Tribute to Emyr Humphreys 2019–2020

Welsh Books Council

Tribute to Emyr Humphreys 2019–2020 - 01 October 2020

One of Wales’ literary greats, the author and poet Emyr Humphreys, died on Wednesday, 30 September 2020. Aged 101, his writing career spanned seven decades. Emyr Humphreys was an Honorary President of the Friends of the Books Council of Wales and a close friend of the Chair of the Books Council, Professor M. Wynn Thomas, who wrote this tribute.

Emyr Humphreys was a child of the First World War, one of the outstanding literary figures in our long history, whose brilliant career as an author of international repute spanned seventy years. As well as publishing more than two dozen novels, he was the author of many notable plays, poems and cultural essays, a fearless cultural campaigner, and an innovative radio and television producer.

He described his hero Saunders Lewis as a ‘necessary figure’, and the same could be said of Emyr Humphreys himself. His talent was first identified by Graham Greene, and he went on to work with Richard Burton, Siân Phillips and Peter O’Toole. His friends included R.S. Thomas, Kate Roberts and John Gwilym Jones, and his love of Italy was second only to his love of Wales.

He was a European Welshman, influenced as an author by some of the literary giants of continental Europe. He recognized that the culture of Wales was under constant threat in the modern world, and realized that he therefore shared the same condition as ‘marginalized’ communities everywhere.

He was the last representative of that golden period in our history when so many of our outstanding writers committed themselves to serve Wales.

His loss means the loss of a dedicated guardian and most invaluable interpreter of our literary culture.

May he rest in peace, and may we never forget him.

Centenary Catalogue

A commemorative catalogue of Emyr Humphreys’ work was published by the Books Council of Wales in 2019 to mark his 100th birthday: http://www.cllc.org.uk/7892.file.dld  

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