Planet excerpts

A small selection of reviews from issue 220

See more from Planet 220 here

Niall Griffiths reviews Limestone Man by Robert Minhinnick
Richard Ieuan Parry (note those initials) is, at the opening of Robert Minhinnick’s second novel, sitting at a street market in Adelaide, among that city’s Chinese community. He’s an exile among exiles, pointing out the minutiae of a dislodged culture(s). There is lotus tea and lotus flowers and a barman who tips a conspiratorial wink. There are vague memories of a girl called Lulu and a place on the other side of the planet called The Caib. What is Parry? An ex-teacher, for certain, and maybe a writer and painter manqué, and a keen compiler of lists. More fragments of memory emerge; blood and slaps and fog. We will, later, discover that Parry is a wine connoisseur, an obsessive muso, a wannabe Malcolm McLaren, and a character of such monumental self-absorption that to spend more than a few moments in his head is to invite thoughts of self-destruction...

Aidan Byrne reviews The Greatest Need by Jasmine Donahaye
Simon Black, the central protagonist of Lily Tobias’s My Mother’s House is for most of the narrative what might be called a self-hating Jew, a man who struggles to abandon both his Welshness and his Jewishness in a search for social acceptance. Tobias’s later novel, Eunice Fleet, also follows an initially unsympathetic eponymous central protagonist as she first rejects her conscientious objector husband, only to seek atonement years after his death.

The recurrence of unsympathetic protagonists eventually coming to accept their origins or an ideological position they once rejected indicates that Tobias’s literary origins are in Victorian didactic novels – Daniel Deronda, which she adapted for the stage, is a touchstone – yet she tackles the same problems as many more familiar interwar authors. Like Lewis Jones, she struggles to dramatise ideological themes within the confines of the individualistic novel form. Unlike Lewis Jones, she was until recently unjustly forgotten until Honno stepped in...

Marion Löffler reviews Pam Na Fu Cymru by Simon Brooks
Pam Na Fu Cymru – ‘Why Wales Never Was’ – is the second volume in the ‘Safbwyntiau’ series of Welsh-language titles on politics, culture and society published by University of Wales Press and also the second in the author’s own projected trilogy on different aspects of Welsh history and nationhood. It impresses by the depth and width of its scholarship and the stringent pursuit of its argument. Excitingly European in outlook and at the same time thoroughly grounded in Welsh culture and learning, it is quite obviously the fruit of years of researching nineteenth-century European nationalism, especially in eastern Europe, and considering its implications for a Wales which, although it seemed to possess every prerequisite, never developed a national mass movement for the emancipation of the Welsh language and the establishment of an independent civic entity, a state. Its author Simon Brooks is that by now rare breed of intellectual for whom explaining the world to those who care to listen takes precedence over earning a living or swimming with the mainstream. Welsh culture affords poets pride of place; in Germany this falls to people like Brooks, who by challenging received wisdom constitute the conscience of the nation...