This is ‘another Wales’: with its title taken from the poem ‘Chicago’ by T.H. Parry-Williams, these six stories are inspired by Welsh place names in North America: Llandaff, Bangor, Narberth, Cardiff, Llangollen and Neath. But as in Martell’s novels, it is in the study of inner landscapes and emotional landslides that his genius is most clearly seen. The volume also contains forty photographs (by Simon Proffitt) of Welsh place names across the U.S. Many of these focus on horizontal lines, as if to convey the ‘Stripes’ of the American flag, while the ‘Stars’ are points of illumination between the lines.
The first story, ‘Yr Ymwelydd’ (Llandaff), lays the conceptual foundation, as a young photographer declares that ‘places are abstract things as well, of course’. In a story full of religious associations, the idea of place as deity emerges, evoking passion and terror. In the final story, ‘Yng Nghastell Nedd Ma’ Mwriad’ (Neath), an aunt and her nephew are transformed by an exchange of visits, to Neath, Wales and Neath, Pennsylvania. In a moment of epiphany, both towns merge into one ‘divine’, paradoxical entity.
Throughout the collection revenants appear, representatives of a promised land, only to be lost again. Whether it speaks of the emigré mind or a more fundamental human instinct, the characters in Dolenni Hud have an urge towards wholeness, but remain in pursuit of elusive spirits.
In its brilliant perceptions of the ties that bind land, memory and people, this volume does far more than cross geographical boundaries. This is a collection of stories from a writer who distinguishes himself from his contemporaries by his sincere ambition.
'I was mesmerised by Dolenni Hud. Owen Martell's latest book marks a milestone in the development of contemporary Welsh prose.'