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This article is taken from PN Review 263, Volume 48 Number 3, January - February 2022.

Letter from Wales Sam Adams

M. Wynn Thomas, Eutopia: studies in Cultural Euro-Welshness, 1850-1980; and The History of Wales in Twelve Poems (both University of Wales Press, 2021), £24.99 and £8.99

Wynn Thomas has long since consolidated his position as the foremost interpreter of Welsh writing in English. He is principled, keenly perceptive and precise in judgement, and his writing is as elegant as it is clear, while pulling no punches. He is equally at home discussing the literature and history of Wales in the Welsh language, bringing to this field, too, the same rare qualities of wide knowledge, clarity and discrimination. These, his most recent books, are different in scope and intention from the twenty or so volumes that preceded them. They go far beyond ‘lit. crit.’ and confirm his standing among the foremost cultural historians of Wales.

Eutopia is a survey with parameters both chronological and geographical. It proposes that, compared to the reach and depth of the (lately American accented) anglophone penetration of much of the world by military and mercantile predation, Welsh connections with Europe, though they go back to the ‘Age of the Saints’, the Mabinogion and the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym, only multiply about the middle of the nineteenth century, and even since then ‘cannot but seem piddling, provincial and hopelessly naive’. Thomas’s assessment is, as ever, clear-sighted. Nevertheless, he insists, they have ‘compelling power and continuing relevance’, manifested not in politics, economics or mass movements (least of all tourist travel), ...

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