You have reached the website of Rob Mimpriss, the short-story writer. Read reviews and samples of my books, contact me to organise an event, or learn how my writing has been shaped by the artistic and intellectual heritage of Wales.
‘Lord Zeus, I was a sinner; I don’t try to deny it. But I didn’t sin every day.’ ~Jason and the Argonauts.
Of the Making of Books, a personal essay new on my website.
16th December 2015: I present a translation of Twm o’r Nant’s Death of Arthur the Miser, quoted at length in a short story by Glasynys, in which the mediaeval morality play meets eighteenth-century humour:
Arthur. Hi, how are you tonight, illustrious company?
Here I am, quite out of breath, old Arthur.
Looking for a place to sit down
While my shooting pains run through me.
I have been struck by some bitter illness,
I’m afraid that I will die;
Ow! People, people, there’s no help in the world
That will get me through this stroke.
I see in the faces of this company
The sin that marks me for misery;
Now my conscience upbraids me
For my tricks; it’s a terrible affliction.
14th December 2014: Plaid Cymru Leader, Leanne Wood AM, and the party’s Parliamentary Leader, Hywel Williams MP, have informed David Cameron by letter that Plaid Cymru in Westminster and Cardiff Bay will vote against the Wales Bill that provides English MPs with a veto on laws decided by the National Assembly. More
Academic life in Wales. I write to a university in the south of Wales enclosing complementary copies of my latest books, instead of complimentary copies. They list my previous books under Mimpress, instead of Mimpriss.
25th November 2015: Rhys Lewis and Enoc Huws, two classic novels by Daniel Owen, in translations by James Harries and Claud Vivian, with afterwords by Rob Mimpriss. Cockatrice Books, 2015.
25th November 2015: Mimpriss’s Limit: The number of months or years a book must sit on your shelf unread before the amount of time it has sat on your shelf unread itself becomes a barrier to your reading it. I’ve always wanted to have a constant named after me.
The Winter Child
‘The Winter Child’ was first published in The Swansea Review 16 (1996).
I was only out of the room for a minute. I had gone to put a coin in the metre, and it was the scream that summoned me back. My son was standing by the kitchen sink, and he turned to look at me as I entered the room. He was holding a knife in one hand, and something ragged and pink in the other. He opened his mouth as though to speak, and a great stream of blood welled out onto his chin.
Friday November 20th, 1-3pm Ucheldre Literary Society, Ucheldre Arts Centre, Holyhead.
The Short Story - Compression and Resonance
Led by Rob Mimpriss
The short story has a rather unusual niche in world literature. Its position seems equidistant between the novel and the poem, emphasising resonance, compression and shapeliness of form, and some critics see it as intentionally marginal, exploring the significance, even the cosmic and spiritual significance, of obscure and impoverished lives. In this workshop and reading, I will explore my debt to writers such as Anton Chekhov, Raymond Carver and Kate Roberts, and show how the short story is assembled by focusing on and mulling over a single, seemingly insignificant, incident.
Rob Mimpriss is the author of three short-story collections: Reasoning, For His Warriors and Prayer at the End. Of his recent stories, ‘Hamilton Park’ was a runner up for the Rhys Davies Award, and ‘Hart’s Reach’ appeared in Brush with Fate, an anthology of Welsh fiction in Arabic translation by Hala Salah Eldin. He has published criticism of the short fiction of Raymond Carver, Robert Olmstead and Richard Ford in New Writing, and has reviewed for New Welsh Review. In 2005 he was awarded a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing by Portsmouth University, and in 2011 he was elected to membership of the Welsh Academy.
3rd November 2015: My Halloween reading of H.P. Lovecraft yielded this rather shrewd analysis of a type I know rather well:
Only greater maturity could help him understand the chronic mental limitations of the ... type—the product of generations of pathetic Puritanism; kindly, conscientious, and sometimes gentle and amiable, yet always narrow, intolerant, custom-ridden, and lacking in perspective. Age has more charity for these incomplete yet high-souled characters, whose worst real vice is timidity, and who are ultimately punished by general ridicule for their intellectual sins—sins like Ptolemaism, Calvinism, anti-Darwinism...
A work for harp by Michael Stimpson, performed by performed by Sioned Williams, to mark the 50th anniversary of the flooding of Capel Celyn and the Tryweryn Valley.
‘The Sheep’ first appeared in The Swansea Review 13 (1994) and is my first published short story.
When Owain arrived, there was no one at the station. He was unsurprised, for there had not been anyone on the train. He stood on the platform, facing west, and said: ‘Doesn’t anyone live here any more?’
It was a debatable point. A few bedraggled sheep proceeded to do so, though inconclusively. It depends what you mean by live, they answered him in the end. When the only thing you’re equipped to do is eat grass and grow woolly slippers, you don’t call it living exactly.
A fictional representation of Irish nationalism during the War of Independence:
‘He was scarcely twenty years old. He was thin and soft at the same time. He gave one the uncomfortable impression of being an invertebrate. He had studied, with fervour and vanity, every page of some Communist manual or other; dialectic materialism served him as a means to end every and all discussion. The reasons that one man may have to abominate another, or love him, are infinite: Moon reduced universal history to a sordid economic conflict. He asserted that the revolution is predestined to triumph. I told him that only lost causes can interest a gentleman...’ ~Jorge Luis Borges, ‘The Shape of the Sword’ in Fictions (trans. Anthony Kerrigan. London: Calder, 1998).
1st October 2015: Today I translate an englyn by Ieuan Brydydd Hir:
Agor dy drysor, dod ran — yn gallwych
Tra gelli i’r truan;
Gwell ryw awr golli’r arian
Na chau’r god a nychu’r gwan.
Open your treasures and come, give — as much
As you can to the poor.
Better an hour without silver
Than a purse that is shut to the weak.
12th September 2015: ’Now that the Taliban have captured Kabul, we can all go back to growing our poppies in peace.’ —Afghan farmer, mid 1990s.
The Word of Our God Stands Forever. Regrettably, posters fray.
7th September 2015: It has now taken Bangor University longer to replace the theatre they demolished than it took Edward II to build the walls of Conwy. Six years, eleven months and still counting.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that no matter how wide the supermarket aisle, someone will contrive a way to use their trolley to block it.
28th August 2015: During the run-up to the general election in 2015, leading Conservatives warned voters not to support Labour because Labour might enter coalition with the SNP. The SNP were enemies of the state. Nicola Sturgeon was the most dangerous woman in Britain, more dangerous than our stockpile of nuclear weapons.
Not content with controlling the UK, and with their eyes on the Welsh elections in 2016, R.T. Davies and other Conservatives approached the most dangerous woman in Wales, and her party, with a view to forming a coalition to oust Labour from government in Cardiff Bay. Naturally enough, Plaid Cymru refused.
The Conservatives accused them of hypocrisy.
The flooded graveyard at Capel Celyn, a majority Welsh-speaking village just west of the language barrier, that was flooded at the behest of Liverpool Council, ostensibly to meet their need for drinking water, though the water was used for industry. All Welsh MPs voted against the project, bar one who abstained. English MPs have always had a veto.
Gwynfor Evans remarked that in the 20th Century, the British state became powerful enough finally to destroy Wales, by ignoring it. This language map, displaying the erosion of heartland areas, is the result of their wilful igorance.
6th July 2015: Three of my own books were for sale at my book launch on Friday evening: a sequence of short story collections united by themes of belonging, heritage, place, what makes us good people and why we bother, and also by recurring characters. The sequence also includes three translations from seminal Welsh texts never previously translated.
My first two collections, Reasoning and For His Warriors were first published by Gwasg y Bwthyn with Welsh Books Council support. They now join Prayer at the End in revised editions at Cockatrice Books, and are for sale on Amazon.
5th July 2015: Two poets contributed readings to my book launch last night: John Fraser Williams, pictured here precariously reading from his collection, Scan, and Fiona Owen, who read three poems from her most recent collection, The Green Gate, both published by Cinnamon Press, Blaenau Ffestiniog.
I read a short story, ’Hamilton Park,’ which was shortlisted for the Rhys Davies Prize before being published in New Writing. It now appears in Prayer at the End, my third collection of short stories for sale with Reasoning and For His Warriors on Amazon.
4th July 2015: Feta, olives and salad, and wonderful company for the launch of my third short-story collection, Prayer at the End, last night.
The collection contains short stories dedicated to Charis Sewell, Graham Thomas and Cass Meurig, short stories published in Annexe Magazine, The Harbinger and Blue Tattoo, my short story, ‘Hamilton Park,’ translated into Arabic by Hala Salah Eldin for Albawtaka Press, Cairo, and ‘Wolf,’ a short story commissioned by Alistair Sims as writer in residence at the Meillionydd excavations.
Prayer at the End concludes a series of three related collections exploring the classical heritage of Wales, comparing the urge to escape with the need to belong, and probing the price we pay for living according to our ideals. Reasoning, For His Warriors and Prayer at the End are all available from Amazon.
He saw them on the other bank stealing over the fence. The man dropped his rucksack among the reeds, holding down the barbed wire with his hand while the woman put her weight on his shoulder. They must have cut across Dewi Thomas’s land, and now they were trespassing on his, perhaps intent on a little wilderness camping in the water meadows by the river. They paused for a moment on a patch of mossy green, checking their rucksacks, his trousers, her shorts, pressing forward towards the abandoned surgery. The woman tripped on an alder stump, suppressing a scream, and a heron in the shallows took slow gawky flight towards the fish traps at the end of his reach. The further they trespassed the more damage they might do, and if they had been brought here by the sign on the road that said ‘For Sale,’ then they should have taken its advice and phoned the agent to arrange an appointment.
My story, ‘Hart’s Reach,’ anthologised in Arabic translation before appearing in Prayer at the End. Read on
According to one of the Irish epics, there is a mill in Hell which grinds all the corn ‘that men begrudge each other.’ A colleague of mine who works there tells me that of late they’ve been doing a roaring trade.
The World, the Flesh and the Rev. Howell Jones
First published in Cambrensis 27 (1996).
At 11:55 one Friday morning, the Rev (in name only) Howell Jones, obese and a smoker, suffered the first of three strokes that carried him off to his Maker when his son, John the builder, had slipped out for a hourī. This was in the basement living room of his house, No.7 Coed y Bryn, one of those endless black stone terraces on a hill overlooking the south coast.
The Rev Howell Jones sat in his patched arm chair, and at his feet lay the aged black Labrador, Schopenhauer, who continued to gaze adoringly at his master as the first of his convulsions passed over him. The whisky tumbler shook in his hand, shedding plashes of alcohol onto his trousers and into his face; the cigarette fell, providentially, into the basin of the candlestick that the Rev Jones kept by his side as an ash tray; the hand followed it, clutched at the candlestick, and shook it as he shook, releasing mingled smoke and ash into the air.
Date: 20th June 2015 A quick note of sorrow and thanks to Nick Murray and the other organisers of Annexe Magazine, which published my short story, ‘Gemini,’ and of the Interrobang Minifest, where I performed in November 2012 at the Betsey Trotwood, London.
Will Conway, Chrissie Williams and Eley Williams were no bad line-up. In addition, I still have three small, austerely designed yet beautifully printed pamphlets by Amber Massey-Blomfield, Charlotte Newman and Michael C Schuller, published by Annexe Press and launched that day. Not many magazines with so little support last four years, or achieve so much. I’ve no doubt that Annexe will be missed.
Following Rachel Dolezal's claim that she identifies as black, I would like to identify as having unlimited credit.
4th June 2015: I offer my translation of an englyn by Robert ap Gwilym Ddu. This and the previous englyn below will appear in a translation from the Welsh of D. Gwenallt Jones in my forthcoming short story collection, Prayer at the End:
Er cwyno lawer canwaith — a gweled
Twyll y galon ddiffaith,
Ni fyn Duw, o fewn y daith
Droi neb i dir anobaith.
Although we lament many times — and look
On the faithless heart’s treachery,
God would not want our journey
To end in a hopeless land.
1st June 2015: This anonymous englyn apparently reflects on the pain of exile. My translation follows the original:
Ni tharia yn Lloegr noeth oeryn — o beth
Byth hwy nag uyn flwyddyn;
Lle macer yr aderyn,
Llyna fyth y llwyn a fyn.
Do not stay in cold, barren England — ever
For more than the space of a year.
The place where the bird was nurtured
Is the place it will long to return.
No true Welshman acknowledges a distinction between Wales and the land that was taken from us...
29th May 2015: I translate a famous englyn with a glint in its eye:
Fy Nuw, gwêl finnau, Owen — trugarha
At ryw grydd aflawen
Fel y gwnawn pe bawn i’n ben
Nef, a thi o fath Owen.
My God, look on me, Owen — have mercy
On an undeserving workman
As I would, were I King of Heaven,
And you a paltry thing like Owen.
10th May 2015: My friend and colleague Fiona Owen launches her next poetry collection, The Green Gate, with Cinnamon Press this Tuesday, Cafe Kyffin, 7pm. I greatly respect her. There are writers one outgrows, but reading her collection, I find that whatever place of dignity and humanity I have strived for, Fiona is there, and has planted her roots very deeply there. She has asked me to read one of the poems at her launch, and I’m honoured to do so.
9th May 2015: The graffito near my home, demanding a ‘Free Wales,’ has faded, and now calls only for ‘ales.’ In truth it was ever thus.
8th May 2015: Someone on Twitter comments that the Liberal Democrats have reaped what they have sewn. I have ripped what I have sewn. I used too strong a thread.
First published in Skald 7 (1997).
He parked the car on the road from Llanaelhaearn, and followed her over the stile onto the field at the bum of the mountain. He saw her in the crimson of the autumn evening, swinging the restraint from her arms and legs, letting her feet sink deep in the mud and shit as she led the way up the hill. He curled his hand round the ring in his pocket, and broke into a run to catch up with her.
He was twenty-eight years old, but looked younger. He had recently been appointed as a curate at Bangor Cathedral. He slowed down to adopt his companion’s pace, and said: ‘Are you sure he heard you?’
7th May 2015: There is only one way to stem the tide of Celtic Nationalisms in the UK. We must invade the Republic of Ireland.
6th May 2015: My thoughts today are with the sick, homeless and the hungry of Great Britain. And my condemnation is on those who voted without compassion.
4th April 2015: I offer a seasonal haiku of my own:
Through bare-plastered room
Into which comes spring sunlight,
The first butterfly.
‘Why all the fuss about preserving the world’s languages anyway?’ UKIP’s deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, asks a Cambrophone audience in Porthmadog. ‘It’s not as though need all twenty of them.’
24th February 2015: The great writer and philosopher D.J. Williams remarks, in his book, Hen Dŷ Fferm, that what makes a man civilised is the number and depth of his connections with life. On an unrelated matter, UKIP Kent Councillor Rozanne Duncan remarks that what she has in common with her friends is smoking and dogs.
23rd February 2015: I saw the BBC documentary, Meet the Kippers, about UKIP supporters in Kent. It was basically rather sad. I wouldn’t want to condemn the worst of them, but there was nothing in the best of them to like or admire. Ignorant, dreary, utterly charmless people.
How long before someone publishes a supernatural rip-off, and calls it Werewolf Hall?
Although [St.] Patrick’s Christianity was Roman in its ritual and its organization, he states that Latin was not his mother tongue, a remark which is consistent with the belief that Romanization did not penetrate into the very marrow of the population of Britain... Latin was learnt and, as the graffiti at Caer—went and elsewhere prove, knowledge of it and literacy in it were common in the cities... it did not replace Brittonic as the mother tongue of the broad mass of the population. The cities of Britannia were bilingual communities, although doubtless Latin was more audible, for in every age the imperial language has its peculiar pitch and its own peculiar stridency...
—The historian John Davies, who died today, 16th February 2015. His book, The History of Wales, published by Penguin, is a masterpiece.
1st January 2015
Predictons for 2015
Cardiff University will establish a professorship of the Welsh short story. The appointee will be an English novelist.
Welsh writers will be told they should be urban and sexy, despite our lack of sizeable cities and our obesity epidemic.
A literary competition will be announced with a first prize worth ten times the second. The judges will complain that it was hard to choose an overall winner.
I am the author of three short story collections. Reasoning and For His Warriors, originally published by Gwasg y Bwthyn, Caernarfon, with Welsh Books Council support, now join Prayer at the End in revised editions at Cockatrice Books. My anthology of fiction, Dangerous Asylums: Stories from Denbigh Mental Hospital Told by Leading Welsh Writers, including work by Gee and David Williams, Glenda Beagan, Carys Bray, Simon Thirsk and others, was published by the North Wales Mental Health Research Project, October 2016.
I am the translator of Going South: The Stories of Richard Hughes Williams (Cockatrice, 2015), Hallowe’en in the Cwm: The Stories of Glasynys (Cockatrice, forthcoming), and A Book of Three Birds, the seventeenth-century classic by Morgan Llwyd (Cockatrice, forthcoming). In addition, I have translated fiction by D. Gwenallt Jones, Angharad Tomos, and Manon Steffan Ros.