A Homage to Catalonia

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), July 30, 2005 | Go to article overview

A Homage to Catalonia


Byline: By Sally Williams Western Mail

Continuing our series profiling some of the best Welsh authors writing in English, Sally Williams spoke to Richard Gwyn about his latest work, The Colour of a Dog Running Away

THE bizarre sight of a group of American naval officers emerging out of a hole in the ground in a town in Crete gave Welsh author Richard Gwyn the idea for his next novel.

The strange spectacle that he stumbled upon when he was walking around the Greek island's second largest town, Hania, threw Richard's imagination into overdrive.

He explains, 'Seeing the officers coming out of nowhere gave rise to the idea there was a labyrinth underground.

'It was during the early 1980s and I assumed the officers were probably coming out of a nuclear shelter.

'Then I thought there must almost certainly be a Soviet spy in that town and the vague idea of turning the thoughts into a novel germinated for some time before bearing fruit.

'The novel will be set in Greece and it will include the myth of the Minotaur.'

According to mythology, Minos told Daedalus to build a labyrinth and placed the Minotaur at the centre of it. Minos arranged to sacrifice young men and women to the flesh-eating Minotaur by shutting them into the labyrinth, where they would wander, lost, until the Minotaur caught and devoured them.

But it is Gwyn's first novel, The Colour of a Dog Running Away, that is capturing the public's imagination this summer.

It is already being tipped by major national booksellers as a hit and Spanish publisher, Roca Editorial, has launched it in Barcelona, where it is set.

Gwyn, 48, divides his time between Grangetown, Cardiff and Catalonia. He travelled to Spain with a party of writers, publishers, editors and artists from Wales to launch his book there in June.

Roca Editorial will be translating TCOADRA into Spanish for publication in the autumn. The launch at the Ateneu in Barcelona is planned to be the first in a series of cultural and literary exchanges between Welsh and Catalan writers.

Welsh readers appreciate the Celtic links between the Welsh and the Catalans. The two peoples love to celebrate their own distinct identity, despite being surrounded by a much larger neighbour.

As a result, TCOADRA featured at the Hay Festival in May and went into reprint only a week after publication thanks to advance orders as the Welsh book of the month through Amazon, Waterstone's, WH Smith and Ottaker's.

Set in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, the novel follows its Welsh hero Lucas through the streets and over the rooftops of the city.

The story twists between an intense love story sparked by the delivery of a mysterious postcard and a paranoid thriller when Lucas and his girlfriend are abducted to the Pyrenees as part of a plot to revitalise a medieval Cathar sect, thought to have been exterminated in the 13th Century.

Gwyn studied anthropology at the London School of Economics and became interested in the threatened cultures, languages and music of peripheral communities.

He says, 'I've always been interested in other cultures and different ways of looking at the world. …

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