‘freely and fiercely inventive short stories… supercharged with ideas.’ Jon Gower, reviewing Pugnacious Little Trolls by Rob Mimpriss for Nation Cymru. ‘Where is the Welsh short story going? Wherever Rob Mimpriss takes it.’ John O’Donoghue. Pugnacious Little Trolls, a new collection of short stories published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Bathed in white fire in every sense... Borges would happily own them.’ Gee Williams on Pugnacious Little Trolls, a new collection of short stories published by Cockatrice Books. ‘A fine Welsh writer working under the radar who deserves to be much better known.’ Nation Cymru greeting Pugnacious Little Trolls, a new collection of short stories published by Cockatrice Books. ‘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.’ Jim Perrin on Pugnacious Little Trolls. ‘Zestful playfulness... along with a grand energy and capacity for invention.’ Jon Gower reviewing Pugnacious Little Trolls for Nation Cymru. ‘Dark, complex, pensively eloquent’ (Sophie Baggott, New Welsh Review) — Reasoning, For His Warriors and Prayer at the End, three short-story collections now published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Heaving with loss, regret and familial bonds.’ Annexe Magazine on ‘Gemini,’ a short story in Prayer at the End, published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Lucid, skilful, and above all, of enormous timely relevance’ (Jim Perrin). Rob Mimpriss’s new translation of Morgan Llwyd’s allegorical masterpiece, A Book of Three Birds. ‘There is nothing ostentatious about his writing... 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. ‘These stories are a rare kind of joy. Even when they approach moments of discontent and danger they bring an optimism founded in human relationships. This is a wonderful collection.’ Prof. Graëme Harper, editor, New Writing. ‘An invaluable translation.’ Angharad Price on Hallowe’en in the Cwm, the short stories of Owen Wynne Jones, translated by Rob Mimpriss. ‘Humour and pity often arise from the characters’ inability to understand themselves and those close to them. In suggesting the truth and the self-deception Mimpriss not only engages our sympathy but makes us question our assumptions about ourselves.’ Caroline Clark, gwales.com ‘Quietly written, contemplative... whose powerhouse is the depth of its moral reflection.’ Siân Preece, Rhys Davies Competition on ‘Hamilton Park,’ published in Prayer at the End. ‘An immaculate collection.’ Nigel Jarrett, twice winner of the Rhys Davies Award, on Prayer at the End, a collection of short stories by Rob Mimpriss published by Cockatrice Books. ‘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. ‘The story is called ‘Valiant’ in the collection, For His Warriors. I recommend it. Highly. It feels to me already like a classic.’ Fiona Owen, editor, Scintilla. ‘A quiet writer with a loud voice... I’ll be listening for more.’ Michael Nobbs, gwales.com on Reasoning: Twenty Stories, published by Cockatrice Books. ‘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.’ Gee Williams. ‘Industry in the Country of the Blind,’ new fiction in Land of Change, radical prose from Wales edited by Gemma Howell and forthcoming from Culture Matters. ‘This exemplary collaboration’ (Philip Gross). Dangerous Asylums, an anthology of fiction by leading Welsh writers, inspired by Denbigh Mental Hospital, edited by Rob Mimpriss.

Image by 95C taken from Pixabay

Group E and the Rights of Groups A to D: An Allegory of Federalism

Let us imagine that a certain ethnic group (we might call them E) lives in a peaceful and democratic union with a handful of smaller ethnic groups (let us call them A to D), with whom it exists under a single set of laws, and with whom it enjoys a single public purse deployed for the good of the union as a whole, and apportioned on the basis of need. Moreover, within this union, Groups A to D enjoy certain privileges not enjoyed by Group E: the right to convene their own parliaments, answerable to the parliament of the union as a whole, and to raise their own taxes to spend on their distinctive cultural lives or other political objectives.

Yet despite these privileges, and despite the union’s democratic structure, there are problems. Group E enjoys most of the land, spilling over into the homelands of Groups A to D and to some extent displacing their indigenous populations; and as it accounts for more than half of the union’s population, it dictates the makeup of its parliament. Meanwhile its leaders complain that the existence of parliaments for groups A to D is a threat to democratic equality, and to the health of the union, which they insist is an overriding moral good.(1) Members of Groups A to D complain that Group E uses its demographic majority to impose its own political values on the union and to secure its own economic advantage, thus threatening the well-being of individual members of Groups A to D, and the future continuance of their cultures. They insist that while the democratic nature of the union might protect their rights as individuals, not least their right to seek to assimilate themselves within Group E,(2) it ignores their collective rights as members of Groups A to D, which are also a component of their human dignity. ‘You’re sovereign members of a voluntary union,‘ the leaders of Group E tell them. ‘If you don’t like the way we treat you, you can leave.’

Which real-world ethnicity might be represented by Group E does not seem to me to be very important, for wherever I have travelled in the world, I have noticed that the larger ethnic groups which control their less populous neighbours are invariably in their own opinion civilised, tolerant, and progressive, and the smaller groups over which they have had the goodness to extend their bountiful rule are driven to hate them by an unreasoning vindictiveness, which is a result of some ethnic or genetic fault. And this difference in moral stature is certainly very visible when educated members of Group A, or possibly Group B or D, raise the possibility of seceding from the union of Groups A to E in response to Group E’s dominance. Group A, B or D, as it might be, are then warned by Group E that their political beliefs are extremist and a threat to the wellbeing of their peoples, that their leaders have misused their existing powers through nationalism or corruption, that their poverty, compared to Group E, is a result of their own laziness or folly, and that their cultures are threatened because their children recognise that Group E’s culture is superior.(3) When these arguments are unsuccessful, and the opinions of educated minorities in Groups A to D threaten to become the opinions of the groups as a whole, the leaders of Group E tell them that they will not be permitted to continue their discussion of independence, because the voluntary union of which they are a part will not allow it.

At this point let us imagine that neighbouring ethnic groups (one might call them F and G) involve themselves in the debate between groups A to E, drawing on their own experience as rulers of ethnic Groups P and T, or as numerically equal co-participants in a more permissive union with Group V. What A to D will settle for, say F and G, is a piece of paper assuring them that they have the democratic right to end their union with Group E when they so wish, or even, on the basis of their own democratic majorities, veto as many of Group E’s decisions as affect them.(4) And while it may seem to be taking us from lapidary and erudite political satire into the candyfloss of escapist fantasy, let us momentarily suppose that Group E accepts this decrease in its influence, despite vociferous populist opposition — just as so often in the kindly fables of Aesop the lion consents to be taught morals by the goat, and the hawk is dissuaded from eating the rabbit by the mouse.

The union continues on the basis that each ethnic group has equal authority, until Groups A to D announce their intention to use their new powers to prevent some reform which would damage their welfare. ‘We’re sovereign members of a voluntary union,’ the leaders of Group E tell them. ‘If you don’t like the way we treat you, we can leave.’

This piece recalls the first story in Pugnacious Little Trolls, a collection by Rob Mimpriss. The Scottish political theorist, Tom Nairn, argued in an interview with Scott Hames that the UK will never achieve a federal settlement to its ethnic disputes because England’s leaders would prefer to see the breakup of the UK than any moderation of England’s powers within it.(5)

  1. Robin Millar, ‘The Union and the Tale of the Two Dragons.’ In Strength in Union: The Case for a United Kingdom. Ed. Andrew Bowie. Centre for Policy Studies, 2021. 36-37.
  2. Will Kimlycka considers the expectation placed on indigenous minorities to assimilate in ‘Misunderstanding Nationalism.’ Theorizing Nationalism. Ed. by Ronald Beiner (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999), 131-133.
  3. See Jaymi McCann, ‘Liz Truss accuses Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish leaders of playing “political games.”’ i News, 13th August 2022. As a point of comparison, see Vladimir Putin’s article, ‘On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,’ containing tropes very familiar to the educated public of stateless nations. Website of the President of Russia, 12th July 2021.
  4. For example, see Guy Verhofstadt, ‘A Federal Spain In A Federal Europe.’ Social Europe, 6th November 2017. In Welsh and British terms, promises of federalism as an alternative to independence have come to seem increasingly unrealistic. Gwynfor Evans lays out his vision of a British confederation in the final chapter of Land of My Fathers (Swansea: John Penry, 1974).
  5. Scoot Hames and Tom Nairn. ‘Scotland and Europe, Iris Murdoch and Antonio Gramsci: an interview with Tom Nairn.’ openDemocracy, 23rd June 2016.

I am the author of four 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 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 am a member of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars in recognition of my academic work, and of the Welsh Academy in acknowledgement of my contributions to Welsh writing.