T. Robin Chapman reviews Wales Unchained by Daniel G. Williams

Wales Unchained

UWP, £24.99

Daniel G. Williams opens this collection of essays with an admission and a hope. Although they present a ‘fragmented and incomplete … cultural history of Welshness’ in the 20th century, they will at the same time, he ventures to add, prove ‘suggestive and illuminating’. They do – and the illumination lies in the fragments. Williams is an instinctive synthesist. The Welshness he patches here is an American quilt of coincidences, parallels and frictions. It is in part a culture of excursions and incursions. Dylan Thomas enters the New York of Charlie Parker; Paul Robeson brings civil-rights socialism into the class-conscious socialist Ebbw Vale of Aneurin Bevan; Robert Mininnick contemplates movement and stasis in Jack Kerouac’s Massachusetts. But above all, consistent with Williams’s historicist contention that literature is an activity ‘in which the whole history of a culture is deeply inscribed’, this is a book about the imaginative capacity of words on paper to stitch Wales and the States into a narrative that lies outside geography.

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