. I & II

Announcing Story, Vols. I & II

Launching on March 26th, 2014 are two new additions to the Library of Wales' formidable arsenal: Story, Volumes I and II, two short story anthologies which possess an unsurpassed compliation of Anglo-Welsh tales spanning the whole of the 20th century and beyond, from the dawn of the 1900s and the First World War all the way through to the contemporary, post-industrial valleys of the 2000s, via the Second World War and the tumultuous Miners' Strikes of the Eighties.

Edited by series regular Dai Smith, the collections feature a peerless selection of over 80 stories drawn from a staggering array of talent, including both past legends, such as Arthur Machen, Alun Richards and Dylan Thomas, and the modern day's most acclaimed, including Rachel Trezise, Lewis Davies and Stevie Davies. Stories range from Arthur Machen’s 'The Gift of Tongues', Rhys Davies’ 'The Dark World' and Caradoc Evans’ 'The Coffin', to Leonora Brito’s 'Dat’s Love', Gee Williams’ 'Blood Etc.' and Rachel Trezise’s 'Fresh Apples'... While along the way we have everything from the fields of Ynys Mon to the bars of Barcelona in a thought provoking and highly entertaining selection.

 

Specific details regarding the launch are to be confirmed, but we can confirm it will take place at Swansea University on Wednesday, 26th March, 2014. More information will be circulated when we know it, so watch this space!

Are You Looking for a Scary Read this Halloween?

The Library of Wales is known for publishing quality Welsh writing in English and within this scope, we have a few horror titles up our sleeve!

 

So, to get you in the mood for All Hallows Eve, here are a few of our favourite horror titles:

 

Margiad Evans' gothic extravaganzas:

 

Turf or Stone

A gothic tale of passion, violence, cruelty and unexpected tenderness. In this her third novel, Margiad Evans conjures a tempestuous and sometimes sinister world of rural and small town border life in early twentieth century.

 

Buy Turf or Stone from the Parthian online bookstore for £8.99

Also available as an eBook from online retailers. 

 

 

 

 

Country Dance - known as 'The Welsh Wuthering Heights'.

At the heart of Country Dance is Ann Goodman, a young woman torn by ‘the struggle for supremacy in her mixed blood’, Welsh and English. In this story of passion and murder set in the border country, the rural way of life is no idyll but a hard battle for survival.

 

Buy Country Dance from the Parthian online bookstore for £6.99

Also available as an eBook from online retailers. 

 

Written with terse incisive power... the novels of Margiad Evans glow with a dark... passionate light. - Derek Savage
 
 
 
Howell Davies' case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Frankenstein: 
 
Congratulate the Devil
 
Starling knows a chemist called Roper, who knows a painter called Jourbert, who knows a man in Mexico who works for the government. Mescal has always had its routes into the world. There has been a new shipment, but not quite what anyone expected. This is a new drug. It opens the doors of perception for a man like Roper hiding away in his north London laboratory. He can make people work for him, turn his friends into fools or murderers, if only he could control his own mind.... Anita is such a beautiful woman but she could never love a man like Roper...
 
Power, pleasure, always corrupt...
 
Also available as an eBook from online retailers. 
 
Congratulate the Devil is a delightful comic novel by forgotten Welsh fantasy writer Howell Davies. Rescued from obscurity by the Library of Wales this amusing tale of mind control proves to be something of a lost gem.
- Babylon Wales
 
 
And of course, who does horror like Arthur Machen? Known as one of as one of the four ‘modern masters of the horror story’.
 
The Hill of Dreams
 
A mystical, lyrical classic from the father of supernatural horror. Originally published 1907, it is widely regarded as Machen's finest lyrical work. It tells of a young man’s quest for beauty through literature, love, drugs and dreams.
 
Also available as an eBook from online retailers. 
 
 
 
The Great God Pan
 
Arthur Machen's most famous story was condemned on its first publication in 1894 as decadent and nightmarish. But its mixture of chilling horror and pagan sexuality with contemporary Victorian London, plus his distinctive and haunting writing style, soon brought him cult status.
 
Also available as an eBook from online retailers. 
 
 
 
One of the best horror stories ever written. Maybe the best in the English language - Stephen King
One of the best horror writers ever - Mark E. Smith
 
What are you reading this Halloween? 

Calling All Students to Put Their Writing Skills to the Test!

 

 

 

An exciting opportunity has arrived for students to get involved with the Library of Wales series. 

 

To win a cash prize and Library of Wales book tokens, all you have to do is write a review about what you like (or didn't like) about a title in the series. 

The university competition will be judged by Dr Kirsti Bohata, who specialises in Welsh writing in English. 
The secondary competition will be judged by Mr Ravi Pawar, Headteacher of Blackwood Comprehensive School.

 

The most important thing to remember is not to be afraid to say what you think about the book! Be honest. 

 

Remember, a book review tells not only what a book is about, but also how successful it is at what it is trying to do. 
 
Here are a few qusetions to consider when writing your review:
 
What are the author’s viewpoint and purpose?
What are the author’s main points?
What kind of evidence does the author use to prove his or her points? Is the evidence convincing? 
How does this book relate to other books on the same topic?
How successful do you think the author was in carrying out the overall purposes of the book?
 
After you’ve completed your review, be sure to proofread it carefully for errors and typos!
 
Reviews should be submitted to: libraryofwales@gmail.com (with the subject: University Competition/School Competition) no later than 11pm 31 January, 2014. 
 
The very best of luck!

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