A shrewd and sorry, splendorous and celebratory, portrait of Wales, from one of its own.
The Welsh have a strong dislike to being observed, even by a native son like Rogers (The Green Lane to Nowhere, 2003), let alone occupied by a foreign presence: “What had the English ever done to the Welsh?” ask the untutored, and Rogers reminds them: “Conquest, ethnic cleansing, then colonisation with the attitudes that bred in coloniser and colonised, that's all.” But Rogers is not here to wail and moan, but rather to paint a picture of how Wales is faring these days. Or at least how the town and environs he grew up in has weathered the last half of a century: What has become of the language, the traditions, all the physical and dispositional manifestations of the place? Remarkably, despite the best efforts of both the English and compliant overseers, the language has held on—the great lyric language of the “oldest vernacular literature in Europe” (even if it possesses “no word for orgasm”). In a voice that’s wary, and an eye that’s versed and unwilling to genuflect before sentiment or glaze before personal history, he recounts the history of his house, his town, his school and neighboring lands, all rich with fertile irony: “This turns on the purest elements of old romance, a lost palace, the last prince of a ruined dynasty. . . . But chiefly it is the story of a woman who, two years ago, bought a chicken farm in north Wales.” There might be some moss on Rogers, but he’s also sitting next to you at the pub. He’ll tell you about Martin Borman's phonebook, located nearby, or the living archaeology of a coracleman and his demands for the river Towy. There are museums, but mostly the everyday.
Would that you had a country like Wales to call your own, one so unblinkered and time-racked as the author’s.