Two Authors at Palas Print

Welsh Books Council

Two Authors at Palas Print - 07 December 2009

The memory is a complicated thing and can often play tricks on us. Like the tree in the forest, that nobody's there to hear it fall, if we can't remember something, did it happen at all? The hazy boundaries between memory and imagination are explored in Eigra Lewis Roberts' latest nofel,  Hi a Fi  (Her and Me).

This is a novel within a novel, linking today and yesterday. It is set in Eigra's home town, Blaenau Ffestiniog. The opening chapter finds the author working on a collection of short stories when she is interrupted by the unexpected visit of Nesta, an old school friend. This stirs up memories of her childhood days. Alongside these recollections is the story of Nesta, who has returned to live in Blaenau, believing that is where she belongs and expecting everything to be unchanged.

Eigra's first novel, which won in the open novel competition at the National Eisteddfod, was published when she was only twenty years old, and she has since written many works including novels, short stories, biographies and translations, as well as plays and series for radio and television. She won the National Eisteddfod Prose Medal in 1965 and 1968, the Drama Medal in 1974, and the Crown in 2006.

Yesterday's story is recounted by a girl called Helen. 'I'd describe the novel as being a weave of facts and imagination that can't be untangled,' said Eigra. Nesta, who insists on reading part of the novel, believes lies and imagination to be one and the same, and they both have very different versions of what happened in the past. Keeping Helen company are fictitious characters such as Ann and Eleanor Parry, Megan Lloyd who-can-do-no-wrong and Edwin babi mam, the Reverend Edwards and the Maenofferen Girls' School teachers. But we also have members of Helen's family, her parents. her uncle, two aunts and two grandmothers, all of whom play a significant part in her life.

'It is certainly not an autobiography, although there is an autobiographical element within the novel,' explains Eigra. 'There is probably quite a portion of me in Helen, but because no such person exists she is free to go a step further and give vent to her imagination. It is not me who's telling the story, but her and me. The question is, who is Helen and who am I?

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