Going South: The Stories of Richard Hughes Williams

Publisher: Cockatrice Books, 2015 | ISBN: 978-1912368099 | Format: 20.3×12.7cm paperback | Length: 174 pages | Price: £7.99.

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Set in the North Wales slate quarries at the end of the nineteenth century, these stories represent a time of unparalleled cultural wealth and economic hardship. With a simplicity that belies their emotional impact, they depict the quarrymen united by humour and friendship against the oppression and upheaval of their time.

Richard Hughes Williams, also known as Dic Tryfan (1878-1919), was proclaimed as a Welsh Gorky in his day, but only now has a body of his work been translated. A liberal, a secularist and an internationalist, he yet depicts his compatriots with loyalty, with humour and with never-failing compassion.

‘His sympathy was always turned to the homeless, the helpless, those defeated by life, and in his stories he always showed the comic side of failure as well as the tragic. For the humour of pity lies in seeing, and there is humour in understanding as well: pity knows how easily any of us can be trampled underfoot in the conflict, and understanding knows that without humour this knowledge becomes unbearable.

‘The Welsh short story was not the same after Hughes Williams had made his mark on it. There was no way it could have have been. He showed a new path and a new style. He adopted a new attitude to life — the attitude of the observer, that to observe is more important than to judge, and that to record what exists is better than to describe what ought to be. He took his work seriously, and lived for its sake. If he is forgotten, as largely he has been, his influence on the literature of Wales will remain.’

E. Morgan Humphreys

‘He was the first Welsh-language writer to discover that it is not the stringing together of incidents that makes a good short story, that it is not the excitement of the plot which is important, that one can sketch a character with a few light strokes, and achieve more by depicting human speech than by objective description. The virtue of these stories lies in economy.’

John Rowlands

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