I shall always esteem it as the greatest piece of fortune that has fallen to me, that I was born in that noble, fallen Caerleon-on-Usk, in the heart of Gwent […] For the older I grow the more firmly I am convinced that anything which I may have accomplished in literature is due to the fact that when my eyes were first opened in earliest childhood they had before them a vision of an enchanted land.
And just visible beneath the forest was the white of a house which they told me was called Bertholly. And for some reason, this house which stood on the boundaries and green walls of my young world became an object of mysterious attraction to me. It became one of the many symbols of the world of wonder that were offered to me, it became, as it were, a great word in the secret language by which mysteries were communicated. I thought of it always with something of awe, even dread;
and so entering at last Caerleon-on-Usk, the little silent, deserted village that was once the golden Isca of the Roman Legions, that is golden for ever and immortal in the romances of King Arthur and the Graal and the Round Table. (Far Off Things, p.8)
So Bill and I came at last into Caerleon, having succeeded by much extraordinary wandering in making five miles into ten, and at Caerleon we drank old ale at the Hanbury Arms, which is a medieval hostelry, close to the Roman tower by the river. (Far Off Things, p.150)
The Literature Wales walk was an enjoyable wander through Machen’s beloved Gwent countryside. It highlighted various important locations in Machen’s life and work and was well illuminated by appropriate Machen readings and discussion. The fine company of Machen readers, old and new, added much to the pleasing adventure and appropriately it ended in one of Machen’s favourite pubs in Caerleon. Machen’s line 'I had walked and wandered by unknown roads' sums up the day.
Literature Wales is delighted to have worked with Parthian Books on this event, which comprises one of fourteen literary tourism adventures organised this year. Arthur Machen’s worlds drew upon the magic, myth and folklore of this special part of the Usk Valley, and our guided walk traversed the very ridgeway, forest and vista in which many of his spirits and demons originated. Accessed through the eyes of local contemporary fantasy writer and Young People’s Laureate for Wales Catherine Fisher, Machen’s influence was also explored. We look forward to our second Parthian Books partnership literary tour later this year, which focuses on the writer and artist Brenda Chamberlain.
New students of English Literature at Cardiff University this year will, for the first time ever, be studying Welsh writing in English alongside works by canonical authors of the English literary tradition such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Charlotte Brontë and Angela Carter.
A new course entitled ‘Literature, Culture, and Place’ will allow students to explore representations of place in twentieth-century Welsh, Caribbean and African American literature, looking particularly at how place is linked to questions of cultural, ethnic, and racial identity.
A key text on the course will be Katie Gramich's brand new translation of Kate Roberts's Feet in Chains. Considered her masterpiece, the classic novel follows the struggle of passionate and headstrong Jane to bring up a family of six children on the pittance earned by her slate-quarrying husband. This sensitive translation remains close to the austere style of Roberts's prose.
Spanning the next forty years, the novel traces the contours not only of one vividly evoked Welsh family but of a nation coming to self-consciousness; it begins in the heyday of Methodist fervour and ends in the carnage and disillusionment of the First World War. Through it all, Jane survives, the centre of her world and the inspiration for her children who will grow up determined to change the conditions of these poor people’s lives, to release them forever from their chains.
Prof. Katie Gramich, who specialises in rediscovering neglected female authors of Welsh writing in English, said:
"There has been a so-called ‘spatial turn’ in literary studies over the past decade, with more and more critics analysing the ways in which writers create a sense of place in their work. This approach opens up questions about the gendering of space, belonging and dislocation, borders and homelands, and colonial encounters.
"Our first-year students come to Cardiff from many different countries and regions and, for many, this is their first experience of living in a place which is not ‘home’; the questions raised by this course, then, are likely to be of direct personal relevance and interest to them, while the course also provides an opportunity to discover some of the riches of Welsh writing in English."
The Welsh texts on the course also include Raymond Williams’s 1960 novel, Border Country, republished in the Library of Wales series; contemporary Cardiff-set novel, The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi (Picador, 2001); poetry by Dylan Thomas, R. S. Thomas, and Gillian Clarke, and short fiction by Alun Lewis. The complementary Caribbean and African American texts include works by Jean Rhys, Caryl Phillips, Nella Larsen, and Toni Morrison.
Steve Woodhams' recent essay Reading Raymond Williams in 2012 is now available on the Raymond Williams Foundation website. Part review, part report, Steve asks why the interest in Williams - particularly that of heavily contextualising his writing with letters and rediscovered papers - has revived, and attributes the recent flood of publications on and by Williams with encouraging it.
Woodhams believes that Williams's biographer, Dai Smith, helped rekindle the interest by building A Warrior's Tale out of 'hitherto unseen letters, diaries, teaching notes, and preciously, notebooks in which were contained Raymond's plans and sketches for an extraordinary journey of work but which showed its integration regardless of type.'
The essay focuses in particular on three publications: Border Country, The Long Revolution, and The Volunteers. Border Country and The Volunteers are both included in the Library of Wales series: a series concerned with keeping culturally important Welsh writing available. Steve argues that re-publication of these titles has fuelled interest in a way that previous academic writing had failed to do. He ends his essay with a plea for publication of further work by Williams.
The recognition of a growing desire for a collective approach, collating information from a variety of sources in order to build a fuller understanding of links between the author's work as a whole, is close to Woodhams' heart. He says 'such "intra-disciplinarily" is perhaps a hallmark of my way of thinking, attempting to see interconnectedness, relations and totality'. Of course in order for readers to access enough material to draw wider conclusions about the work as a whole the work must be available.
The Raymond William's Collection: A Report, edited by Steve, represents the culmination of long endeavour to make publicly available unpublished manuscripts, notebooks, letters, diaries and papers that the writer Raymond Williams (1921-1988) left in part discarded, even neglected. The Report is available from the Parthian website, priced £5.00.
The Raymond Williams Papers are housed in Swansea and details can be found on the RW Foundation website at, http://www.raymondwilliamsfoundation.org.uk/ - where the full copy of Reading Raymond Williams in 2012 is available.
Steve is an Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths. His current research is on South Wales and the Coalfield in particular: including the role of chapels, their relation to adult learning and in turn the relation of that to radical politics. He assisted the Centre for Research into the English Literature and Language of Wales (CREW) and the Archivist with assembly of the Raymond Williams Papers, donated by the Raymond Williams Estate.
Though “What will survive of us is love” comes from his captious contemporary, Philip Larkin, the line might stand for the life and career of Welsh-Jewish poet Dannie Abse. Having turned 88 last September, Abse was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, in the 2012 New Year Honours, “for services to poetry and literature.” With a new collection, “In Extra Time,” out in April from London’s Enitharmon Press, as well as a January reprint of his enchanting anthology, “Ode to Love: 100 Poems of Love & Lust,” from Portico Publishing, Abse is a benevolently omnipresent caregiver in verse, an appropriate status given his longtime day job as a pulmonologist at a chest clinic in London.
Limited edition packs including the full 33 titles of the Library of Wales Series are now available in the Parthian online bookshop.
The Library of Wales is a landmark series of books representing the best of Welsh writing in English, bringing classics of Welsh literature to the general reader.
‘One of the best things we’ve supported as a government’ Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan.
This is the chance to buy a complete set of the Library of Wales series - a total of 33 titles - for £275.00. From the best-selling novels such as Raymond Williams' Border Country to newly-discovered literary gems such as Margiad Evans' Turf or Stone, this series has something for everyone. For an even luckier few, the first limited edition packs sold will include a rare hardback edition signed copy of Goodbye, Twentieth Century by Dannie Abse. Only 200 copies of this book were printed.
Includes the three new Library of Wales titles Goodbye Twentieth Century, a humorous and poignant autobiography from Dannie Abse, compelling political thriller The Volunteers by Raymond Williams; and Gwyn Thomas' turbulent South Wales uprisings in All Things Betray Thee, along with Ron Berry, So Long Hector Bebb; Raymond Williams, Border Country, Gwyn Thomas, The Dark Philosophers; Cwmardy & We Live, Lewis Jones; Country Dance, Margiad Evans; A Man's Estate, Emyr Humphreys; In The Green Tree, Alun Lewis; Alun Richards, Home To An Empty House; Ash on a Young Man's Sleeve, Dannie Abse; Poetry 1900-2000, Meic Stephens ed.; Sport, Gareth Williams ed.; Rhapsody, Dorothy Edwards; Jampot Smith, Jeremy Brooks; Voices of the Children, George Ewart Evans; I Sent a Letter to My Love, Bernice Rubens; Congratulate the Devil, Howell Davies; The Heyday in the Blood, Geraint Goodwin; Alone to the Alone, Gwyn Thomas; The Caves of Alienation, Stuart Evans; A Rope of Vines, Brenda Chamberlain; Black Parade, Jack Jones; Dai Country, Alun Richards; The Valley, The City, The Village, Glyn Jones; The Great God Pan, Arthur Machen; The Hill of Dreams, Arthur Machen; The Battle to the Weak, Hilda Vaughan; Turf or Stone, Margiad Evans.