Llyfr Glas Nebo - Enillydd y Fedal Ryddiaith 2018
Has there ever been such a reaction to a Welsh novel? Just over a week after i Nebo Blue Book won the Cardiff Eisteddfod Prose Medal 2018, a reprint was being prepared. Yes, she was praised by the competition judges: "Experiencing this kind of excitement makes you shudder," says Sonia Edwards of the experience of reading it, but this is also a novel that has touched her readers, both human and non-human. who buys every Welsh novel that comes from the press, or which rarely opens a volume from one end of the year to the next. Betsan Wyn Morris said on Twitter:
"My Instagram feed has gone from a photo of food, cats, smugglers at" my office for today "to just a photo of people on trains / watch reading the Nebo Blue Book."
The general response is that it is an easy-to-read but long-awaited novel in the reader’s mind. And that is Manon Steffan Ros's marvelous achievement; creating characters for us to worry about and a potentially scary and believable, albeit unreal, situation.
Siôn is a teenage boy, and he and his mother Rowenna tell the story of their lives in the Nebo area in an old notebook that has been sorted into the Blue Book of Nebo by Siôn, in the tradition of the Red Book of Hergest and the Black Book of Carmarthen. , the old medieval manuscripts that record so much of Welsh history. We meet both years after The Terror, the devastating tragedy that changed everyone's lives. We don't know exactly what happened; as the electricity supply stops and the media goes silent, and you can't get news or hear anything beyond the local area. There is talk of a nuclear bomb, or a disaster at Wylfa power station, but it is the outcome and impact of the Limit that is important, with the survivors having to learn to live afresh.
Siôn hardly remembers life before Y Terfyn, and is amazed at how people used to live - the waste, and the lack of purpose of their lives; everything he does has a purpose - hunting small animals for food, repairing parts of the house, surviving. Siôn and Rowenna's relationship changes over the period - from being a mother caring for a toddler to interdependence and co-maturity. Life is difficult, but as the volume progresses, the richness of their life becomes more apparent - their relationships with one another, a pleasure in small things, and a real appreciation of living in their habitat.
At one point Rowenna recalls the time before the Limit, when she would take Siôn for a walk, with her phone with her, “creating perfect situations for sharing images online without share nothing. And Sion from his infancy still in front of screens… We lived without silence - the sound of television or radio still parading in the background - but there was an empty, unhealthy muddle about the way we lived ”. These few simple phrases are a beautiful example of the subtlety of Manon Steffan Ros. As she writes a short short story for Sight on a weekly basis for some years, she has honed and refined her craft and ability to say a great deal in very few words.
This is a short volume, but one that is full to the margins. Yes, it is easy to read, but it raises questions about the priorities of our age and our way of life that have no easy answers in the world.
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