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In the 19th entry into Wales Arts Review's quest to find the Greatest Welsh Novel, Phil Morris puts forward the case for Dannie Abse's Cardiff coming of age novel Ash on a Young Man's Sleeve, part of our Library of Wales series.

Rereading Ash on a Young Man’s Sleeve twenty years later was an even more rewarding experience. Leo and Dannie’s political radicalism had not lost any of its power to move me, but now the corresponding portrayal of childhood innocence – endless summer holidays and the tumultuous mystique that seems to emanate from the opposite sex – suffused the novel with an added strain of melancholic loss. [...] It is a novel that is undeniably Welsh, in accent and location, but one with broad international horizons. 

Buy Ash on a Young Man's Sleeve from the Parthian online bookshop.

Rachel Trezise and Patrick Jones will be reading as 'The Best Writers from the Valleys and Beyond' part of the Literature Programme of new Blackwood festival Velvet Coalmine this week. See them at the Literature Stages on Saturday 6th September between 11.30am and 5pm. Free entry.

Wales Arts Review have suggested that the book The Withered Root, written by Rhys Davies, might be the greatest Welsh novel. The story narrates the downfall of Reuben Daneils and his people from the South Wales industrial valley, involving interesting elements of passions that lead to human sexuality which chapel culture then represses. The troubled lives of the characters take the reader to analyse the point of view of different generations, finally confronting the conflict between the body and the spirit.

The Withered Root is a novel that captures, in rarefied prose, a quintessential element of Welshness. That it is a strand of Welsh life largely forgotten by the vast majority of the public makes it all the more important as a historical document. Through fiction we remember.

“It is therefore, I think, not a Great Welsh Novel, but simply a great novel that happens to be Welsh; we should be grateful that it, and he, was so.”
-Dylan Moore, Wales Arts Review

A critically-acclaimed short story collection of alienation and the high-life of ex-pats in Dubai, written by Welsh journalist Craig Hawes, has recently been banned in the UAE, the very place it is set, joining a forbidden list that includes Robin Moore’s 1977 sex-orgy blockbuster Dubai.

While many more liberal European texts that do not necessarily ‘adhere to the religious and moral values of UAE’ such as Fifty Shades of Grey are widely available in Dubai (even if the sequels were not), all books available in the UAE have to go through the censors first. Yet rather than public out-rage and book burnings, the titles that upset are silently censored out of existence in the bookshops of Dubai and removed from sale.


Welcome to a friendly, informal and interesting festival that everyone from the casual to the most passionate reader can enjoy... Win a free Sunday pass in our competition below.