Rating: 5 stars
This was not a book I would have come across on my own. Originally written in Welsh, and chosen by my local book club, One Moonlit Night was a strange, fantastic revelation. Gothic and – in places – hallucinogenic, it moves in fits and starts through time, describing life in a small Welsh mining village, all under the shadow of a series of deaths, midnight wanderings, madness, and people who disappear to an asylum never to come back. The rituals of the Church and institutional religion intersperse with small-town rural superstition – the devil in a black lake, a lady who sleeps along the slope of Snowdown.
The novel is remarkable for its early-twentieth-century compassion for mental illness – and not just in the narrative. It shows a community that feels sympathy and compassion for those with poor mental health. The blurb of my copy compared it to Under Milk Wood, but the comparison seems lazy and based on the fact they both describe Welsh small-town life – One Moonlit Night doesn’t have the whimsy or wild absurdity of Under Milk Wood. It’s dark and troubling, ambiguous and unsettling. It’s dreamlike, sure, but in an entirely different way.
I was informed I was wrong to do so by a native Welsh-speaker at my book club, but I liked the style of the translation. The style was childlike in places, and grew with the narrator, but the naivety of the voice wasn’t twee or cute – it added to the unsettling ambience throughout, especially in places where it was used to lose the reader somewhere between reality and fantasy. I would strongly recommend this unusual, unsettling little book to any reader!
Reviewed by Louise
2 thoughts on “One Moonlit Night – Caradog Prichard (translated by Philip Mitchell)”
Louise, your review of “One Moonlit Night” is remarkably intelligent and I’m delighted that you liked the style of the translation. I too like the style of the translation very much indeed – perhaps because I am in fact the translator.
I’m sorry the native Welsh-speaker at your book club wasn’t impressed by the translation. Looking on the bright side, however, I’m sure there are a great many other wonderful things in the world by which he/she is similarly unimpressed. I can assure you that Mati Prichard (wife of Caradog) was absolutely delighted with it and she assured me that Caradog himself would have been similarly pleased.
Moving along, I agree with you that “One Moonlit Night” is quite different from “Under Milk Wood”. Both works describe life in a small Welsh community but, apart from that, they are chalk and cheese.
When first I read the original novel, I loved it so much that I dreaded ever reaching the end. If anybody in the world feels the same way when reading my translation, I shall feel that all my work was more than worthwhile – regardless of anything your friend of the book club might say. 😉
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I’m so glad you liked the review, and will pass on what you’ve said to Louise. I’m a member of the same book club, and can assure you that the Welsh-speaking detractor is chronically dissatisfied. We both loved the book.