‘Industry in the Country of the Blind’ in Land of Change: Stories of Struggle and Solidarity from Wales, edited by Gemma Howell and published by Culture Matters; and in Pugnacious Little Trolls, a collection of short stories by Rob Mimpriss published by Cockatrice Books, 2021.
There is a sculpture outside the train station which serves the Country of the Blind. Cast in bronze, it shows the valley’s discoverer, standing almost at the crest of a crag with a young woman by his side. He gazes southward, past the station towards the mountains into which he made his escape, one hand raised to shield his eyes from the sun, the other holding the woman’s arm in guidance or support. The woman, bare-footed, is nursing a child. Her face is turned towards the ground, while surrounding them both is a sea of uplifted hands, grasping their ankles in supplication or treachery. A plaque in Roman script and Braille commemorates their names, Ricardo Núñez and Medina-Saroté, his lover, after whom the town is named.
The statue is regularly vandalised, and as regularly repaired. The nationalists, the Serenos, paint their slogans over the plinth or hammer them into the bronze in a kind of inverse Braille; they lock fetters round the wrists of those upturned hands, or they cover Núñez’s eyes with goats’ blood as though they have been gouged. The staff in the tourist cafés whose glass fronts line the square will disavow the Serenos. They are not from Medina-Saroté, they will claim, but from Las Piñas or Cien Fuegos to the north; they are blind, and come to Medina-Saroté to drink their disability pensions; they are fanatics, who have hijacked the cultural heritage of the Valley as a pretext for their hate...
‘A vibrant anthology that does not merely reflect the internal differences within working-class solidarities in Wales, but actually substantiates and develops that diversity in its chorus of visual and textual voices. Ymlaen!’
Prof. Daniel G. Williams
‘The breadth and expanse of voices bellowing out from within this anthology is a staggering record of resistance.’
Rhea Seren Phillips, Nation Cymru
‘A fine book, notable for its message of unity through diversity.’
Jim Aitken, Morning Star
Dangerous Asylums: Stories from Denbigh Mental Hospital told by Leading Welsh Writers. Stories by Glenda Beagan, Carys Bray, Rob Mimpriss, A. L. Reynolds, Manon Steffan Ros, Simon Thirsk, Elaine Walker, Gee and David Williams. Edited by Rob Mimpriss. Bangor: North Wales Mental Health Research Project, 2016.
A successful London Welshman after the Great War tells his grand-daughter of the madness that infects the family blood. A former inmate at Denbigh Asylum throws herself under a train. A woman made notorious by killing her own child prepares herself for release, and a businesswoman touring a derelict hospital is troubled by the lingering horrors of its past.
When Denbigh Mental Hospital was opened in 1848, it was considered one of the most progressive and humane institutions in Wales, yet it was dogged by over-crowding and rumours of abuse. Now some of the leading writers in Wales tell its story, drawing on the records of patients long dead to give us a portrait of mental illness and care during the Victorian and Edwardian era.
‘In this exemplary collaboration between medical science and imagination, lives preserved in official records, in the language and diagnoses of their times, are restored not just to light, but to humanity and equality. This anthology is a resurrection.’
‘In an area still notable for conjecture, experiment, reversals, and slow pace is joined this book’s rich imaginings.’
Nigel Jarrett, Wales Arts Review
The North Wales Mental Health Research Project was established by Prof. David Healy and other clinicians and academics to explore the history of mental illness and treatment in north Wales, with support from Merfyn Jones, Hywel Williams, Ieuan Wyn Jones and others. Now they are joined by award-winning writers, Glenda Beagan, Carys Bray, Manon Steffan Ros, Simon Thirsk, Gee Williams, and others, in eight short stories that bring the hospital and its patients to vivid and compelling life.
‘Hart’s reach,’ a short story by Rob Mimpriss, first published in Albawtaka Review 37 (January 2013) online and in Brush with Fate: Voices from Wales alongside Fflur Dafydd, Tristan Hughes, Nigel Jarrett, Rob Mimpriss, Rachel Trezise and others. Arabic translations by Hala Salah Eldin Hussein. Cairo: Albawtaka, 2014. Later published in Prayer at the End by Rob Mimpriss (Cockatrice, 2015).
The surgery had been a watermill in the days when coracles were still common on the river, and had housed captured SS officers for a time during the war. Touring Wales in the summer of 1957 Hart’s father had leant his bicycle against its ivyed gable wall, and glancing over the head of his companion had glimpsed the slick descent of an otter down the bank. The details solidified and settled in his mind: the pride of his recent graduation, a falconer launching his kestrel over distant fields, and the quiet fecundity of the river. Years later, as an orphaned and wealthy man, when his memories of that companion had blurred to an impression of white socks and a yellow dress, he had remembered the otter with perfect clarity, and had bought both the mill for his surgery, and the boathouse half a mile upstream on the other bank for his home.
What mattered, Walter Hart later explained to his schoolboy son, was that he had reached that moment when a life becomes clear – not with the girl, though her name was Miller, but with the otter and the kestrel and the ivyed wall: his world needing him, waiting for him to claim it. And Hart was expected to repeat these triumphs, to claim mastery of some girl, some wilderness, but the dying surgery must have been the wrong wilderness, Rita the wrong girl, and in the end his father had resented his willingness to help. He rowed with slow, patient strokes while the gors echoed to the sound of thunder and the hills disappeared behind rain. As he drew parallel with the surgery the man was sitting on the veranda with his map and the woman was trying its locked door, and Hart turned his blunt prow towards the bank and dragged the boat onto land.
Hala Salah Eldin Hussein has translated work by Dave Eggers, Nadine Gordimer, Kazuo Ishiguro, Edward P. Jones, Jhumpa Lahiri, Doris Lessing and others into Arabic, for publication by Albawtaka Review. This fourth print anthology by Albawtaka was published with the support of the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture.
I am the author of four short story collections.
For His Warriors,
originally published by Gwasg y Bwthyn, Caernarfon, with Welsh Books Council support, now join
Prayer at the End
and Pugnacious Little Trolls
in revised editions at Cockatrice Books.
My anthology of fiction, Dangerous Asylums, 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 a contributor with Nigel Jarrett, Rachel Trezise, Tristan Hughes and others to Brush with Fate (Albawtaka, 2014), an anthology of Welsh fiction in Arabic translation by Hala Salah Eldin, to Land of Change (Culture Matters), and to Creative Writing Studies (Multilingual Matters, 2007), essays on writing as an academic discipline edited by Graëme Harper and Jeri Kroll, and of the foreword to Rivers of Wales by Jim Perrin (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2022).
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, 2017), A Book of Three Birds, the seventeenth-century classic by Morgan Llwyd (Cockatrice, 2017), and of fiction by D. Gwenallt Jones, Angharad Tomos, and Manon Steffan Ros. I was Artistic Coordinator of the North Wales Mental Health Research Project convened by Prof. David Healy at the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, and am the editor of Cockatrice Books. I hold a Ph.D. in Creative and Critical Writing from Portsmouth University, and in 2011 I was invited to membership of the Welsh Academy in acknowledgement of my contributions to Welsh writing.