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Dai Smith

Off the Track: Traces of Memory

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'From its first paragraph almost to its last, Smith’s precise, luxuriant prose style dazzles in its ability to simultaneously set off syntactical fireworks and marshall precisely into shape the considered thoughts of a lifetime’s intellectual curiosity and self-reflection.' Dylan Moore, Nation. Cymru


A boy running around a running track in the early evening opens a memoir of candour and insight.

From a working-class Rhondda childhood through to the glamour of Barry Grammar and onto a coveted Balliol College scholarship and study in New York, David Smith was the rising intellectual star of a generation. In this beautifully written memoir Dai Smith engages and entertains with a personal life and times with the characteristic verve of a writer who has illuminated the modern history of the people of South Wales.


Dai Smith was born in the Rhondda in 1945. He studied History at Balliol College, Oxford, and Literature at Columbia University, New York City. He was awarded a Ph.D. at Swansea University for a thesis on the South Wales Miners’ Federation, subsequently the subject of his book, with Hywel Francis, The Fed. He was the contributing editor to the series of essays A People and A Proletariat and published, with Gareth Williams, the prize-winning Official History of the Welsh Rugby Union, Fields of Praise. Through the 1980s and 1990s, he wrote and edited a number of innovative and provocative books and scholarly articles on the social and cultural history of modern Wales: notably, Lewis Jones, Aneurin Bevan and the World of South Wales and Wales: A Question for History. The latter was an extensively revised version of the book associated with six documentary films he wrote and presented under the title Wales! Wales? He went on to make a number of other films on the arts and popular culture, including most recently The Lost Pictures of Eugene Smith.

He became Editor BBC Radio Wales in 1993, and was Head of Broadcast (English) there from 1994 until 2000 when he was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Glamorgan. He had held Lectureships since 1969 at the Universities of Lancaster, Swansea and Cardiff, where he was given a Personal Chair of the University of Wales in 1984, and since 2005 has been Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University.

From 2006 to 2016 he was Chair Arts Council Wales and the founding Series Editor of the Library of Wales for which he also edited two volumes of Welsh short stories as Story 1 and Story 2. In The Frame, his autobiography with attendant essays was published in 2010 as was the completion of a trilogy of fiction with The Crossing in 2020. Since 2016 he has been commissioning Series Editor for Modern Wales.