I’ll kick off my forethoughts for this novel by declaring my ignorance from the outset, and admitting that I’ve never heard of One Moonlit Night or its author Caradog Prichard before now. A shameful thing to admit perhaps (given it’s been around for some time), but as this is Mr. Prichard’s one and only published novel, I don’t feel too bad. However as I’m not akin to diving into a book without knowing at least something about it, I always do a bit of research beforehand, and here’s what I found out:
One Moonlit Night was originally published in 1961 under the Welsh title of Un Nos Ola Leuad. That’s right it’s a Welsh novel and given that Caradog Prichard was also Welsh, it shouldn’t come as a surprise I guess, that it was first published in the vernacular i.e. Cymraeg (that’s Welsh for Welsh – ain’t I clever )). It was Canongate Books who brought the novel to the eyes of English readers way back in 1995 (with the help of translator Philip Mitchell), and now, fourteen years after One Moonlit Night was first published in English, Canongate have republished it, not only with a shiny new cover, but also with a new foreword from eminent British historian Jan Morris, and an afterword penned by novelist Niall Griffiths.
So what’s One Moonlit Night all about then? Well the front of the cover doesn’t really give away much – a close-up of a boy’s face, which in reference to the title, is presumably bathed in the light of the moon coming through a window. The boy’s staring off at something to the right of him with a subtle look of ‘rabbit in the headlights’ curiosity. What’s he looking at? Nobody knows (well unless you’ve read it already of course )), but he either loves what he sees or he hates it (and I’m going with the latter). The back cover is a bit less ambiguous because there’s the customary ‘blurb’, which goes a little something like this:
This outstanding novel tells of one boy’s journey into the grown-up world. By the light of a full moon, our narrator and his friends Huw and Moi witness a side to their Welsh village they had no idea existed, and their innocence is exchanged for the shocking reality of adulthood.
A succinct ‘blurb’ maybe, but more than adequate enough for me! ‘Childhood innocence exchanged for shocking reality of adulthood’ – one of my favourite themes! I’m sold! But for the sake of curiosity let’s go and find out a bit more about the novel’s author too.
When trying to find out about Caradog Prichard one may think the best ‘port of call’ would be Wikipedia…[rolls eyes], but it actually isn’t. It’s a darn sight better than this BBC website on Prichard (unless you’re Welsh or Philip Mitchell )), but it’s not a patch on a source much closer to the novel’s home i.e. Jan Morris’ aforementioned, and eloquently penned foreword, which Canongate in their infinite generosity have posted freely on their website for public consumption (which I have mentioned on a previous occasion )).
From Jan we learn that Caradog had one pretty tough upbringing. His father died in a tragic accident at the Bethesda stone quarry when Caradog was only months old, leaving his mother, who herself would eventually end up in a mental institution, with the tough job of bringing up Caradog and his two elder brothers in abject poverty. Wow that’s pretty tough and one would think that Prichard’s poverty-stricken childhood would be reflected with a high level of bitterness seeping into the pages of his novel, but according to Morris although Prichard’s childhood experiences have certainly influenced One Moonlit Night, the novel is “essentially a sweet-natured book, seldom bitter, often funny, and in the end ambiguously serene.” I think that’s pretty profound really! Such a troubled childhood yet according to Morris, Prichard’s novel remains quite genial in nature. This alone makes One Moonlit Night all the more exciting to read.
So I’m ‘double sold’. In the first instance I’m ‘sold’ by the novel’s theme, and in the second with finding out to what degree the author’s childhood experiences may (or may not) have influenced the novel. At only 179 pages it shouldn’t take me too long to get through One Moonlit Night (unless it’s a kind of James Joyce novel, in which case it would have been better presented to me in Welsh )), so I should be back real soon with my afterthoughts. Until then Da boch chi, which is Welsh for Cheerio! (I really have to stop this annoying habit of ‘signing off’ in foreign languages don’t I? ))
UPDATE: My ‘afterthoughts’ on One Moonlit Night have now been posted
Published: 08 Jan 2009 (UK)
Pages: 192 pages