I bought this because of the translator.

Caryl Lewis’s writing is tense and spare and true. I loved Y Gemydd which I read as The Jeweller in Gwen Davies’s translation, and Drift, her first novel in English. Then I found out she’d written the TV script for Craith/Hidden, which I watched in Welsh with Finnish subtitles. I enjoyed the humorous touch of a character reading one of her books.

But my Welsh isn’t good enough to read Caryl Lewis in it without a crutch.

So when I found out she’d translated some poems from English, and the edition was bilingual, I bought it at once. I read the English first for each poem and then the Welsh – reactivating all sorts of words and memories as I went. I was catapulted back in time, to when I lived there thirty, forty years ago, to millennia before I was born.

Nigel Wells’s Walesland/Gwaliadir is a history of Wales in ten poems. Freer verses move from the dawn of humanity to now, interspersed with formal stanzas. They are raw and often angry and made me want to act, now.

He wrote them on a boat. On a two-year journey round the Mediterranean he was freed from everyone else’s texts. He had only one book to help him: John Davies’s Hanes Cymru/A History of Wales. Wells boiled it down like bone broth and served it up to us searing with flavours that explode on your tongue.

Wells is not afraid to use strong language,

or to invite us to look back and down, deep.

I hope these tiny shards I shared will make you want it read the rest. Order your copy from Y Lolfa now. Mine arrived fast!

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Posted in books, history, poetry, translation

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