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Publisher unearths early Welsh science fiction novel

14 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Enaid Lewys Meredydd – T. Gwynn Jones

Stephen Price

A Welsh publisher has released a book which is likely to be the earliest Science Fiction novel written in the Welsh language.

Enaid Lewys Meredydd: Stori am y Flwyddyn 2002 (Lewys Meredydd’s Soul: a story of the year 2002) was written back in 1905 by famous Welsh poet and novelist T. Gwynn Jones and serialised anonymously in the newspaper Papur Pawb, of which Jones was the editor at the time, but has lain largely forgotten until Welsh publisher Melin Bapur, which launched earlier this year, prepared the text for publication for the first time in book form.

There are a few earlier examples of creative works that might be described as science fiction in Welsh, such as anonymous “letters from the moon” from the 19th century and poet Ceiriog’s imaginary correspondence with Meurig Grynswth; however Enaid Lewys Meredydd is likely to be the earliest extended prose work of science fiction in the Welsh language.

“Completely forgotten”

Adam Pearce, general editor at Melin Bapur, explains: “T. Gwynn Jones is very well known as a poet, but he was also a prolific novelist, though most of his novels were serialised anonymously.

“Enaid Lewys Meredydd was listed in the comprehensive bibliography of T. Gwynn Jones prepared by Hywel Roberts in 1981, and Alan Llwyd briefly mentions the text in his 2019 biography of Gwynn.

“But that seems to be it: I can’t find any other mention or acknowledgement of it anywhere in the academic literature, and nobody I have asked about it had even heard of it.

“It seems to have been almost completely forgotten, all the more remarkably so given it was written fifty years earlier than the novel most people probably assume is the first science fiction novel in Welsh, Islwyn Ffowc Elis’s Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd.”

T. Gwynn Jones

A fast-paced adventure novel set in 2002, the eponymous Lewys Meredydd has spent his entire life in a coma until he wakes up one day with the memories of a man who died in 1905.

This plot device provides an opportunity for other characters to explain all about the future world to Lewys, and thus the reader.

“At its core it’s a fairly light-hearted adventure story, but to me the thing that’s really fascinating about it to me is the way that in this novel, exactly like later authors would, Gwynn used the genre as a way to present a vision of the future of the Welsh language,” explains Pearce.

“In contrast to how he often seemed to think of the future in his personal correspondence, Gwynn’s vision in Enaid Lewys Meredydd is optimistic, a utopian vision of a future Wales where Welsh is widely spoken, and Esperanto has taken the place of English as a means of communication between people of different nationalities.” 

Predictions

Gwynn was a pacifist and an internationalist, and was interested in the potential of constructed languages like Esperanto as a means to safeguard the future of minority languages like Welsh.

Gwynn failed to predict mass car ownership nor heavier-than-air transport, though both would happen within his own lifetime.

Transport in the novel takes place by airship, with a regular service between Denbigh and Caernarfon. Indeed, the plot picks up when an Airship is shot down over the Menai strait, with only one survivor.

Gwynn correctly predicted the fall of the Russian Empire, and a descendant of the Russian royal family provides the antagonist for the story.

Pearce added: “Like all science fiction stories, the novel tells you far more about the present in which it was written than it tells you about the future. You can see how things which ended up being fairly marginal like Esperanto and airships seemed like they were going to be the next big thing at the time.”

Enaid Lewys Meredydd is available from www.melinbapur.cymru and priced at £7.99+P&P.

It is also available as an eBook from popular eBook channels including Amazon Kindle store and Apple Books.

Bricks & mortar stores interested in stocking Melin Bapur’s books are requested to contact the publisher at [email protected]


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John
John
24 days ago

Not forgetting the Max Boyce classic Morgan the Moon

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