Rhys Davies (1901-78) was among the most dedicated, prolific and accomplished of Welsh prose-writers, in both the short story and the novel form. By temperament a loner, he gave up his life entirely to his writing. A homosexual in the days before the Sexual Offences Act, he maintained complete discretion and ‘acted straight’. The only woman to whom he was drawn was Anna Kavan (1901-68), a fellow-novelist and drug addict, whom he saved from suicide on two occasions. Protecting his privacy, and fearing intrusion into his inner life, he kept others at arm’s length, observing them but never becoming emotionally involved with any of them, man or woman.
Such a man, such a writer, presents challenges for the biographer which Meic Stephens accepts with alacrity. He describes the writer’s early years as the Blaenclydach grocer’s son, his abhorrence of ‘chapel culture’, his bohemian years in Fitzrovia, his visit to the Lawrences in the south of France, his unremitting work ethic, his patrons, his admiration for the French and Russian writers who were his models, his love-hate relationship with the Rhondda, and above all, the dissembling that went into Print of a Hare’s Foot (1969), ‘an autobiographical beginning’, which he shows to be a most unreliable book from start to finish.
This is the first full biography of an important Welsh writer and a milestone in Welsh biographical writing. Drawing on hitherto unavailable sources, including many conversations with the writer’s brother, it provides a perspective in which his very real achievement can be more easily appreciated.
A former journalist with the Western Mail, Meic Stephens founded the magazine Poetry Wales in 1965 and was its editor for eight years. From 1967 to 1990 he was the Literature Director of the Welsh Arts Council. He joined the University of Glamorgan in 1994 and was given a chair as Professor of Welsh Writing in English in 2000. He is the author, editor and translator of a number of anthologies, including The New Companion to the Literature of Wales and the Writers of Wales series."[Meic] has done more than justice...to the black humour of Davies’s writing and that of his life. This is a delightful book, which is itself a social history in its own right, and funny."- The Spectator