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This report is taken from PN Review 246, Volume 45 Number 4, March - April 2019.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams
My previous ‘letter’ was accompanied by a photograph of three important figures in the cultural life of Wales in the twentieth century, the artist Kyffin Williams and two writers, R.S. Thomas and Emyr Humphreys, for both of whom Welsh was a second language largely learned in adulthood. Welsh became their preferred medium of oral communication and both wrote and published work in Welsh, but the creative writing that made and sustains their reputations is in English. A good many contemporary Welsh writers in English have taken a similar journey towards bilingualism as adults, inspired by their late realisation of the long history in these islands and cultural value of Welsh.

There are again those few, who, like Gwyneth Lewis, are thoroughly and creatively bilingual from the outset, and also the unusual cases of writers who, having learned Welsh, choose to engage with the language at the more intense and demanding level of creative expression. It is not a decision to be taken lightly. Conrad thought it demanded ‘a fearful effort’. Meic Stephens, who learned Welsh after taking a degree in French at UCW Aberystwyth, was the ideal obituarist when Robert Maynard Jones died in November 2017, for Bobi Jones, the name by which he became known as a writer, had also learned Welsh, beginning at grammar school in Cardiff where the usual curricular limitations meant pupils studied either French or Welsh. He would say later that he didn’t choose the subject, it chose him. An outstanding student career at UC Cardiff and in Dublin in due ...


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