literature

Lludd and the three plagues

March 30, 2020 0 Comments
Lludd and the three plagues

Lludd, son of Beli Mawr (‘Lud’ in English) is king of the Island of Britain, and a wise and successful ruler.  From his capital, Caer Lludd (London), he takes care of his subjects, housing them well and supplying them with ample food and drink.  One of his brothers, Llefelys, is king of France.  So begins […]

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Grass for pillow: early Japanese travel poems

February 29, 2020 0 Comments
Grass for pillow: early Japanese travel poems

Last year Penguin published a selection of classical Japanese writings about travel.  Travels with a writing brush, edited by the Australian translator Meredith McKinney, didn’t receive much attention at the time, but it’s a wonderful and wonderfully varied introduction to poetry and prose written in Japan between the seventh and seventeenth centuries.  For anyone who’s […]

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Laura Cumming and Degas’ ‘The Bellilli Family’

February 22, 2020 1 Comment
Laura Cumming and Degas’ ‘The Bellilli Family’

Many people have praised Laura Cumming’s book On Chapel Sands: my mother and other missing persons (Chatto & Windus, 2019).  It begins, like a novel, with a sudden disappearance: of her three-year-old mother, in summer 1929, from a sunny beach on the Lincolnshire coast.  Like a detective story it pieces together what happened, and tries […]

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Down the rabbit hole: an early example from Gower

January 31, 2020 0 Comments
Down the rabbit hole: an early example from Gower

Alice’s adventures in Wonderland – in Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript it was entitled Alice’s adventures under ground – is probably the best-known of all tales about a child passing through a hole or tunnel in the ground to reach another world populated by strange, small creatures.  It’s a common motif in fairy stories around the […]

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Writing as self-torture

January 3, 2020 0 Comments
Writing as self-torture

In Prague Franz Kafka, then 28 years old, wrote this paragraph in his diary on 12 October 1911: Yesterday at Max’s [Max Brod, K’s close friend] wrote in the Paris diary [K visited Paris in September 1911].  In the half-darkness of Rittergasse, in her autumn outfit, fat, warm R. whom we have known only in […]

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Gwirionedd

December 15, 2019 0 Comments
Gwirionedd

Ffordd ddigon cyffredin o ganmol llyfr yw dweud pethau fel ‘allwn i ddim ei roi i lawr tan y diwedd’, neu ‘darllenais i’r nofel hon mewn prynhawn, roedd hi mor afaelgar’.  Nid felly y darllenais i Gwirionedd, nofel gyntaf Elinor Wyn Reynolds.  Ar ôl cwpwl o dudalennau doedd dim dewis ‘da fi ond rhoi’r llyfr […]

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The hunt for Twrch Trwyth

October 18, 2019 0 Comments
The hunt for Twrch Trwyth

The other day I walked down to Mumbles to get my hair cut (a no. 8 shave all over, in case you’re interested).  In my normal barber’s there was one customer in the only chair, and four others waiting.   The cutting pace there is slow, so I moved down to another, newish shop I’d never […]

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Werner Herzog’s pilgrimage to Paris

September 28, 2019 1 Comment
Werner Herzog’s pilgrimage to Paris

Many think Werner Herzog our greatest living film-maker.  His major fiction films of the 1970s and 1980s will always find new viewers.  Aguirre, Wrath of God, a study in conspiracy, tyranny and madness, has a claim to be one of the most powerful ever made.  Once you’ve seen it the first time, with its dense […]

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After Offa: Mercian Hymns

September 20, 2019 0 Comments
After Offa: Mercian Hymns

We weren’t just following his Dyke on foot.  We were also tracking its maker, Offa, king of the Mercians. Or so it was said.  We’ve no contemporary evidence that Offa was the one responsible.  The first person to make the claim was Asser, a Welsh monk from St Davids (his original name may have been […]

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Poets and rebels at Llyn Llech Owain

August 30, 2019 0 Comments
Poets and rebels at Llyn Llech Owain

At the ‘six ways’ junction in Gorslas, at the head of the Gwendraeth Fawr, I’ve driven past the sign to Llyn Llech Owain hundreds of times without ever taking up its invitation – to follow the minor road up the hill, past the church and chapel, to the lake and the country park that surrounds […]

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