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Rhys Lewis: Press release

A brand new contemporary English translation of Daniel Owen’s best-known novel, Rhys Lewis (made from the original 1885 Welsh version) will be published later this month by Brown Cow Publishing, as part of the Daniel Owen Signature Series. Rhys Lewis is the timeless story of a poor boy from a broken home who has great ambitions, but knows that his family has a dark secret. Finding that secret, and confronting it head-on, is the only way that he can free himself and fulfil his calling. It is at the same time a family drama and a page-turning adventure, but along the way we find plenty of humour and meet some of the most colourful and memorable characters in the whole of Welsh literature, including Wil Bryan the grocer’s son and Rhys’s best friend, Thomas Bartley the simple-minded but unfailingly hospitable cobbler, and Abel Hughes the forbidding chapel elder with a heart of gold.

This new translation has been made by Dr. Stephen Morris, himself a Welsh learner who knows Owen’s home town of Mold well, but who now lives in Shrewsbury with his English wife. As Dr. Morris read the Welsh original during the summer holidays, by turns engrossed in the plot and laughing out loud at the comedy that Owen weaves into his story, his wife, Tina, asked him what on earth was so good about the book that he was reading. He decided that, rather than try to explain everything out of context, it would be better to translate the whole book so that she could enjoy it for herself. This he did, along the way taking the time to dig into the background of the many real-life people, places and events that are mentioned throughout the text. He has provided extensive footnotes and appendices which will help the reader understand and appreciate Owen’s world in a way that has not often been unlocked for the English reader. He said “Owen has sometimes been described as the ‘Welsh Dickens’; personally I would compare him more to Thomas Hardy or Anthony Trollope, since he has the same depth, the same literary quality and the same flashes of humour when called for. Despite the excellent work that Brown Cow publishing has done in releasing translations of some of his other works, The Trials of Enoc Huws and Fireside Tales, it is shocking how little-known he remains outside Wales. Rhys Lewis was the book that made his reputation, and I hope that my translation of it will appeal to anyone who loves the works of Hardy, Dickens or Trollope, anyone who shares my fascination with the golden age of Welsh literature and culture, and anyone who just enjoys a good story and a good laugh.”

Rhys Lewis will be launched during the 2015 Daniel Owen Festival at an event held in the Jubilee Room at Mold Town Hall, 7.30pm on Wednesday October 21st [visit www.danielowenfestival.com]. For more information, call Stephen Morris on 01743 340521 / 07770 811533 or send email to stephen@morris.net.

Title: Rhys Lewis, Author: Daniel Owen, translated by Stephen Morris, Language: English, ISBN: 978-0-9567031-3-2, Publication Date: 21/10/2015, Number of pages: 511, Binding: Paperback, Price: £12.99

 

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Review of Fireside Tales

Fireside Tales, by Daniel Owen, translated by Adam Pearce and edited by Derec Llwyd Morgan, pub. 2011 by Brown Cow and Y Lolfa. ISBN: 9 780956 703118 Price £8.95
Reviewed by Fiona Collins
Published in Planet magazine, May 2012

Here are nineteen tales, newly translated by Adam Pearce, narrated by ‘Uncle Edward’ to the author Daniel Owen, who appears as a young man ‘starting to walk the path that … nearly every member of the human race has walked’. Ironically, given that Owen, who published this collection at the end of his life, never married, this is the path of matrimony. The opening story is about Doli Hafod Lom, Uncle Edward’s first love, who dies in mysterious circumstances. There are more cautionary tales from Uncle Edward’s youth, and plenty of stories about local characters. Some are imaginary; others, like Angel Jones in the story ‘Enoc Evans of Bala’, are based on Owen’s acquaintances; others still are minor celebrities of the Methodist movement of the period. The book functions as a kind of digest of village gossip, including examples of traditional folk motifs: the shepherd who sees a funeral procession on the mountain which is a prophetic vision of his own funeral, and the prize fighter who is meek, mild and fair game for teasing, until he is pushed too far and takes on his tormentor, with predictable results.

My favourite tale is ‘Jac Jones’ hat’. Uncle Edward recalls joining forces, during his youth at the cotton mill, with his friend William James and Thomas Burgess from the spinning-room – though I wish Pearce had simply anglicized Owen’s evocative description of Burgess as ‘giaffer’, instead of rendering it ‘foreman’. By dint of constricting Jac Jones’ top hat with thread, so that it no longer fits him, and employing the power of suggestion (‘There’s something odd-looking about your head’), the tricksters persuade Jac Jones to take to his bed. However, Jac has the last laugh, for after their miracle cure, he remains ‘on the club benefit for a week before returning to work.’

Some stories feel pedestrian to a modern reader, relying on knowledge of nineteenth-century Chapel etiquette and practice. Owen’s translator, Adam Pearce, has done his best to enlighten the non-Chapel goer with footnotes explaining seiat, gwylmabsant, yr Hyfforddwr, but the characters in these stories do not really spark to life. More memorable are comic caricatures like Ned Sibion and Edward Cwm Tydi.

The portraits of women are much as one might expect from an old Victorian bachelor, including a sentimental depiction of Uncle Edward’s mother ‘drying her eyes on her apron’ as Edward, then a young lad, sets off to enlist. Only the sound of his sweetheart Doli singing ‘My own dear mother’ behind a hedge turns him homewards. Doli herself, who appears in two of the stories, is ‘tall and shapely (with) a face like a picture’. There is an unpleasantly predatory ‘old maid’, Miss Perks, in one tale, and Pearce adds an extra twist to Owen’s epithet for her, ‘y genawes’, translating it as ‘the old vixen’, rather than simply as ‘she-fox’.

Owen’s dogs are much more individual than his women: he delighted me with Lion and Sultan, the mysterious dog named ‘God-sent’, which saves the Jones family of Liverpool from starvation, and Sam, ‘big, pawed, hairy and famished’.

‘I believe this book will get the reception it deserves – whatever that is’. Owen’s words in his Foreword exude one of his best features, his dry wit. The aim of the publisher, Brown Cow, is to bring Owen’s complete works to English-speaking readers: Fireside Tales, first published as Straeon y Pentan in 1895, is their second volume. It follows a translation of Enoc Huws by Les Barker – surely the man to whom the (deck) Chair for ‘Writer of droll footnotes’ will one day be awarded by the Gorsedd of the Bards.

Adam Pearce’s footnotes do not emulate Barker’s in creating a witty sub-text, but his translation, if occasionally clunkily over-literal, does exactly what it says on the tin, or, more accurately, in Pearce’s own Foreword: ‘translat(ing) artistically but keeping to Owen’s form so as to retain all the content of the original text’.

Owen has a good ear for colloquial language – the translator’s nightmare. It is impossible for English to convey the register of:
‘Mae’n reit hawdd treio’r peth bydae ti a Wil James yn rhoi eich pennau ynghyd sut i experimentio ar un o’r chaps yma’. (Owen’s italics)
Pearce renders this:
‘It’s quite easy to put this to the test if you and Wil James put your heads together to experiment on one of these chaps.’
This has all the right words in the right order, but can’t convey the heady mixture of Wenglish which so delights my Welsh learner’s ear.

This is a workman-like translation of an important text in Welsh literature. It brings Daniel Owen’s world to life in English, and should achieve the publisher’s aim of interesting a wider public in his work. This is to be welcomed.

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Press Release

A translation of one of Daniel Owen’s short stories from ‘Fireside Tales’ is to be read this Sunday on ‘Phil the Shelf’, BBC Radio Wales’ book programme, presented by Phil Rickman.

Poet, comedian and performer, Les Barker will read from ‘God-sent’ – a short tale about a dog – which is one of the 19 short stories in ‘Fireside Tales’ written by the 19th Century Welsh novelist, Daniel Owen – one of Wales’ most famous sons.

John Mainwaring of Brown Cow Publishing commented. “It’s a thrill to have Daniel Owen’s work read on one of BBC Radio Wales’ most popular radio programmes by a well known performer like Les, alongside extracts from contemporary authors such as Anthony Horowitz and and Tricia Ashley. This year is the first time Fireside Tales has been published in English and we’re pleased that so many will get to hear part of it. The project to re-publish Daniel Owen’s work in Welsh and English came about because we wanted to give Owen a new and wider audience. We’re delighted that BBC Radio Wales have chosen ‘Fireside Tales’ and Les Barker for their literature magazine programme.”

Les Barker read ‘God-sent’ at the book launch for ‘Fireside Tales’ in October with many remarking afterwards, that Owen’s work was tailor-made for the warmth and unique style of Les.

‘Phil the Shelf’ will be broadcast on Sunday 13th November, 2011 at 5:00 pm and thereafter will be available on BBC Radio Wales’, ‘Listen Again’ for one week.

‘Fireside Tales’ £8.95 [ISBN: 978-0-9567031-1-8] is published by Brown Cow publishing and Y Lolfa and is available from bookshops or from www.browncowpublishing.com or www.ylolfa.com

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Fireside Tales: Press Release

The first complete English translation of Straeon y Pentan (from the original 1895 Welsh version) will be published in October by Brown Cow Publishing in partnership with Y Lolfa, as part of the Daniel Owen Signature Series. Fans of last year’s title from the series, The Trials of Enoc Huws, will be keen to own the new book, called Fireside Tales. The collection is nineteen short stories and character portraits, first published in Welsh.

This new volume showcases the trademark quick wit and good-natured satire for which the author’s novels are admired.
Often based on popular urban legends of the period, Fireside Tales is full of fascinating, often funny, depictions of nineteenth century life in Wales:

• mischievous boys fool a factory worker into believing his head is expanding;
• a lonely shepherd experiences a frightening premonition; and
• a young man finds himself in trouble when he is mistaken for a wanted criminal, and tragic consequences ensue when two young suitors pursue the same pretty girl.

Populated by a cast of beautiful women, over-zealous preachers, gullible simpletons and the occasional ghost, Daniel Owen’s Fireside Tales appears this year in English for the first time. Intended to be read by the fireside on long Victorian evenings, this book is sure to bring welcome warmth to our modern lives.

Translated by Adam Pearce and edited by Derec Llwyd Morgan, Fireside Tales will be launched during the 2011 Daniel Owen Festival
at a ticket-only event at Clwyd Theatr Cymru on Monday 17th October at 7:30pm.

“With limited time and resource, we chose Fireside Tales, one of the shortest of Daniel Owen’s five main works, as this year’s translation,” explains John Mainwaring. “Both Adam Pearce and Derec Llwyd Morgan have worked incredibly hard to make this come together, and I am indebted to them both for their good-natured willingness in giving so much of their personal time. I can only assume they get as much pleasure from Owen’s work as I do, and I am sure they would join me in saying how much of an honour it is to have been able to work on the text and to present this copy to the world.”

For more information, call John Mainwaring on 01244 545822.

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press release

Brown Cow Publishing launches its new website – taking another step on its journey to become a leading design and publishing house in North East Wales.

“We will be offering authors an opportunity to publish their work in English or Welsh, and working closely with them to add value to their title through our own passion, innovation and enthusiasm,” explains John Mainwaring, Brown Cow Publishing’s founder.
“It’s about taking a writer’s work to the reader in a way that sympathetically enhances the text and adds extra value to it. Bad design can ruin a good concept and, equally, good design will always enhance a great idea. Publishing is very much a collaborative effort.”

Brown Cow Publishing has received support from Menter Iaith in setting up the site, which is bilingual in Welsh and English.

“Menter Iaith have been so supportive,” says John Mainwaring.
“I’m really delighted to be able to present my website in Welsh and English, which is something I wouldn’t have been able to do as effectively without their help.”

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Hello October

September was a busy month, getting Fireside Tales off to print, and working on the 2011 Daniel Owen Festival publicity materials and the Brown Cow website. It’s been really interesting, though, because I got to read Fireside Tales and Straeon Y Pentan (the original Welsh version) several times in the process and to enjoy Daniel Owen’s work again. There is something incredibly pleasing in the way he writes; it is inspired. The characters are rich and the local setting makes them all the more appealing. Have to say, though, I’m looking forward to a break after the festival launch.

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