‘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 of Zoë Williams from The Guardian

Learning Welsh and Cottage Cheese: A Response to Zoë Williams

The recent media spat following Zoë Williams’s unhelpful quip about the Welsh language as ‘existentially pointless’ in an article for The Guardian on 1st February 2020(1) offers two conclusions, not entirely negative. First, the joke was not especially racist or hurtful, compared with, for example, Jonathan Jennings’s demand on Twitter for genocide against the Welsh; or A. A. Gill’s description of us as ‘immoral, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls’ on the pages of The Sunday Times,(2) or The Guardian’s relatively recent claim that teaching children through the medium of Welsh is tantamount to abuse,(3) or the Sunday Times’s brilliant notion of polling English readers on whether Welsh schools should teach the Welsh language, or those numerous incidents since the Brexit vote of Welsh-speakers suffering discrimination or abuse at work or in public places. Rather, the joke arose from the same arrogant, lazy journalism as apocryphally required one Welsh statesman to explain to a BBC researcher – no doubt in words of one syllable, and containing vowels(4) – that Plaid Cymru, Cymdeithas yr Iaith and the Urdd yr Eisteddfod are not the same organisation. Second, alerted no doubt by the ensuing furore, and perhaps by some dim flicker of sentience which warned them that jokes belittling the people of Wales are not consistently hilarious, The Guardian allowed the Welsh language some right of reply – not by the poet and seasoned language campaigner, Menna Elfyn, or by the novelist, Angharad Price, whose first novel was published in English translation by Quercus, or by Cerys Matthews or Michael Sheen, who have campaigned on language issues, or by the language campaigner, Eirys Llywelyn, whose protest against England’s control of Welsh broadcasting keeps her in the courts and her case in the news, or by Osian Rhys, the current leader of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, or by Aled Roberts, the current Welsh-Language Commissioner, or even by the former leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood, who has expressed the anger she feels at having to learn as an adult the language that should have been hers from birth – but in a piece about the rewards of learning small or obscure languages, written by Adrian Chiles.(5)

In Wales, the discussion took a different course. Nation.Cymru pointed to English culture’s long history of racism against Welsh language and culture,(6) while the novelist, Manon Steffan Ros, sharply questioned both the point of the joke and the ‘pointlessness’ of speaking in her native language to her children in theirs.(7) But in the two nations, discussion of the national language of one of them, conducted in the national language of the other, was based on contrasting sets of assumptions. First, in England, Welsh was something to be learnt, or not, by affluent professionals in their leisure hours, an alternative to dieting or exercise or evening classes in the important languages, while in Wales, it was treated as the bond between family members, the repository of two thousand years of poetry and thought, something precious and intrinsic to our national life. Second, in Wales, the assumption was that we have a right to be heard at least as often as we are talked about, while in England we remained outside the discussion, a problem to be debated by English pundits and columnists only.

  1. The article appears to have been withdrawn. However, see ‘Guardian criticised after suggesting Welsh language is pointless.’ Nation Cymru, 2nd February 2020 or Harri Evans, ‘Guardian columnist sparks outrage after describing learning Welsh as “pointless.”’ North Wales Live, 3rd February 2020. See also Zoë Williams (@zoesqwilliams), ‘I appear to have triggered a Welsh independence movement with my fitness column. Specifically, this line: “All that energy spent, no distance covered, like eating cottage cheese or learning Welsh.” I feel I should clarify: learning languages is notoriously hard.’ Twitter, 3rd February 2020. The claim that it is the Welsh independence movement that is ‘triggered’ to defend the Welsh language (that is to say, that Welsh nationalism exists because the British state is corrosive of Welsh culture) is as noteworthy as her desire to explain her original comment, yet the term ‘triggered,’ with its connotations of far-right self-righteousness and self-pity, of the demand for free speech without right of response, or of the vilification as ‘libtards’ and ‘remoaners’ of those who seek to add humanity and reason to public discourse, is as ill-judged as the quip itself.
  2. ‘Smile — you're on cameo camera: Ireland be damned, creative bigotry is the lifeblood of Britain and its TV service, says A A Gill.’ The Sunday Times, 28th September 1997. By way of response, see Catrin Fflur Huws, ‘Why racism against Welsh people is still racism.’ The Conversation, 14th May 2018.
  3. Quoted in Ifan Morgan Jones, ‘Ignore the Guardian: A bilingual education is best for our children.’ Nation Cymru, 20th June 2017. With regard to the slurs that are directed against Welsh education in particular, I quote Ffion Mair, ‘Dwi di blino. Di blino ar deimlo bod rhywun yn ymosod arna i o hyd. Di blino ar orfod amddiffyn yr iaith ges i’n magu ynddi, yr iaith dwi’n byw ynddi a'r iaith dwi’n gwithio ynddi. Dwi di blino ar glywed pobl sy’n gwybod dim yn diystyru’r gymuned nath fy ngwneud i’n pwy ydw i, ac yn dweud ein bod ni ddim yn bodoli nac yn bwysig. Dwi di blino ar ddarllen sylwadau difeddwl ar gyfryngau cymdeithasol sy’n dilorni’r hyn rydw i a'r bobl dwi'n eu caru yn ei gredu ynddo. Dwi di blino ar gwmnïau mawr a sefydliadau a ddylai wybod yn well yn gwahaniaethu yn erbyn fy niwylliant i. Dwi di blino ar orfod egluro pam fy mod i’n dewis siarad iaith sy'n dod yn naturiol i mi, a gorfod cyfiawnhau fy rhesymau am astudio “iaith roeddwn i'n ei siarad yn barod” yn y brifysgol. Dwi di blino ar bobl sydd ddim hyd yn oed yn rhan o’r sgwrs yn meddwl fy mod i’n siarad amdanyn nhw. Dwi di blino ar ddeud wrth bobl mod i'n gyfieithydd, mond iddyn nhw ddweud wrtha i bod fy ngyrfa i’n wastraff o arian a bod pawb yn deall Saesneg beth bynnag. Dwi jyst di blino. Raid i rywbeth newid.’ (I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling under constant attack. I’m tired of having to defend the language I was raised in, live in and work in. I’m tired of hearing people who know nothing about it devaluing the community that made me who I am, saying we don’t exist or don’t matter. I’m tired of reading thoughtless comments on social media abusing what I and those I love believe in. I’m tired of major companies and institutions that ought to know better discriminating against my culture. I’m tired of having to explain why I choose to speak the language that comes naturally to me, or justify my reasons for having studied a language I already speak at university. I’m tired of people who aren’t even part of the conversation assuming that I’m talking about them when I speak Welsh. I’m tired of telling people I’m a translator, only to be told that my career is a waste of money since everyone understands English anyway. I’m tired, and something must change.) Facebook, 9th August 2017.
  4. One might suppose that the joke could be allowed to die in peace. But Kathy Lette attempted its resuscitation in an article for The Telegraph — see ‘Telegraph columnist calls Wales a “vowel-hungry principality” with “horrors of local lingo.”’ Nation Cymru, 15th August 2021.
  5. Adrian Chiles, ‘Learning Welsh isn’t pointless. You see the world from a whole new angle.’ The Guardian, 5th February 2020.
  6. Gareth Ceidiog Hughes, ‘When Zoe Williams calls the Welsh language pointless, she is sneering at those who speak it.’ Nation Cymru, 3rd February 2020.
  7. Manon Steffan Ros (Manon Steffan Ros Omb), ‘This was published in The Guardian yesterday. Really hurtful, but I shouldn't be surprised- The Guardian has form for this. Wales is consistently lauded in its pages as a holiday destination, an escape from the rat race, a place of beauty and peace. But Wales has its own culture, its own language, and it doesn't exist solely as a holiday destination or a cheap place for you to buy a second home. My mother tongue isn't a punchline. My means of communication with my own children is not “existentially pointless.”’ Facebook, 2nd February 2020.

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.