I am a fan of translated fiction, my reading having been dominated for so long by English and American writers; and I believe that there are so many interesting voices out there, so brilliantly translated and so enthusiastically championed by certain publishers that it’s the least I can do to try a few of them with little or no knowledge beforehand. Having said all that it was something of a surprise to receive a book from one of those publishers, MacLehose Press, that had been translated from Welsh. A surprise because it is so easy to forget that there are, or used to be, other languages spoken within the British Isles. The Wales Book of the Year Award is one that in part celebrates works written in Welsh. It is one previous winner of the main award, Lloyd Jones, who translated this novel into English after its success in the original Welsh. One thing curiously changed is the title, having been “O! Tyn y Gorchudd” in Welsh, or “O! pull aside the veil” the name of a hymn written by Hugh Jones who came from the area in which this novel is set, the Maesglasau valley. Angharad Price’s family this year celebrate a thousand years living and farming in that valley and this novel is her testament to them. It is a curious mixture of fiction and family history and given that the bulk of what we read is actually true there is a real question as to whether it is really fiction at all. A literary twist at the end is what helps it make its claim as such but for me, as a reading experience, it is far closer to memoir than fiction.
Tag Archives: Angharad Price
Nothing like a praise-bomb of a review to brighten up a rainy Friday, and they don’t come much more quietly explosive than this, courtesy of the Independent’s Literary Editor, Boyd Tonkin
This beautiful book, with the many meanings of blindness and insight at its heart, traces a path not only between the visible and invisible worlds but between memory and imagination, past and present – and fact and fiction. Price, an academic at Bangor University, won the National Eisteddfod prize for prose in 2002; Lloyd Jones’s perfectly-pitched English version now graces MacLehose’s august list as its first translation from Welsh.
Price’s book achieves a rare feat indeed. A lovingly crafted account of Welsh-speaking rural life on the brink of dissolution or at least transformation, it serves both as a touching, tender document and as a thoroughly artful exercise in storytelling – one that, in methods and motifs, can claim a place on the shelf beside Berger, Sebald and Ondaatje. Widely hailed as the first Welsh classic of the 21st century, it now stands tall –whether great-aunt Rebecca would have liked it or not – as a peak of modern British writing too.
Our edition of The Life of Rebecca Jones is the third coming of Angharad Price’s exquisite short novel of life in a remote valley in rural Wales.
Price originally wrote the story in Welsh for entry to the National Eisteddfod Prose Medal — the word limit for the competition is 40,000 words, which is why Price’s novel is the length it is. It’s Welsh title was O! Tyn y Gorchudd!, and it tells the story of a generation in Price’s family, who have lived and farmed the land in the same valley for a thousand years.
It was a story that the family had long talked about writing down, and so Price, who did not grow up in the Valley herself, decided to do it herself, but with a surprising twist. Her telling was was announced as the 2002 winner of National Eisteddfod Prose Medal, and in 2003 it was published by Gomer Press. Once it had a cover and spine, there was no stopping it: it was named Welsh Language Book of the Year by the Welsh Arts Council at the Hay Festival in 2003.
Some years later, novelist and translator-from-the-Welsh Lloyd Jones translated the book into English. He was able to work closely with Price on the translation, and The Life of Rebecca Jones/O! Tyn y Gorchudd! was published in a bilingual edition in 2010, once again by Gomer. A copy found its way into the hands of Christopher MacLehose, and last Thursday we travelled to Aberystwyth for the launch of the MacLehose Press edition. Prior to publication we have had some wonderful quotes from Ronald Blythe, the author of that quintessential classic of English rural life, Akenfield, and the travel writer and historian Jan Morris. The Life of Rebecca Jones is, in Morris’ words, “the most fascinating and wonderful book”, and Blythe wrote to tell us that:
“It is not easy to put into the customary admiring words what I felt as I read Angharad Price’s astonishing novel. Perhaps an admiration verging on awe . . . A great addition to rural literature”
And of course the next step is for the rights to be sold in Europe and America and beyond so that Rebecca will be granted a fourth life, and a fifth, a sixth, maybe even a tenth or a seventeenth. All lived in the remote valley where her family have farmed the land for a thousand years.