Announcing the 2020-21 Bookcase

Announcing the 2020-21 Bookcase

We are pleased to announce our Bookcase for 2020-21, our selection of books from Wales which we recommend for translation. As usual, or announcement will coincide with the Frankfurt Book Fair, though this year our presence will be online.

The Bookcase is the focal point of our attendance at book fairs, where members of our team meet with foreign publishers and literary festivals, to promote the books and authors featured on the Bookcase alongside our translation grants programme, which is open to applications from foreign publishers for the translation of literature from Wales.

This year, seventeen titles have been chosen to our Bookcase and each one a world unto its own. During this year of unprecedented challenges, this selection showcases the ingenuity, boldness and diversity in contemporary writing from Wales. 

Many journeys are undertaken in this year’s Bookcase, both physical and cultural. In Zoë Skoulding’s Footnotes to Water, the leading poet trails the literary and physical landscapes of the rivers Adda in Bangor and the Bièvre in Paris and carefully reflects upon the connections between urban and rural habitats, different cultures and species. Spanning between his two homelands in Wales and Canada, Tristan Hughes’s Shattercone also gives voice to the inseparable connection between narrative and landscape in nine fascinating and exquisitely written short stories.

Katherine Stansfield’s We Could Be Anywhere By Now explores her personal journey from Cornwall to Wales, and reflects upon language learning, displacement, and travel further afield with a fresh and original voice, commenting upon the everyday and universal experiences with a transcendental wit. 

Filò, Sian Melangell Dafydd’s finely crafted second novel, journeys to the past, as she offers a touching portrayal of the lives of the Italian prisoners of war sent to Wales during the Second World War. The Mission House is the second novel from award-winning writer Carys Davies, which is set in contemporary India and encompasses a geographical and cultural journey, exploring the legacy of imperialism with her trademark originality and concise style. 

We also look towards the future in Llwyd Owen’s Iaith y Nefoedd: an alarming and not-too-distant future vision of Wales in which Welsh speakers are ostracised and forced underground, with the eventual development of a bizarre and dangerous cult. Cynan Jones’s Stillicide also offers an unsettling vision of a future, where water shortages trigger urgent and unnerving ramifications.

Curiosity and wonder abounds in Matthew Francis’s seventh poetry collection, Wing, which is an exuberant celebration of the nature to be found all around us.

The multiplicity of experience, be it pertaining to sexuality, race, disability, mental health, or language, is at the focus of the 16 essays that make up Parthian’s anthology of creative essays, Just So You Know: Essays of Experience, edited by Hanan Issa, Durre Shahwar, Özgur Uyanik. This is the first anthology to be included in our Bookcase, and it is a critical publication, prompting an important conversation surrounding representation and diversity in all parts of society in Wales.

The second instalment in Alun Davies’ noir detective trilogy was also selected to the Bookcase: with richly drawn characters and a well-paced plot, Ar Lwybr Dial makes for compulsive reading as an inventive whydunit, and is among the finest from this genre from Wales.

The Jeweller, Gwen Davies’s accomplished translation of Caryl Lewis’s novel Y Gemydd (Y Lolfa, 2007), is a fascinating, quiet novel about Mari, a market stall owner wh,o in collecting the possessions of others, pieces together her past.

An intimate portrayal of loss, and living with loss, is told in an unpretentious and convincing narrative in Gwirionedd by Elinor Wyn Reynolds. A lyrical and dreamy narrative of an enduring love is found in Fflur, the latest novel from acclaimed novelist Lloyd Jones.

rhwng dwy lein drên, Llŷr Gwyn Lewis’s self-published pamphlet, compiled and published during the lockdown period, is a powerful collection of poetry reflecting upon themes relating to life as a poet and a parent; and of the cultural and societal inheritance that will be passed onto our children.

Dal i Fod, compelling poems with universal appeal, is the lifework of renowned poet and translator, Elin ap Hywel. The collection was compiled by Beth Thomas and Menna Elfyn, who also wrote the sensitive introduction to the poet’s work. 

Two novels from this year’s selection starkly resonate with the present moment, presciently written before the pandemic. Confronting the extreme demands placed on health workers and our health service, Rest and Be Thankful sees Emma Glass once again flexing her powerful prose style, the sparse language creating a tense and moving narrative.

A lockdown read, The Party Wall, the latest novel from award-winning writer Stevie Davies, is a sharp psychological thriller of Mark who notices his recently widowed neighbour rather too intently.

All seventeen books will be actively promoted by Wales Literature Exchange during our activities throughout the coming year, including at international book fairs, literary festivals, and meetings held online with publishers.

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