The Lost Voice of Wales

And that would be Caradog Prichard. One Moonlit Night is a fantastic incantatory tale. I only wish I could have read it in Welsh — but my Welsh only goes as far as saying “mae cath yneistedd ar y mat.”

Pritchard’s dark storytelling is as good as Patrick Suskind and his hallucinatory language as good as Master Calvino.

The story is set in rural Wales during WWI and is narrated from a child’s POV who is grappling with his self and the madness that is taking over his mother. It’s brutal and funny, haunting and sensuous, and reads more like a fugitive collection of episodes than a tightly-bound novel with a clear ending — the ending is more of an unsettling fox’s cry than the plaintive note of a blackbird.

The writing is so vivid and the texture of the mother’s mental breakdown creeps up and builds in the narrative with a dizzying cadence along with the growing concerns of the son. And the tension between the mother’s loss of consciousness and the son’s mad scrabble to be aware of his mother’s losing battle is beautifully rendered by Pritchard. As Pritchard increases his poetical voice, it’s as if he’s trying to escape the madness himself, only he’s drawing a reader further in, guiding them, like Virgil, into the book’s inferno of passion and loss and the rural ecstasy of a long dead idyllic Wales.

And Pritchard certainly lives up to this: “A writer more concerned with oddities in language and aberrant states of consciousness than with creating naturalistic scenes and plausible dialogue.”

Axiom for the month: Life should be enjoyed while you have it, not slaved away until it’s gone.


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