Rhiannon Ifans wins the Conwy County National Eisteddfod Prose Medal in a competition which attracted 18 competitors.
This year’s title was ‘Cylchoedd’ (Circles) and the task was to compose a volume of creative prose of no more than 40,000 words. The adjudicators were Mererid Hopwood, Aled Islwyn and Alun Cob. The Medal and the financial prize of £750 were presented by Ysgol y Creuddyn, Bae Penrhyn.
Delivering the adjudication on behalf of her fellow judges, Mererid Hopwood said, “If the volumes were varied, I have to say at the beginning like this - so too - to a degree - the taste of the judges. And even though the January and February snow and March motoring troubles did their best to prevent us from meeting ... we were determined to give the writers fair play, and come together to try and find out what everyone thought.
“It’s clear that the judges were interested in seven entrants, but after mentioning six, Mererid said, “Yes, there is a winner, but that is worth nothing without agreement." She goes on to discuss the final volume in the pile, saying, "There’s one left – phew! Raphael's original, high-quality, original novel called 'Ingrid '. The novel is set in Stuttgart, Germany, and from there we get the story of Ingrid, a woman full of life who is slowly losing her mind and memory. Her story is told from the point of view of herself, her husband, her son and daughter-in-law, and, all in all, the story slips skilfully into the voice of an unreliable narrator, prompting us to question the narrative without causing us to lose the trail. Few Welsh novels bring the culture of another country to life, but here the Welsh language is totally natural within the German world.
“Twice an enigmatic and intimate connection with Wales is revealed, one in the foreword by a reference to Anglesey, and the other at a Christmas party where, in passing, a “foreign neighbour” sings ‘Ar gyfer heddiw’r bore’. It’s an example of the author’s subtle, bizarre humour and an example of the kind of thing that totally won me over. The Welsh and the Welsh are tragic neighbours in a Welsh novel that is more German than Welsh. Readers will find hours of pleasure exploring the depths of meaning of all types of elements including the characters' names and their work. They’re also provoked to think about the big questions of Identity, Love and Truth. “This is work where the depth of understanding or the lack of understanding, or the understanding of the lack of understanding demands our attention. 'Overall', says Aled Islwyn, 'there is a lot that is likely to spark readers' imaginations over the coming months ... 'there is much room for discussion on Ingrid- the novel and the character.'
“After the first reading of the 18 attempts, Ingrid by Raphael was in the first class by all three of us. After further reading we were unanimous that he would receive the Medal this year. “This is the best,” said Alun Cob. “Excellent.”
“The Medal goes to Raphael.”
Rhiannon Ifans grew up on Carreg Wian farm in the parish of Llanidan, Anglesey, and was educated at Gaerwen Primary School and Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni. She is very grateful to John Parry, Falmai Rees, Margaret Fisher and Gerald Morgan for showing her the fascination of Welsh and English literature for the first time. She then spent several years at University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, studying Welsh language and literature, appreciating Geraint Gruffydd's exceptional learning and intelligence and Bobi Jones' extraordinary creative ability. Rhiannon Ifans now specialises in the fields of folk studies and medieval literature. In 1980 she published with her husband, Dafydd, an update of the Mabinogion legends; and earlier this year published Red Hearts and Roses? Welsh Valentine Songs and Poems.
The joy of her life was raising three sons, Gwyddno, Seiriol and Einion, and in doing so she wrote children’s books and worked as a freelance editor. She won the Tir na n-Og Award in 2000 for her volume Chwedlau o’r Gwledydd Celtaidd and for the second time in 2003 for her volume Dewi Sant; Owain Glyndŵr: Tywysog Cymru was shortlisted for the Tir na n-Og Award in 2001. After the children grew older, she returned to university, working first on the Poets of the Princes and then on the Poets of the Nobility . She then spent twelve happy years as a Tucker Fellow at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
She has lived for many years in Penrhyn-coch in the Aberystwyth area, and regularly travels to Cardiff to look after her grandson Trystan and granddaughter Greta Mair, and to Germany when time permits. Ingrid is a European novel set in the city of Stuttgart at a time when the champagne is flowing, the jazz halls are overcrowded and the opera house is full.
The Conwy County National Eisteddfod runs until 10 August. For more information go to www.eisteddfod.wales.