Geraint Talfan Davies Talks Unfinished Business

Scholar and cultural personality Geraint Talfan Davies has been travelling the UK talking about his book Unfinished Business: Journal of an Embattled European and why it’s important that the United Kingdom backs out of Brexit.

Thursday 25th October the turn came to Swansea University, where Geraint Talfan Davies was invited to a panel discussion by the Morgan Academy, a research-based political think tank, and the political organisation Wales for Europe | Cymru Dros Ewropof which Davies is chair.

Watch a video of the event here.

Davies started out by giving a moving talk on the book and why he wrote it. Unfinished Business charts his personal experience with Europe and EU-UK relations during his many years of collaborating internationally.

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Geraint Talfan Davies at Swansea University

Personal is the keyword here, for during the Brexit-debates of 2016, Davies was appalled by the coldness and steely logic of the Remain side’s arguments. To him, Europe is first and foremost an emotional issue, and the failure of the Remain-side, Davies argues, is that it did not bring out the emotional side of Europe, but made the EU into something that could be argued only in cold and monetary terms.

According to Davies, the UK, and Wales in particular, are intimately interwoven with the EU. The EU was essential in bringing about and sustaining — devolution, both with its funding and with its focus on regional self-determination. He questions the impact Brexit will have on this.

Unfinished Business also centers on what Davies calls ‘The Single Market of the Mind’ — the way the EU has allowed the free exchange of ideas, culture, and creative products, and free movement of people. Through the EU, UK citizens have been free to move and experience Europe, and free to bring back ideas. To Davies, the EU is not about funding for vanity projects, but about free intellectual collaboration and exchange of ideas.

In his moving address to the audience — and his readers — Davies implored people to act against the ‘happy band of Brexiteers’ who would force people to choose between identities — Welsh, British, European, global. The world today is a lot more complex than it was when the UK joined 50 years ago, and identities today are no longer ‘confidently unitary’.

Panel Debate on Brexit and Unfinished Business
Left to right: Dr. Aled Eirug, Dr. Simon Brooks, Chloe Hutchinson, Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Geraint Talfan Davies

After the talk, Geraint Talfan Davies was joined in a panel discussion with Dr. Aled Eirug from the Morgan Academy and Dr. Simon Brooks (political historian), Chloe Hutchinson from the Swansea University Students’ Union and Tonia Antoniazzi, MP for Gower.

They discussed the impact of Brexit and the various failures of the Remain-campaign, but the discussion very quickly turned more optimistic and the panel was joined by the audience in discussing ways to avoid Brexit. The evening thus ended on a distinctly positive note as people left with hope and concrete plans for action to agitate for a people’s vote.

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Davies’ tour with Unfinished Business continues, and if you want to catch him speaking, now’s your chance:

Check out our Events Page for more info.

 

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A Danish Trip to the Eisteddfod

Our Danish intern Ann D. Bjerregaard writes about her experiences at the national Eisteddfod in Cardiff august 2018.

Our intern Ann writes about her experience of the National Eisteddfod and muses on the idea of Welshness.

Ann D. Bjerregaard & Richard Davies at the Eisteddfod, Cardiff 2018

This week, I spent two days at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff.

One of the things that was most immediately impressed upon me was how foreign I felt. I speak English fluently, and up until now, I had not had to deal with many language or cultural barriers, but at the Eisteddfod I was a total stranger. Everywhere, I was surrounded by people and signs speaking a language I had no idea how to decipher. These people didn’t necessarily peg me as a foreigner right away, and so I had more than the usual number of awkward encounters of “Sorry, I don’t speak Welsh” and “Pardon?”

So I went and bought a Welsh-English pocket dictionary, which quickly became a treasured possession. Suddenly, I could understand (somewhat) all the cariad, hiraeth and croeso that I saw everywhere on merchandise and souvenirs. My fourth Welsh word was bin sbwriel, courtesy of the kind people from Mermaid Quay who laboriously labelled everything.

Cymraeg T-shirt Eisteddfod
Cymraeg – probably the oldest living language in Europe”

In the mostly non-Welsh speaking south Wales, Cardiff Bay became a haven for Welsh, a tiny enclave of adamant Welshness. It was quite interesting to witness, especially given my academic interest in identity politics. I particularly enjoyed the Welsh-speaking kids’ events and seeing how much energy was spent on keeping the children interested in learning Welsh or giving the native Welsh speakers the equivalents of all the English language paraphernalia of childhood such as talking toys, posters and wall hangers. Had I doubted it before, this would certainly have convinced me that Welsh is very much a living language – not some antiquated relic that is being artificially sustained. It was a joy to be a part of.

Parthian had a lovely little stand in the Craft in the Bay area, where many of their titles were beautifully on display. Richard Davies, Parthian’s managing director, said I could just take a book if I liked it, but of course that was too much responsibility to handle for a book hoarder like myself, so I decided not to tempt myself. It was interesting to see the books in the ‘flesh,’ so to speak, as I am so used to only looking at the cover photos on a screen. It made the whole Parthian-business much more tactile and real, somehow.

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Parthian’s stand at the Eisteddfod with neighbouring Firefly Press

During my visits, I saw how the Parthian stand became a meeting point for Parthian-lovers and Welsh literati alike, and I began to realise just how vast a literary network Parthian is a part of and how much the Parthian people do to sustain it. I also had the pleasure of meeting some authors and most of the Parthian team during the Parthian Get Together Friday evening. It was a nice introduction to the co-workers I don’t see every day.

I had an enlightening two days in Cardiff. It was a memorable experience, and one that truly showed me the depth of some Welsh experiences. After a month and a half in Swansea, I’ve felt that on the surface the city is rather like the rest of the United Kingdom. It wasn’t till I came to the Eisteddfod and saw the numerous stands and events that I could really begin to understand what people mean when they talk of Wales. Here, I saw the things that were highlighted about Welshness and national pride such as flags, dedicated literary talks, Welsh catchphrases printed on T-shirts, local and souvenir crafts and Welsh food and cakes.

Of course, the culture of a country is more than what can be found in a souvenir shop, and I can’t wait to delve deeper into the idea of Wales.

 

 

Bad Ideas\Chemicals Review

‘Moments are crashing disconnected, one into the next, into the next, into the next, into the’

Bad Ideas/ Chemicals is shortlisted for the Betty Trask prize and the Authors Award Slate for 2018, when you read it you understand why.Bad Ideas Betty Trask email

 

 

The author Lloyd Markham (picture inserted below), originally from Johannesburg South Africa, has lived in Wales since he was thirteen. He is a lover of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and when you read Bad Ideas/Chemicals, be prepared for some nasty roaches.

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Bad teens. Bad ideas. Bad chemicals. The title is self-explanatory and what you see is what you get, if you’re a lover of small-town teens surrounded by drugs, bad decisions, dark humor and a Stand by Me and A Clockwork Orange vibe then this is definitely for you. Lloyd Markham’s astounding novella shows the lives of Cassie, Billy, Fox, Louie, and Alice who are all crammed into a small town called Gorgree. A town on the border of England and Wales, infested with poisonous roaches and the infamous drug GOTE.

The town is mocked continuously throughout with the phrase ‘I’m not from around here’ and the cluster of gossip of why the town is a neglected, unfinished project.

 

The novella takes place over one single night, one last time to drink, take GOTE and have awful, terrible ideas.

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Bad Ideas\Chemicals was a fantastic read because it was unique and, extremely weird. It defies any kind of categorization yet lies somewhere within literary fiction, and I feel that placing it in a genre wouldn’t do it justice. The book begins with Cassandra Fish who wears an orange spacesuit in the hopes that her parents from another planet will take her home and away from this ‘dirty world’. Her character is simple yet complex, her language and thoughts presented in an abundance of confusion at the ‘other humans’ around her. She is detached and the observer to the chaos of her friends, yet constantly throughout, she believes she is an alien and soon enough you begin to believe her.

The short chapters and different perspectives were one of the things I enjoyed most. It was easy to understand and each chapter has a distinctive tone which kept me hooked. Each character had a different problem and a different story; Billy, a struggling musician with a foreign father reveals his past of being bullied and abused because of his father’s ethnicity. Fox, an orphan thrown in and out of the care system who is desperate for human connection. Louie, struggling to run his alcoholic father’s shop and to keep himself from ending it all. Alice, addicted to GOTE and living with her bigoted grandmother, showing that they are all human and all struggling to survive. These characters allow the author to address topics such as drink and drug addiction, sex, the care system, mental illness, and death, in the eyes of a teenager. By blurring fantasy and reality, Bad Ideas\Chemicals had a strange sense of escapism for not only the characters but the reader also. Markham shows an understanding for the youth of today that radiates throughout the novel, which is why I would recommend it and why I believe it fits into Parthian’s collection so well.

After bad nightclubs, bad conversation and bad memories, The Orphan Three venture to an abandoned castle where Billy and Fox take the renowned GOTE and Cassandra fades into her memories. This is when the eccentricity of Bad Ideas\Chemicals truly hit home for me when finding out the source of the drug. With my face contorted in disgust, I realized how much I loved this book because of how evocative it was and also, the hope that this will become a cult classic. The novella consisted of moments that are fleeting and fragmented, crashing into the next which means that my questions were not always answered but still felt justified. Bad Ideas\ Chemicals is an astounding outlook of small-town life, in the eyes of troubled teens in a way that was wonderfully weird, unsettling and genius.

Reviewed by: Molly Holborn

Old Dog, New Tricks: Laura’s Marketing Internship

Laura May Webb is currently working as an intern assisting with the marketing of the new Parthian Baltic Series, having recently completed her PhD in contemporary Argentine literature at Swansea University. 

In December of 2017 I submitted my PhD thesis…and panicked. What next? As a single parent of three children aged ten and under, my career options are, shall we say, slightly restricted. The thesis had taken up most of my time the past six years. Raising children and studying at the same time didn’t leave much time for work experience (or sleep…).

Parthian Blog

My PhD is in Latin American literary studies and before that I had studied for a Masters degree in literary translation. Having done some freelance translation and proofreading, I was interested in publishing from various angles. In January of 2018, full of New Year’s enthusiasm and fuelled by a brief existential crisis, I contacted Parthian to ask if they had any work experience opportunities and applied for a marketing internship.

I started in February 2018 and although I felt completely out of my depth (it’s not easy to go from being an expert in one area to a novice in another), I was excited to start a new project. I would be working with editor Alison Evans on the new Parthian Baltic series which features new Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian literature translated into English.

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I had a clear brief of what I would be doing and checked in via email with Alison and the rest of the team on the occasions I was unable make it into the office. The team were all very friendly and supportive and especially understanding during the various personal crises and obstacles that occurred that affected my internship journey and included a spectacular vomiting incident from my youngest child on day one of my placement, a funeral on week two, a good dose of flu just over a month in and my Viva exam towards the end.

From practical tasks such as compiling author biographies and creating and updating spreadsheets, contacting potential book stockists and organisations, to more creative endeavours, such as pitching and writing a review of the Baltic poetry for the Wales Arts Review (you can read the article here http://www.walesartsreview.org/bad-girls-women-in-baltic-poetry/), during my internship experience at Parthian I have been able to not only use the skills I already have, but have learnt and developed new skills and gained knowledge that I know will benefit me in the future. I have been stretched, and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. I have made valuable contacts and gained as much from the whole experience of being welcomed in and treated as part of the team and observing and participating in the running of an independent publishing house as I have from the specific tasks assigned to me.

I sincerely hope to work with Parthian again in the future and look forward to seeing what they do next.

 

Eleanor’s Placement Experience

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Rhys Davies, a seminal author of queer Welsh writing

Eleanor Fraser is a current intern at Parthian, working as an editorial assistant on the upcoming anthology of queer Welsh short stories. Here she talks of her experiences working at Parthian so far.

 

The project I am involved with is an new anthology of queer welsh writing, featuring short stories from across the decades in a wide range of genres. The collection’s spectrum of voices present a varied and rich exploration into what it means to be queer and Welsh.

I applied for the internship as an editorial assistant with Parthian as I felt this was the perfect opportunity in regards to both my current studies at Swansea University and my future career prospects. I’m currently reading English Literature at Masters level, with a focus upon Welsh writing in English. I am looking to pursue a career in publishing after graduation, particularly with a Welsh literary publishing house such as Parthian, and so this internship felt like the perfect fit. It not only allowed me to contribute to the anthology with practical contributions, such as scanning and typing, but also will give me the chance to have a say on the marketing and social media surrounding the project. It’s rewarding to know that will have made a real contribution to this publication, and it’s something that I will be very proud of once it is finished.

The prospect of having hands-on experience with the day-to-day of a publishing house was very exciting to me, particularly as it was with a focus upon the upcoming anthology of queer short-stories. The writing of marginalized groups has always fascinated me: my undergraduate dissertation centred around minority women’s writing in twentieth century America, and my planned master’s thesis will cover magical realism within a Welsh context. As magical realism is a genre generally used by groups who have been outcast from society in some way, whether in a colonial or social context, my dissertation will include many queer and marginalised Welsh authors, some of whom have been included in this collection.

margiad evansAs an editorial assistant on this anthology, I have worked on a variety of tasks, such as organizing and compiling data on the texts shortlisted for inclusion, in addition to typing up manuscripts from translations and scanning in stories from existing compilations. Being able to work with texts from some of my favourite Welsh authors, such as Margiad Evans and Glyn Jones, has been a real pleasure, and I have been able to explore the works of so many authors who I may never have come across outside of this internship. These writers will definitely be useful in my research of modern Welsh writers for my dissertation, opening new pathways which I had previously not known. A task which I particularly enjoyed was typing up the manuscripts, as it was an exciting privilege to interact with these texts at such a crucial stage in publication and experience the stories as I typed them up. It was so enjoyable it didn’t feel like work at all! Some of the texts that I had the pleasure of typing up were fantastic; humorous and tragic at turns, but always gripping and unexpected until the end. In the stories I scanned from existing collections as well, there were some notable examples of brilliant short story writing.

One such text was ‘The Kiss’ by Glyn Jones. It’s a brief, poetic tale of two brothers returning from the pit, one of glyn jonesthem horrifically injured, which combines a gritty coalfields setting, typical of mid-twentieth century South Wales literature, with strongly religious, allegorical imagery. The story is beautifully written, with the religious overtones presented in a narrative style resembling a magical, dark folk tale. The ending was particularly striking, as the entire story was building up to culminate in this single act, a kiss, only for it to be given in the final lines in the most unexpected way. The ‘queer’ element of Jones’ tale is subtle, making it, in my view, even more powerful.

Another of the stories which I enjoyed greatly was Margiad Evans’ ‘A Modest Adornment’, which was originally published in her 1948 collection of short stories, The Old and the Young. In stark contrast to ‘The Kiss’, ‘A Modest Adornment’ feels quaint and pastoral, the characters an entertaining mixture of realist and melodramatic caricature. The humour and light tone of the text, however, only adds to the touching nature of the tale’s concluding reveal, and Evans’ easy, natural authorial voice makes for a thoroughly entertaining read.

Whilst I was well acquainted with the works of Evans and Jones, I was not however aware of Bertha Thomas, a nineteenth century writer whose tale, ‘A House That Was’, was an interesting piece of historical writing under the ‘queer’ literary label. Her brief narrative of an outsider’s view on Wales and a short-lived connection between two strangers is almost Gothic in tone, and whilst it may not have the timeless feel of the stories of Jones and Evans, it was nonetheless an interesting introduction to a Welsh writer I had not previously come across, and part of a crucial chapter in the history of queer writing in Wales.

Overall, this internship has been a fantastic opportunity, which I have thoroughly enjoyed so far, and has given me valuable experience in the field. I cannot wait to begin my career in publishing full time, and I look forward to the rest of my internship!

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Internship Experience

Former Intern Julia Bradley tells us about her experiences at Parthian over the past two years, and what she will take away from it.

I began my journey with Parthian in September 2015, and have spent a good two years interning in the Swansea office alongside my studies at Swansea University. I should probably mention, Parthian doesn’t normally offer internships that last for two years! I started out doing a couple of weeks of work experience, which is more the norm, and just kind of…stuck around.

Over the course of my internship I was able to experience a wide range of tasks relating to different stages of the life-cycle of a book – from reading and reviewing submitted manuscripts, to proofreading the final texts. I spent quite a lot of time working on marketing jobs, be that researching potential advertising methods, copy-editing press releases, or by working on social media engagement. I got involved with numerous events, from local book launches in Swansea and the Mumbles, to further afield at literary festivals in Hay-on-Wye and in Edinburgh. I was also given the chance to learn the basics of working with Adobe InDesign, and I had an ongoing project of compiling up-to-date eBook metadata. These are all tasks and skills which I’m finding to be extremely useful, now that I’m job searching, but rather than go into the intricacies of spreadsheets (I’m sure Maria misses my pastel colour-coding), here are some of the highlights of my time with Parthian:

Books

I feel like this almost goes without saying, but being given books is always pretty great –2 yet it’s even better when the books themselves are great.

The first Parthian book I read was Alys Conran’s Pigeon, and it did not disappoint. I was fascinated by Alys’ use of the Welsh language, and the plot itself had me refusing to put the book down. Other highlights were the wacky Bad Ideas\Chemicals and A Van of One’s Own, which I was given just before my holiday to Portugal, where the book is set.

Over the course of my internship I was able to get a feel for both the contemporary literary scene in Wales, which is thriving, and for the country’s bookish heritage.

The International Dylan Thomas Prize

Speaking of Pigeon, I joined the rest of the Parthian team to attend the award ceremony for the International Dylan Thomas Prize when Alys was shortlisted earlier this year. It was very interesting to hear readings from each of the shortlisted authors, and whilst unfortunately Pigeon didn’t win the prize, it was a lovely evening which I was happy to be a part of.

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The Edinburgh International Book Festival

I won’t go in to too much detail about this trip, as I’ve written about it before (you can find the story here) but the short version is this:

In August I was lucky enough to get to go up to Edinburgh during the city’s International Book Festival to attend some events with Parthian author Ece Temelkuran (who ended up winning the festival’s First Book award!). You can read more about the book here. A particular high of the trip was getting a tour of the fascinating city from another Parthian author, Tendai Huchu, whose novel The Maestro, The Magistrate and the Mathematician, which is set in the city, I’d read the year before.

Haggis was eaten, wine was drunk, authors were met, and it was ultimately an amazing visit to Auld Reekie.

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Whilst I’m trying not to get overly sentimental, it’s important to say that the experience I’ve gained over the past two years has given me a sense of direction, and it’s thanks to this internship that I feel confident I can pursue a career in what is an incredibly competitive industry. What is perhaps equally important though, is that during my time with Parthian I genuinely felt like part of the team. It seems that being warm, and kind, and passionate are all job requirements for staff at this small Welsh press – I’d like to thank everyone that made my two years here so special!

It is with something of a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Parthian, but I’m looking forward to both keeping up with what comes next for the team, and for my own ‘next chapter’.

 

PC_Logo_Futures_COLOURJulia has been part of the Parthian team as a Marketing Assistant for the past two years and has completed a Santander SME placement. She recently became a winner of the Print Futures Award 2017. 

An Interview with Bernard Mitchell

Every photo tells a story. A collection of the right photos, can tell a history. Bernard Mitchell’s new collection, Pieces of a Jigsaw: Portraits of Artists and Writers of Wales, captures the faces behind the artistic and literary tradition of Wales. He sat down to an espresso with Parthian and described the origin and process for how these distinct photos were created. Bernard will be presenting Pieces of a Jigsaw at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery on 25th November at 11:00 a.m. as part of the Being Human Festival.

How did this project of taking portraits of writers and artists begin?

I realised there was a group of people from Swansea who were all connected with Dylan Thomas. They were friends, but they were influenced by his writing and they were a symbiotic group if you like. I call them the ‘Swansea Gang.’

Can you talk about your process of staging these portraits?

Daniel Jones was the first of [the Swansea Gang] and I was quite young and very nervous. He very kindly saw me, and they all did. Daniel met with me and we went upstairs to the room where he had a grand piano and he composed his music. Pubs in those days were open at 12 and dead on 12, the clock went boing! and he said ‘Time for a beer.’ So we went to the pub and as we drank more, the more relaxed he got.

Pubs close at three, by that time, we got some very relaxed photographs and it was great. But his wife came in at 3:00 and said ‘Danny, I’m taking you home, I’m locking you in your room, until you compose some music.’ So that’s how it all started, the very first group of people were the Swansea Gang.

And when you’re shooting, do you know when you have ‘the one’ or do you see it in the negatives afterwards?

 

You’ve got to feel it. You know when to stop. But with some artists, they become friends, and some artists I follow. When I restarted in the 1990’s … I wanted to photograph artists and writers and the correlation between them, this catalytic, symbiotic thing that writers and artists are together. Writers are influenced by artists and artists are influenced by writers.

How much time would you spend with these writers and artists before you felt like you could accurately capture them?

I’d always start work about 10 a.m., go to their house, have a coffee, sit down relax have a chat, and while they’re doing that, I’m looking around.

For portraiture and photography, what are the benefits of that medium that other forms of storytelling don’t offer?

Well in the early days, everything was black and white and my opinion of black and white was that it gets to the brain quicker, it’s a very simple . One of the most important things about photography is that it’s international. You don’t have to speak the language. It communicates instantly. You see the image, you should get the message. Fortunately or unfortunately with my photographs, the message is buried deep within the photographs.

Do you envision this project to continue in the future?

I’ve only really just started again, about two years ago. But five years ago, I had a stroke and I did nothing for quite awhile … But now, I want to do it again.

What do you hope people take away from Pieces of a Jigsaw when they read it?

I hope they will look carefully at the photographs and try to analyse what it’s all about, because they’re not accidents. They’re not snaps. They are very carefully constructed, they are constructed within millimeters of what’s in and what’s out.

You said you like the black and white contrast, but there are some stunning colour ones.

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Now, then the reason for this one in colour. Do you see the portraits of herself? She has a red tam. The red tam is by her left foot. By her right foot is a toolbox, it’s red. The tam isn’t on her head, but the tam is on all the portraits in the background and it’s red. That’s the reason for the colour. You see, the colour has a use; it’s not colour because it’s colourful.

Image of Bernard Mitchell with camera.Bernard Mitchell grew up in Swansea where he currently lives after a retiring from a career in photojournalism with Thomson Regional Newspapers. Bernard’s passion for this decades-long project has led to exhibitions at the National Library of Wales and generous donations of portraits to the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University.

Pieces of a Jigsaw can be pre-ordered at the following link: Pieces of a Jigsaw – Parthian Books