Emyr Humphreys, one of Wales’ most prominent and pioneering novelists, recently celebrated his one-hundredth birthday. His influence on Welsh literature has been substantial. Indeed, he was described by the poet R. S. Thomas as ‘‘the supreme interpreter of Welsh life’.
He was born in Trelawnyd near Prestatyn, Flintshire. He attended Rhyl Secondary School before studying history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. After the commencement of the First World War he registered as a conscientious objector and worked as a farm hand before being sent to the Middle East and Italy as a support worker in 1944 and 1946. After the war he worked as a teacher, producer with the BBC and as a drama lecturer at Bangor University before deciding in 1972 to focus on his writing.
Emyr Humphreys has published over twenty novels and has won many awards for his work, including the Maugham Somerset Award for Hear and Forgive in 1953, and the Hawthornden Prize for A Toy Epic in 1958. He also won the Wales Book of the Year in 1992 for Bonds of Attachment, and again in 1999 for The Gift of a Daughter. In addition, he won the inaugural Siân Phillips Award for his contribution to radio and television in Wales in 2004. The novelist, who also turned his hand to poetry and non-fiction, has also published a cultural history of Wales, The Taliesin Tradition (1983), which looks at Welsh identity through the literature and history of Wales.
His comprehensive archive was purchased by the National Library in 1994. It mainly includes his personal and professional correspondence, and manuscript and typescript copies of his published and unpublished works. The archive is vast – 79 boxes in all – which is testament to his lengthy career putting pen to paper about life in Wales. The catalogue is available to browse via the Library’s Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue.
The National Library would like to wish him the very best on this special occasion.
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