NWR Issue 28

A Nobel for Ronald Stuart

With this issue, The New Welsh Review begins a campaign to secure R.S. Thomas's
nomination for the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature. The magazine itself is barred from directly forwarding a recommendation to the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy, the body responsible for awarding the literature prize. The claims of a particular candidate must be submitted by a comparable body or learned institution, by university professors of literature or of languages, by presidents of authors' organisations, or by Nobel Laureates in literature. But we intend to help form the climate of opinion which can make him a candidate for next year's prize.

Few of our readers will need reminding of the extraordinary body of poetry R.S. Thomas has produced over the past 50years. His Collected Poems, issued two years ago, were proof of that. In those poems, he has explored the dilemma of life in Wales and in Western civilisation generally during the second half of the twentieth century, bravely facing up to the nihilist absurdity that has exercised the imagination of so many of his fellow-writers. He has, at the same time, galvanised the conscience of a nation, giving its deepest convictions (and fears) expression in a way which has allowed them to be articulated and discussed by others. That would not have been possible without him. He has challenged and offended and stimulated, not only others, but himself, for he is nothing but unsparing of himself. He has stared at the empty spaces, both within and

No better sign of his self-questioning temperament could be found than in the way in which his dislike of the scientific-technological world has, in his most recent poetry, formed part of his deepest meditations, for while he has been famously a man out of sorts with his times, he has also, by virtue of that fact, been one of their most faithful chroniclers. He has created a landscape and a people of vivid individuality in poems that are both stern and understanding. He has reflected on the meaning of spirituality in a non-spiritual world and examined the condition of Christianity in a post-Christian world, offering neither false criticism nor false comfort. And everywhere he has explored the meaning of being Welsh.

His poetry, from The Stones of the field in 1946 to the most recent Mass for Hard Times (1992), has been remarkable for two things: its consistency and its ability to change. Like Thomas Hardy, whose perspective he sometimes approximates (though he would not welcome the comparison), he has written verse which, both early and late, shows an extraordinary evenness; he has remained distinctively himself, copious and individual. Like Yeats, too, he has renewed himself, most noticeably in the subject-matter of his later poetry, austere and abstract but, at the same time, penetratingly direct.

There are many others who have received the Nobel Literature Prize with whom R.S. Thomas might be compared, and it makes the pleasure of promoting his candidature easier knowing that he belongs to that great company, one of those who has made a difference to our lives by the use of his imagination. We hope individuals and organisations will, in the first instance, write to the New Welsh Review to offer their support so that we can cite it in our effort to influence the Nobel nominating process.

Our championing of R.S. Thomas will, we believe, also have the value of promoting Welsh literature and Welsh cultural life in general at a time when these still attract far too little attention. Here is a cause we can all rally to, for our own self-respect and our own self-understanding.

And, where R.S. Thomas goes, others can follow, for his is not the only achievement we can properly laud. But it is, perhaps, the greatest and the most venerable.


previous editorial: Writers and the Nobel Prize
next editorial: History and myth in the making


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