Before it was adjudged Welsh-language Book of the Year, this volume by one of Wales’s leading public intellectuals had already been reprinted and acclaimed by critics who saw it as redefining the genre of autobiography in Welsh.
Ned Thomas is not the object of this memoir but the eyes through which a large slice of recent European history is seen. The focus is on social and political life, but the author’s method is less that of the historian than of the novelist who renders the reality of individual lives and the atmosphere of particular times and places.
In 1947, a ten-year old in the ruins of the Ruhr, he plays with German children on the street while his father presides over a British denazification tribunal. At eighteen, the British Army trains him to interpreter level in Russian which he later uses as exchange professor at Moscow State University and as editor of the British Government’s cultural magazine in Russian. When the Franco regime is just beginning to open up Spain to the world, he teaches at the University of Salamanca and makes friends with Tierno Galvan who will later become the Socialist mayor of Madrid.
Returning to Wales Ned Thomas becomes an actor in the drama of his own nation. It is a turbulent time of campaigns for linguistic rights in Wales and more violent struggles in Ireland and in the Basque country, which he gets to know well, meeting early members of ETA. In his work for minorities the Welsh and European dimensions of his life become one.
'The way he mixes autobiography with historical and political memoir, and with journalistic and sociological analysis, is magnificent.'
'This, beyond a doubt, is the volume that has given me the greatest pleasure this year in terms of its content and its clear and succinct style.'