Book of the Month – December 2019

The Mabinogi by Matthew Francis

The Mabinogi by Matthew Francis

‘Here at the turn of the leaf a horseman is riding
through the space between one world and another...’

The Mabinogi is the Welsh national epic, a collection of prose tales of war and enchantment, adventure and romance, which have long fascinated readers all over the world. Matthew Francis’ retelling of the first four stories (the Four Branches of the Mabinogi) is the first to situate it in poetry and captures the magic and strangeness of this medieval Celtic world: a baby is kidnapped by a monstrous claw, a giant wades across the Irish Sea to do battle, a wizard makes a woman out of flowers, only to find she is less biddable than he had expected. Permeating the whole sequence is a delight in the power of the imagination to transform human experience into works of tragedy, comedy and wonder.

The Mabinogi was shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2018.

"I have waited a life for this book: our ancient British tales re-told, in English, by a poet, as they were in their original Welsh. This is more than translation. It picks up the harp and sings" – Gillian Clarke

Read it? Loved it? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #HayBookoftheMonth.

Buy the book

Listen to Matthew Francis speaking about The Mabinogi at Hay Festival 2017

Matthew Francis at Hay Festival Wales. Photo by Sam Peat.

Further reading...

Poem of the Week: Typewriter by Matthew Francis, The Guardian (June 2018)

Rewriting the Mabinogi: Matthew Francis, New Welsh Review (October 2017)

Matthew Francis on ‘The Mabinogi’, Poetryschool.com (November 2017)

About the author

Matthew Francis is the author of five Faber books of poetry, most recently The Mabinogi (2017). He has twice been shortlisted for the Forward Prize, and in 2004 was chosen as one of the Next Generation poets. He has also edited WS Graham's New Collected Poems, and published a collection of short stories and two novels, the second of which, The Book of the Needle (Cinnamon Press) came out in 2014. He lives in West Wales and is Professor in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University.

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we've loved and think holds added resonance today. While many recommendations celebrate the new, this is a chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old – that reaches through time to touch the present.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HayBookoftheMonth and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

Over on Hay Player, a special playlist of talks to view online offer additional perspectives on the books from some of the greatest writers and thinkers around the world.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please email publicity@hayfestival.org.

Happy reading!