Pugnacious Little Trolls was published by Cockatrice Books in 2021 as part of the Wales in Europe series, celebrating the past and future of Wales as an independent nation.
Let history know that in the ninetieth year of our habitation, the people adjacent to Angle C mounted an expedition against the peoples of Angle A and Angle B, whose chants and imprecations were a nuisance by day, and whose concupiscence disturbed our sleep by night. Let it show that we marched from the vertex of Angle C towards the hypotenuse, broke in two at the point where our territory met theirs, and set upon their people in their lechery and slumber, just as the light was increasing. Let history know also that People A and People B sued for peace, and ceded to us one third of their territories along the Euler line. Finally, let it tell that we evicted the people we found there, set up camp at the median M of the hypotenuse, brought our supplies and settlers from Angle C, and so established our civilisation in the farthest corner of our new territory. Towards the third meal there was a brief uprising. Fighters from Angle B advanced towards Point M, meeting their allies from Angle A: attacked from both sides, our settlers defended themselves with cooking pots and knives, killed some, and took others captive, whom they stripped and bound at hand and foot, beating them as the light decreased, until their groans and curses echoed through the Triangle.
In his first three short-story collections, Rob Mimpriss painstakingly mapped the unregarded lives of Welsh small-town and country-dwellers. In Pugnacious Little Trolls, he combines the skill and quiet eloquence of his earlier work with confident experimentation, with stories set among the bird-bodied harpies of Central America, among the dog-headed Cynocephali of Central Asia, among humanity’s remote descendants at the very end of the universe, and in the muddle of slag-heaps and job centres that H. G. Wells’s Country of the Blind has become. In the three stories at the heart of the collection is Tanwen, idealistic and timid, embarking on her adult life in the shadow of global warming and English nationalism.
‘Where is the Welsh short story going? Wherever Rob Mimpriss takes it.’
‘freely and fiercely inventive short stories… supercharged with ideas’
Jon Gower, Nation Cymru
‘Beyond question Wales’s finest and most subtle short-story writer working today... A work of great beauty and subtle force, a fine, distinctive voice.’
‘bathed in white fire in every sense… Borges would happily own them.’
Prayer at the End: Twenty-Three Stories is the third of a series of three collections by Rob Mimpriss. It is preceded by Reasoning and For His Warriors.
When women asked Derek Roberts about the scar on his shoulder, he would say that he had born with three arms and the doctors had left him two. If they laughed too loudly or demanded the truth he would explain that he could have been born one of identical twins, but this second twin had never separated or matured, developing only as a nerveless excrescence that the doctors had removed. And he might also say that the loss made him sad: sad that he could have had a brother, could have been twice the man he was in the world, sad also that but for chance he would have been the stunted one, the spare limb.
A cigarette quenched in the Menai Strait makes a man vow to live a selfish life. The memory of an unborn twin makes a man regret the selfish life he has lived. An elderly shopkeeper befriends the teenagers outside his shop, and a lonely householder sets out to confront the trespassers on his land.
‘Heaving with loss, regret, and familial bonds.’
‘Whilst the publication dates of Rob Mimpriss’ three short story collections span a decade — from 2005 to 2015 — the fluency between volumes belies this interval. Reasoning, For His Warriors and Prayer at the End are dark, dense reads. This Welsh writer has a practised confidence, and each of his seventy-three stories collected here is marked by an indelibly bleak angle into society.’
Sophie Baggott, New Welsh Review
‘In the most seemingly unremarkable of Rob Mimpriss’s pieces there is a skill, and a mystery and elusiveness to that skill, which other short-story writers might envy. This is a masterful collection.’
‘Quietly written, contemplative... whose powerhouse is the depth of its moral reflection.’
For His Warriors: Thirty Stories is the second of a series of three collections by Rob Mimpriss. It is preceded by Reasoning and followed by Prayer at the End.
Being with Melanie gives me hopes and ideas. I could find room in my flat for this girl; I could swap strains of the virus with her, give my T-cells something to whinge about. And it’s just then it sinks in that I’m going to outlive her, and in this moment of loneliness, the world feels transient and flimsy, a girls’ fashion that will be memory by winter, that already is a memory.
A Welsh farmer’s wife during the Second World War kills the land-girl her husband has taken as his lover. A leader of the Cornish-language revival commits her last act of protest the day Russian troops march into Berlin. A lonely man on the waterfront at Llandudno wonders whether he or his girlfriend will be first to die of Aids, and a bored man in a restaurant in Cardiff Bay invents a story of arrest and torture in Czechoslovakia to amuse his petulant lover.
‘These stories are a rare kind of joy. Even when they approach moments of discontent and danger they bring to the reader an optimism founded in human relationships. This is a wonderful collection.’
Prof Graëme Harper, Editor, New Writing
‘Both humour and pity often arise from the characters’ inability to understand themselves and those close to them. In suggesting both the truth and the self-deception Mimpriss not only engages our sympathy but makes us question our assumptions about ourselves’
Caroline Clark, gwales.com
‘There is nothing ostentatious about his writing: most of his characters lead unremarkable, even humdrum, lives; there are few dramatic plot developments; the writing does not draw attention to itself. And yet the best of these pieces express something important about psychology and human relationships, and the sparseness of the writing is capable of considerable power.’
Brian George, The Short Review
‘In Llandudno today... a woman crossed the road as we passed in the car and this action triggered in me the memory of a moment in a story by Rob Mimpriss when a character crosses the road in Llandudno. This means the story has properly gone to where all good stories need to go in readers — deep into the imagination, to live there. The story is called “Valiant” in the collection For His Warriors. I recommend it. Highly. It feels to me already a classic.’
Fiona Owen, author, Going Gentle and editor, Scintilla
Reasoning: Twenty Stories is the first of a series of three collections by Rob Mimpriss. It is followed by For His Warriors and Prayer at the End.
As a man he would suffer for his life, and other people would suffer. He would learn to live watchfully, quick to advantage and flight. Over time he would see that others were like him, not always unhappy, not always alone, but carrying also this life inside them, ravenous and afraid.
An old man tries to assess his own guilt in the marriage his teenage daughter has destroyed. A young man tries to understand why, in the same family, he should be both hated and loved. A seventeenth-century Puritan preacher and a Cardiff woman facing divorce unite in their call to ‘know your innermost heart,’ while a Romanian dissident under Ceauşescu and a Welsh-language activist find themselves outwardly liberated but inwardly still in chains.
The style of the stories is deeply traditional, their content unsettlingly modern. In the same way, life in rural Wales is troubled by events taking place in the outside world. A strong historic awareness and a restlessly questing conscience suggest a writer less concerned with making his mark than with understanding what it means to inherit a Christian and Western heritage at the start of the twenty-first century.
‘if readers want stories that will provoke a great deal of musing on family dynamics, Mimpriss’ collections can be counted upon. The writer tugs at run-of-the-mill scenes and gleans details that morph from ordinary to expressive before the readers’ eyes. Bleak as they may be, these are honest fragments of the human condition and Mimpriss’ pensive eloquence is to be credited.’
Sophie Baggott, New Welsh Review
‘Through the stealthy movements of his prose, Rob Mimpriss enacts the quiet enigma of people’s lives and relationships. The result is an understated fiction of compelling intensity.’
Prof M Wynn Thomas
‘A quiet writer with a loud voice... I'll be listening for more.’
Michael Nobbs, gwales.com
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, forthcoming).