BLOG Stanzi Collier-Qureshy

NWR Issue 110

The Association for Welsh Writing in English Annual Conference II

Saturday 5 April at the AWWE annual conference covered a diverse range of topics, spanning both time and space. The day opened with the session ‘Wales in Translation’ and the panel began with Alexandra Jones’ discussion of coalfields literature, drawing a comparison with specific spots in the UK. She demonstrated that the literature of Wales was not only more numerous but also came from authors with a more varied background, one not solely based on mining experience. Was the industry so integral to south Wales that it translated over into the whole country’s culture? A particularly interesting paper followed, with Katie Gramich looking at the influence of the German poet Hӧlderlin on Vernon Watkins’ literature. Watkins, she suggests, was inspired not only by his own experiences of German culture but that he used the German model, particularly Hӧlderlin, and ‘translated’ it into a very Welsh voice. The final paper, echoing some of the themes from the keynote speeches, examined the process of translation, giving examples of the multitude of ways lines of Dylan have been translated into German, each giving a different nuance of meaning.

The most fascinating session to me by far was ‘Viewing Welsh Writing in English from Japan’. Why, I immediately asked myself, is the literature of Wales such an object of fascination in that country? Shintaro Kono attempted to explain this through his examination of the political and economic processes of communism, liberalism and neo-liberalism, showing how the models introduced through French literature are failing in a more poverty- and recession-stricken Japan but that how Welsh thought – exemplified in novels such a Raymond Williams’ Loyalties – may offer solutions. Again the issues of translation were brought up, this time with particular regard to Japan and Raymond Williams’ People of the Black Mountains (Vol I) (Vol II) Takashi Onuki went further than this, however, looking at the geography and history of Wales alongside the origins and evolution of our aural story traditions. He really gave his talk an international flavour with his comparison to Tokyo’s climate, geography and peoples at comparable historical periods and in the present day, showing how dramatically landscapes can change and yet retain recognition through story. Finally, Yuzo Yamada gave an equally enlightening talk, probing the life of Alun Richards during his time in Japan. He made a dramatic comparison, between Richards’ disregard of aspects of Japanese culture and a tendency to create caricatures, with his ambivalent feelings towards his own Welsh heritage.

Lastly, in a special session, the project European Travellers to Wales, 1750-2010 presented some of their areas of study. It began with Heather Williams and her examination of French immigrants and visitors and their accounts of seeing Wales for the first time. The most striking aspect of this was how each account describes the furnaces of industry. Williams demonstrated that this was evidence of whether or not the writer was a ‘French Celtomaniac’. Rita Singer came next with a look at the illustrated accounts of these visitors, of attempts at capturing Wales’ spirit and even writing guidebooks. She detailed William Gilpin’s rules of the aesthetic, complete with broken rocks, and went on to show how followers of this tradition mimicked this. All of the accounts of this project can actually be found online and there is a day conference on it in Aberystwyth on 16 April.

Stanzi Collier-Qureshy is a blogger-in-residence at NWR as part of her placement via Cardiff University.


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