A review from Siriol McAvoy of our last BookTalk event about David Jones’ In Parenthesis, which took place on 11th October 2016, to whet some appetites on the eve of our next event.
Although Cardiff BookTalk is focussing on his writing in In Parenthesis, David Jones was also a talented visual artist. This was the subject of a recent exhibition at Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives: https://scolarcardiff.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/exhibition-david-jones-1895-1974/ It is also discussed brilliantly by Fiona MacCarthy in the following article: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/oct/10/soldier-poet-painter-david-jones-britains-outsider
On 10 July 1916, the 15th battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers attacked Mametz Wood in northern France. Their assault was part of the recently launched Somme offensive, and followed the now familiar method of British attacks over this period. Walking in four lines across … Continue reading Owen Sheers on In Parenthesis
In the centenary year of the Battle of the Somme, Cardiff BookTalk returns for 2016/17 with an exciting event considering David Jones’s First World War classic, In Parenthesis (1937).
A report by Robert Lloyd on the fifth BookTalk of the 2015/16 season, which took place on 3 May 2016: Simon Mawer’s Mendel’s Dwarf. Our latest BookTalk event focused on Simon Mawer’s Mendel’s Dwarf, a novel about identity as seen through the lens of genetic … Continue reading Simon Mawer’s Mendel’s Dwarf: Event Review
But it was Mendel’s Dwarf that saw him come into his own as a writer. A dozen years on, his voice still lifts when he talks about it. The novel—which tells the story of the molecular biologist Benedict Lambert, great-great-great nephew of Gregor Mendel, who suffers from achondroplasia (dwarfism)—tackles science with tools that have become hallmarks of his writing: multiple timelines; an exploitation of the slippages and spaces between languages; a fascination with memory. ‘I’m distant enough from it now to say it’s a bloody good book,’ he grins. ‘I was fascinated by Mendel, but he led a fairly dull life, if intellectually extraordinary. So I had Lambert tell Mendel’s story while telling his own. It clearly wasn’t going to be a biography . . . I’m a novelist. I don’t want to tell the truth. I want to manipulate things as I choose. I want to lie.’
Photo: HN – Lukáš Bíba
Mendel’s Dwarf is an unusual piece. It’s a work of science fiction in the strict sense, but without any of the familiar traits of the genre. It is scientific literature in the literary sense but not the scholarly one; it’s a novel with footnotes that is in a hurry. Its narrator annotates his text with references because he is a scientist and that is how scientists write. But they do not write with the overtone of horror, and the unmistakable implication of looming disaster, that Simon Mawer sustains throughout his story.
The May BookTalk event will focus on Man Booker shortlisted author Simon Mawer’s controversial novel Mendel’s Dwarf, which weaves together a reimagining of the life of Gregor Mendel, the father of genetic science, with contemporary geneticist Benedict Lambert, who is both a dwarf with achondroplasia and a distant relation of Mendel.