MULTI-MEDIA Shannon Parker

NWR Issue r14

Review of short story collection Jwg ar Seld by Lleucu Roberts

Shannon Parker reviews Jwg ar Seld by Lleucu Roberts, published by Y Lolfa. A volume comprising half a dozen short stories, each story presenting, as its main theme, an aspect of being Welsh. Directed and edited by Ieuan Jones, Produced by Sian Roberts. New Welsh Review's multimedia programme is sponsored by Aberystwyth University.

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Shannon Parker review short story collection 'Jwg ar Seld' by Lleucu Roberts, published by Y Lolfa from New Welsh Review on Vimeo.

Transcript of Audio Review and translations by Shannon Roberts

Welsh-language short story collection Jwg ar Seld by Lleucu Roberts, published by Y Lolfa

Sut oedd posib iddi ddeall y modd roedd ei hiaith yn gwneud Lili’n Lili, y modd roedd y ddwy hi yn un, yr un peth?

How was it possible for her to understand the fact that her language made Lili Lili, the fact that the two were one, the same thing?

Lleucu Roberts’ collection of eight short stories, Jwg ar Seld (Jug on the Dresser), published by Y Lolfa, is a revised edition of her commended submission to the Abergavenny National Eisteddfod 2016. With previous works, Roberts is a two-time winner of the Tir na n-Og Award and the recipient of both the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize and the Prose Award from the Llanelli National Eisteddod 2014. Roberts’ love for her native tongue and her concern over its future is clear throughout this collection, the aim of which is to explore contemporary ideas and attitudes in Wales towards the Welsh language. This exploration is comprehensive, with each story presenting characters of different voices from each layer of society across the nation, expressing eight different experiences of living as a Welsh speaker in Wales whilst highlighting the problems facing them. While this collection is a means of approaching such issues, Jwg ar Seld is foremost a celebration of the wonderful diversity of the Welsh language and its inseparable connection to its homeland and its speakers.

Roberts’ stories, united by one overarching theme, are stylistically and linguistically varied, progressing fluidly through moments of humour, to moments of the macabre, and poignancy. Frank humour permeates the narrative, taking a dark turn in ‘Lawntie’ (a colloquial house name), a tale that sees years of bitterness and jealousy in marriage come to a gruesome (but not altogether unexpected) end which was simultaneously impossible to read or put down.

The true beauty of this collection is that Roberts writes convincingly from so many different viewpoints. It is refreshing that she can include ‘Lawntie’ in the same collection as ‘Cyfnitherod’ (‘Cousins’), a story in which she delicately describes the embarrassments and pains of adolescence and the mercurial nature of childhood friends. Perhaps the stand-out story in Jwg ar Seld is ‘Yma’ (‘Here’), written in the Caernarfon dialect. Those unfamiliar with this dialect may struggle when beginning to read this story but should become accustomed to it a few pages in. The story is colloquially narrated by a young man, Llwyd, and follows one day in his life which begins (successfully) with him being sacked from KFC. The introspective quality of this story and Llwyd’s dialect and lexicon make him a tangible and vivid character and ‘Yma’ provides a powerful glimpse into the life of a character who would so often be overlooked in literature.

Roberts’ most memorable message in this collection; the marginalisation of Wales’ native language and culture, appears most obviously in ‘Yr Eliffant yn y Siambr’ (‘The Elephant in the Room’). During a discussion concerning the touristic and cultural merits of Wales in the Senedd chamber, the Welsh language remains painfully unaddressed by politicians and Roberts’ disbelief and anger that Welsh should become the ‘beautiful colourful elephant’ in the room within the government of its own country is conveyed through impassioned writing.

The protagonist, Lili, in ‘Galw’ {‘Calling’) considers it her ‘calling’ to ‘campaign’ for the Welsh language by making endless phone calls to companies and institutions in Wales over their language policy. She is perhaps the most endearing character in Jwg ar Seld but a mysterious call in the early morning shakes her perception somewhat. The final story in the collection, ‘Un Funud Fach’ (‘One Short Minute’) is a poignant stream of memories that flicker into consciousness as the narrator leaves his home and travels to England to die near his son. The irony of this is not lost as important events in the history of Wales and the Welsh Language are remembered alongside glimpses of his familial life. However, Roberts concludes her collection on a hopeful but tired note: ‘the sun will rise again tomorrow’.


previous multi-media: Review of novel ‘Sol a Lara’ by Tony Bianchi
next multi-media: Story: The Fake in the Back


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