Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Emyr Humphreys@90

He published his first novel in 1948 and is still going strong more than sixty years later…. Emyr Humphreys, author of more than twenty novels (including the outstanding Outside the House of Baal), poet, cultural analyst and distinguished man of letters, celebrated his ninetieth birthday in late April. To mark the occasion, on Monday April 20th, over fifty of Wales’s leading writers and intellectuals gathered at an event at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, to celebrate his remarkable contribution to Welsh culture. Tributes were paid by a number of figures, and particularly memorable were the clips of film shown of Emyr Humphreys’s work for television. These included a scene from a fifties production of Saunders Lewis’s great Welsh-language play, Siwan. Emyr Humphreys had both translated it into English and directed the actual production, that featured the handsome young Peter O’Toole (looking like a Fifties Rocker) and Sian Phillips in all her striking youthful beauty. (Contributors to the celebratory event also recalled that early in the sixties, Emyr Humphreys had been instrumental in providing the young Anthony Hopkins with his first big break on the stage – a service Humphreys had earlier performed for another Port Talbot product, Richard Jenkins/ Burton.) Another clip of film had been taken from Emyr Humphreys’s notable fifties film version of R. S. Thomas’s great poem, The Airy Tomb.

The climax of this ninetieth birthday event was the launch of two books. The first, published by Seren, was The Woman at the Window, a brand new collection of stories by Emyr Humphreys. The second, published by Gwasg Gregynog, was a handsome special edition of anthologies from Emyr Humphreys’ writings, entitled Welsh Time.

Having been edited by M. Wynn Thomas, this last volume represented another link between the Abertystwyth celebrations and CREW. Other strong links already existed, since Emyr Humphreys is an Honorary Patron of CREW and a longtime Honorary Fellow of Swansea University.

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