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This poignant first vel is about social conscience and radical activism in the modern world. It intercuts the story of twentieth century French philosopher and radical activist, Simone Weil, with a fictional twenty-first century Welsh language campaigner, Meinwen Jones. The self-denying, ascetic lives of both women are portrayed with gentle clarity, and the vel travels between the humanising of dissent and the cold politics of acute social conscience. With Simone, Davies probes the experiences and philosophies beneath the cult radical and intellectual exterior which lead to her often shockingly self-destructive actions. Set against the tramping feet of fascism and communism in inter-war Europe, he shows us the little girl refusing sugar out of solidarity with first world war soldiers, the physically fragile woman enlisting for the Spanish civil war and eventually more or less starving herself to death in wartime London. Against this historical narrative is the actions of Meinwen and her contemporaries, through whom Davies examines the fate of radical conscience in post-devolution Wales. There are hard questions t just for the enemies of the Welsh language, but for its friends, for politicians and campaigners. The often uncomfortable political realities for a culture fighting for the survival of a Welsh identity are depicted from the inside and the harsh choices facing its long-time defenders explored unflinchingly. In a prison cell, Meinwen finds herself on the verge of following Simone's passionate asceticism to its logical conclusion. This is a translation of Rhaid i Bopeth Newydd , which was longlisted for the Welsh Book of the Year in 2004.
Grahame Davies was winner of the Wales Arts Council's Book of the Year Award, 2002 , with the volume Cadwyni Rhyddid. He is a poet, critic and novelist in the Welsh language. A former newspaper journalist, he works for BBC Wales.