• Announcing Story, Vols. I & II
  • Brenda Chamberlain Centenary 2012
  • Women's Writing from the Library of Wales
  • Library of Wales enewsletter
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Walking in Arthur Machen's Footsteps



On Saturday I did something interesting. No lie in or lazy brunch for me. Instead I was up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and bundling myself and my packed lunch into the back of a car en route to the ancient town of Caerleon. There a number of people with rain coats, walking boots and literary leanings were gathering in a car park for the latest walk in Literature Wales' excellent and innovative Literary Tourism programme. A walk that would celebrate one of the great early fantasy fiction writers, Arthur Machen. A local man who was directly influenced by the people and places of the Usk Valley, setting scenes and drawing themes from them throughout his literary career.
Organised by Literature Wales' Literary Tourism Project Manager Dr Bronwen Price, in association with Parthian Books, the walk would take us from the centre of Caerleon over hill, bog, golf bunker and sunken burrow and through the Usk Valley. Machen country, a land that inspired much of the cult Welsh writer's decadent Gothic horror and fantasy writing. As we travelled 'by field and wood and marshy places' we were to stop at recognisable, often much unaltered views from The Hill of Dreams and The Great God Pan as Wales' Young People's Laureate, local fantasy writer (and confessed Machen fan) Catherine Fisher read his lyrical passages to us, and other experts – Richard Frame, Dave Osmond, and Mark Lawson – filled us in on facts and flights of fancy.
Beginning at the beginning
The walk started opposite Machen's birthplace, where a blue plaque commemorates his being, and is clearly visible on a cottage opposite Ye Olde Bull Inn car park. There Catherine Fisher introduced us to Machen – the author, journalist, mystic and actor who was born in Caerleon in 1863 and spent the majority of his childhood years living in the surrounding countryside, greatly influenced by his surroundings and the town's Roman past. Writing in his memoir Far Off Things, Machen says: 
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.
As we continued on the tour, we were shown St Cadoc's Church (where Machen's grandfather, Rev. Daniel James, was buried), Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre,  and the grand restored remains of Bertholey House, a setting in a number of Machen books including The Great God Pan, The Shining Pyramid and The Three Imposters:
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;
Driven on to a quieter space by the heckling cattle, we then continued along the Usk Valley footpath to take in the panoramic views, more readings, our packed lunches and delicious slices of cake provided by Literature Wales, before eventually returning to the town,
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)
The walk concluded almost at its starting point, outside a different pub, for there is little shortage of drinking establishments in Caerleon. So, outside the Hanbury Arms we heard the last reading before sinking weary limbs inside the warmth of a pub, and thirsty mouths into the lips of filled glasses as the weird and wonderful acts of Caerleon Arts Festival performed to the throng around us:
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)
Gwilym Games (pictured left), Editor of Machenalia for The Friends of Arthur Machen was on hand to add his knowledge, fantastic fandom, and a Machen reading (from the opening of The Great God Pan). He said:
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.
Whilst Lleucu Siencyn, Chief Executive of Literature Wales commented on this wonderful walk through the enchanted lands of Machen's Childhood, saying:
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.
For more information on this and other literary tourism events organised by Literature Wales in 2012, visit: http://www.literaturewales.org/2012literarytourismeventsprogramme/
To see many more images of the walk, please visit our Facebook photo album of the day.
More Machen
Parthian Books are proud to include two Machen titles in The Library of Wales Series. You can buy his autobiographical novel The Hill of Dreams and his novella The Great God Pan direct from the website of our publisher, Parthian Books as well as all good books stores.
Machen has been enjoying a resurgence of popularity in recent years. One that resonates far beyond the cult horror and fantasy fans who cottoned on early, so it was no surprise to find that our Usk Valley walk was completely sold out. This renewed interest in Machen is in part thanks to the success of the 2006 del Torro film Pan's Labyrinth, based on Machen's novella The Great God Pan, and also due to high profile advocates of his writings from people like the comedian Stewart Lee to Mick Jagger, who cites Machen as an influence. Marking the 150 year anniversary of his birth, 2013 will hopefully win Machen even more fans with many events planned including outings at Hay Festival and Dinefwr Festival. Machen also has a much deserved place as featured author at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton: "We plan a whole stream of programming about Machen and his contemporaries, produced in close collaboration with The Friends of Arthur Machen." 
If you would like to find out more about Arthur Machen, visit the website of The Friends of Arthur Machen for more information and the opportunity to join the Caermaen email list for the latest Machen news. They can also be found on Facebook.
Written by Susie Wild, Associate Editor at Parthian Books and part time literary tourist.
This article was written with additional information from the wonderful accompanying tour guide booklet 'Inspired by Gwent', produced by local historians Richard Frame, Mark Lawson-Jones and David Osmond. Please contact inspiredbygwent 'at' gmail.com for more information.

Author’s notes: Dannie Abse


Goodbye, Twentieth Century incorporates Dannie Abse’s first volume of autobiography and brings his life up to the present day. It includes a moving epilogue which brought tragedy and dramatic change to his life. But what will his son David think of it?
Some time before 1974 I happened to be walking to the Ogmore-by-Sea Post Office when the bus on its way to Llantwit Major passed by.
I observed that it had no passengers on board. I thought how purposeless the driver must feel himself to be if the passenger seats continued to be unoccupied throughout his journeying – rather like an author who has no readers.
There have been poets of posthumous fame such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Edward Thomas whose work was not published during their lifetime.
There are men and women who spend decades working on a novel without ever finding a publisher. Their ‘bus’ is empty.
I have been lucky to have readers. One of them, at that same Ogmore Post Office, shyly murmured to me, “I enjoyed your autobiography Mr Abse.”
It is always gratifying to receive a sincere compliment.
The trouble was, at that time, I had not written an autobiography!
He had read my first novel, Ash On A Young Man’s Sleeve, and because of its South Wales setting and characters he had, mistakenly, not realised it was a fiction.
Indeed, when that novel appeared as a King Penguin in 1982 readers could be further confused. For, on its back cover, it advertised itself as AUTOBIOGRAPHY and a Penguin editor spoke of “the author’s reminiscence of his Cardiff family”.
I thought that one day I would put the record straight. I had lived long enough to write truthfully about my family and about my life as a physician and as an author. For instance, I could write about an incident that had recently occurred that involved my young son, David.
A one-act play of mine was being staged in South London and I asked my six-year-old son if he would care to come with me.
Driving back, I asked him what he thought of my play.
“Only one thing wrong with it, Dad.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s boring,” he said.
Yes, I could write more about his response and what happened next.
I could also write about my first patient who happened to be completely insane; I could also tell the reader about my farcical meetings with Dylan Thomas and my famous encounter with T. S. Eliot at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.
There was much to write about.
In 1973 I had the time to do so, and a year later the first part of Goodbye, Twentieth Century appeared under the title, A Poet In The Family.
When the provisional paperback cover of it was shown to me, I shuddered.
There was a photograph of myself. It was flattering enough so I could not object to that; but beneath the photograph a quote from The Guardian had been printed.
This time, a blundering editor had reduced “a magnificently conceived work on the author’s life” to MAGNIFICENTLY CONCEIVED. I cannot imagine what my father would have thought of that.
Some 25 years later a different, most competent editor, Tony Whiltame, of Hutchinson, suggested that I should enlarge my autobiography to take in the busy engaging decades I had lived through hence the appearance of A Poet In The Family.
I was tempted. Most of us enjoy talking about ourselves but we know it is improper and can be boring for others to do so; but here was an opportunity to do so and to be paid to do so.
After all I had much to relate that would not be boring – narratives that were both humorous and poignant. I had interesting confrontations with some hugely talented individuals, among them John Betjeman, Robert Graves, Elias Canetti, Spike Milligan, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, and not least my brother, Leo, the MP.
Then there was my trip behind the Iron Curtain to write about, my encounter with Margaret Thatcher. And was I not a witness to the blood on the carpet at the Poetry Society, not to mention the drama of watching Cardiff City play at Ninian Park?
In brief, I was not short of subject matter. The second part of Goodbye, Twentieth Century was first published in 2001.
I thought I would not write further autobiographical prose.
After all, I was 77 years old, and life as one ages becomes more timid, more constricted. I had not thought then how dramatic for me would be the first 10 years of the 21st century.
True, there were few bold trips abroad but one can be a tourist even in one’s own house!
So when Dai Smith invited me to update Goodbye, Twentieth Century for the Library Of Wales volumes he edits, I hesitated.
I would have to write about so many deaths of valued friends and invaluable loved ones.
Most difficult for me was to return to one moonless night, after giving a poetry reading at Porthcawl Pavilion in 2005.
On that night, on the M4, a car thundered into the rear of my Nissan, overturning it, and killing my wife, Joan.
It would not be easy to revisit that scene in detail again.
But to be represented in the Library Of Wales list is an honour.
One I could not finally resist.
Besides, they are beautifully produced books.
And now that Goodbye, Twentieth Century has been republished, I can give it to my grown-up son, David, and hope he will not say, “There’s only one thing wrong with it, Dad.”
Goodbye, Twentieth Century (Library Of Wales) is published by Parthian, £9.99







Cardiff Students To Study Classic Welsh Writing in English

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.

Reading Raymond Williams in 2012: How Re-publishing Rekindled our Interest


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.


Dannie Abse Brings Jewish Twist to Wales


Dannie Abse
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.
Dannie Abse at Hay Festival 2012
The great Welsh and Jewish poet and doctor Dannie Abse will be in coversation with Dai Smith, discussing his remarkable autobiography Goodbye Twentieth Century at Hay Festival on Thursday 7 June 2012. 
Visit the festival's event page to book tickets: http://www.hayfestival.com/p-4816-dannie-abse-talks-to-dai-smith.aspx

Jon Gower's Library of Wales Reading Challenge


Hay International Fellow Jon Gower has set himself a New Year challenge to read all of the titles currently published by the Library of Wales.  With a total of 33 books, 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. Gower will begin his challenge, symbolically, on 1st of March 2012 - both World Book Day and St David's Day.
The author and cultural commentator is hoping to complete the Library of Wales series in one year: "I've already read quite a few of the volumes in this marvellous collection, but, being a completist, I thought I'd like to read the whole lot.  It'll give me a chance to reassess some of my all time favourites such as Raymond Williams' Border Country and also, hopefully, discover a good many new books to enthuse about.  The Library of Wales is a great idea, beautifully packaged.  It sheds new light on neglected books, bringing them back onto the book shelf.  But up there they're worth nothing, they're just decorating a room. They have to be read to mean anything."

All 33 Library of Wales titles are now available as a limited edition pack


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 PhilosophersCwmardy & 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 HouseAsh 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.

The Autobiography of a Super-tramp

W. H. Davies
‘I have read it through from beginning to end, and would have read more of it had there been any more to read’ George Bernard Shaw
William Henry Davies was born in a pub and learnt early in life to rely on his wits and his fists—and to drink. Around the turn of the century, when he was twenty-two, his restless spirit of adventure led him to set off for America, and he worked around the country taking casual jobs where he could, thieving and begging where he couldn’t. His experiences were richly coloured by the bullies, tricksters, and fellow-adventurers he encountered. He was thrown into prison in Michigan, beaten up in New Orleans, witnessed a lynching in Tennessee, and got drunk pretty well everywhere.
When George Bernard Shaw first read the Autobiography in manuscript, he was stunned by the raw power of its unvarnished narrative. It was his enthusiasm, expressed in the Preface, that ensured the initial success of a book now regarded as a classic.
With a foreword by broadcaster and foreign correspondent, Trevor Fishlock, this Library of Wales edition also includes the original preface by George Bernard Shaw, who was instrumental in the book’s first publication.
You can purchase this book from the Parthian webstore here.

We Live

Lewis Jones
The second of Lewis Jones' two epic industrial novels of the 1930s.
Len, son of Big Jim and dynamic political organiser, takes centre stage in Lewis Jones' sequel to Cwmardy. Along his journey, he is influenced by Mary, a teacher, and the Communist Party, which becomes central to his work both underground and in union politics, and to his decision to leave and fight in the Spanish Civil War.
We Live paints a graphic portrait of the casual exploitation, tragedy and violence as well as the political hope and humanity of South Wales industrial workers from the 1900s to the 1930s.
You can purchase this title from the Parthian webstore here.


Lewis Jones
The first of Lewis Jones' two epic industrial novels of the 1930s.
Big Jim, collier and ex-Boer War soldier, and his partner Siân endure the impact of strikes, riots and war, while their son Len emerges as a sharp thinker and dynamic political organiser.
Cwmardy paints a graphic portrait of the casual exploitation, tragedy and violence as well as the political hope and humanity of South Wales industrial workers from the 1900s to the 1930s.
You can purchase this title from the Parthian webstore here.

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