Archive for the ‘Welsh Literature’ Category

I thought for a long time that Wales was a county in England (and that is why Charles is called the Prince of Wales) and everyone in Wales spoke in English. There was even a county cricket team from Wales called Glamorgan and I admired many cricketers who played for that team. (Even the great Viv Richards played for Glamorgan towards the end of his career.) So I was surprised when I discovered that everything I knew about Wales was wrong, and Wales had its own language, literature, history and culture. March is a special time of celebrations in Wales. It is also the time of the annual Wales Readathon or Dewithon hosted by Paula from Book Jotter. I decided to participate this year and read Caradog Prichard’s classic novel ‘One Moonlit Night‘.

The narrator of ‘One Moonlit Night‘ is a boy who is around ten years old. He lives in a small village with his mother, who raises him on her own. Most people in the village are poor. The story happens at around the time of the First World War. Our unnamed narrator describes his life in the village, the adventures he has with his best friends Huw and Moi, the poverty that people experience everyday, how people are still happy and show kindness to each other inspite of being poor, the role of the church in village life, how the war impacts the life of the people and the tragedy and occasional glory it brings, how a child’s life can suddenly change and be turned upside down because of things that grownups do – these and other things are explored in the book. Our ten year old narrator’s voice is beautiful and charming and his friendship with his besties Huw and Moi is beautifully depicted. The narrator even falls in love with a girl who is older than him and it is beautiful and sad at the same time. I love the way the narrator’s voice takes us into the mind of a ten year old boy and makes us see the world through his eyes. It is brilliant. Caradog Prichard manages to capture that time so beautifully and there are many scenes which made me smile with pleasure and there are also some scenes that made me cry.

This passage made me smile.

“Thanks very much, I said, taking the big piece of buttered bread and the big glass of milk and going to sit on the slate seat under the window. I’ll be fit to walk miles after this. Then while I was busy drinking, who should come zooming round the end of the house but the dog who I’d heard barking in the back. Leave the little boy alone, Toss, said someone from the kitchen and Toss stopped dead when he saw me sitting on the slate seat. He was a big sheepdog with eyes the same colour as glass eyes. He growled a little bit to start with and I was frightened that he was going to bite me. So I made a sort of kissing sound with my mouth. Come on then, Toss, I said, and when he heard me say his name he wagged his tail and opened his mouth and let his tongue dangle out the way dogs do when they’re laughing. Come on then, Toss, I said again, and broke off a piece of my bread and put it beside me on the slate seat. Then he came up very slowly, wagging his tail and took the piece of bread from the seat. When I broke off another bit for him, he took that from my hand and then put his front feet on my knees and began licking my face. We were great friends in no time and after we’d finished eating the bread and butter, we played throw the stone in the field for a while. Then I took the empty glass back to the house and knocked at the door, and Toss ran inside to the kitchen. There you are, said the rosy-cheeked lady as she took the glass. You look a bit better now, my boy. Go straight home now or your Mam will start to worry about you. I’m going. Thanks a lot. How old is Toss? Fourteen. Lor, he’s older than me. Good afternoon.”

This passage made me cry. It has spoilers and so if you are planning to read the book, please don’t read this passage.

“Jesus, the people in the South talk funny, don’t they? said Moi when we went to see him the following day. Pass me that pot again. And there was poor Moi, still in bed and still spitting blood. And that was the last time we saw old Moi. The following Sunday night, Huw called round and his face was like chalk. Have you heard? he said at the door without coming in. Heard what? said Mam. Come in from the door, Huw, I said. What’s up? Moi’s dead, he said quietly. Moi? No, you’re telling lies, Huw. But I knew by his face that Huw was telling the truth. I just needed to say something, just like ages ago when I used to whistle as I went along Post Lane after dark, pretending that I wasn’t frightened of bogeymen. And we were talking to him on Monday night, I said, as though I still didn’t believe it. He was spitting a lot of blood that night, said Huw. That bloomin’ TB, said Mam. It takes young and old alike. Then I started to cry like a baby. I couldn’t stop for the life of me, though I tried my very best to stop cos I was embarrassed with Huw and Mam watching me. Moi and him were close friends, Huw said to Mam. But, of course, Huw was making excuses for me crying cos he was as close to Moi as I was. You never saw Huw crying like I did. But Huw cried, too, at the funeral though nobody saw him that time except me. It was only one little tear that rolled down his cheek and even I wouldn’t have seen that if he hadn’t wiped his eye with the sleeve of his surplice, as we both stood with the Choir at the graveside singing: My friends are homeward going Before me one by one And I am left an orphan A pilgrim all alone That’s what we sang at Griffith Evans Braich’s funeral, and Canon’s and all the others, too, but we were just singing cos we got tuppence for singing at those. It was different at Moi’s funeral cos he was our friend and the words were true. I couldn’t see anything when Hughes the Parson threw a handful of soil onto Moi’s coffin after they’d lowered it into the grave with a rope cos my eyes were just like two windows after it’s been raining.”

This passage made me cry even more. I can’t tell you why he is crying. You have to read the book to find out.

“And then I started crying. Not crying like I used to years ago whenever I fell down and hurt myself; and not crying like I used to at some funerals either; and not crying like when Mam went home and left me in Guto’s bed at Bwlch Farm ages ago. But crying just like being sick. Crying without caring who was looking at me. Crying as though it was the end of the world. Crying and screaming the place down, not caring who was listening. And glad to be crying, the same way some people are glad when they’re singing, and others are glad when they’re laughing. Dew, I’d never cried like that before, and I’ve never cried like that since, either. I’d love to be able to cry like that again, just once more.”

I loved ‘One Moonlit Night‘. It is the first novel written in Welsh that I’ve ever read (this book was translated into English by Philip Mitchell) and I feel that I am breaking new ground today as a reader, reading my first novel in a new language. It is an exceptional book and it is one of the great stories about childhood, one of the great coming-of-age novels. It made me think of my favourite coming-of-age stories – Marlen Haushofer’sNowhere Ending Sky‘, the film ‘Stand By Me‘ which was based on Stephen King’s story, and the Tamil film ‘Azhiyadha Kolangal‘. I am glad I read it. It is the only novel that Caradog Prichard wrote and I feel sad when I think about that.

Have you read ‘One Moonlit Night‘? What do you think about it? Have you read any novel which was originally written in Welsh? Are you participating in the Wales Readathon / Dewithon?


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