At the Bright Hem of God: Radnorshire Pastoral
'Conradi writes thoughtfully and non-judgementally even when dealing with contentious matters of Welsh politics and cultural identity. He is glad to quote Bidgood's declaration that she did not come to this area to escape the world: "This is the world." Completed by Simon Dorrell's exquisite pen-and-ink miniatures, it is the perfect primer to this quiet stretch of Wales.' Nicholas Murray, The Independent, July 2009
Radnorshire, a county rural and remote. The lives of its sparse population continue to be shaped by the wild landscape of valleys and mountains in ways that for Britain now lie in the past.
Yet down the centuries Radnorshire has fascinated and inspired, as a place of contemplation, exploration, creation and retreat. In At the Bright Hem of God Peter J. Conradi examines both his own relationship with the place and responses to it by writers from Gerald of Wales,who passed through in 1176, to the present day.
On the way he takes in fifteenth century court poets; the metaphysicals Herbert, Vaughan and Traherne; the Romantic poets and Rousseau (who almost lived there and whose ideas did); diarist Francis Kilvert and his editor William Plomer; artist Eric Gill and poet David Jones; Bruce Chatwin, whose On the Black Hill is the most famous Radnorshire novel; and poets R.S.Thomas, Roland Mathias and Ruth Bidgood, the county’s current remembrancer.
The result is an astonishing account, a trip across landscapes and borders – physical, emotionaland intellectual – the culmination of over forty years of visiting and living there. Conradi’s perceptive narrative is complemented by superb ink drawings by the Radnorshire artist Simon Dorrell to produce a beautiful book, a love letter to a place still hidden from most of the country.
'Imbued with the author's intimate knowledge and love of the Welsh Border country Conradi's new book is rich in insights, surprises and delights.' – James Roose Evans
“At the Bright Hem of God is a magically hybrid work in which Conradi skillfully melds tradition, individual memories, history and the present moment…This is a fascinating portrait of a remote area which emerges, in all its remarkable intransigence, as a corrective to the ‘impatient speed’ and ‘empty knowingness’ of a global world which is fast losing any sense of place as potent and diverse.” – Avril Horner
“So passionately and with such historical élan does Peter J Conradi inhabit his beloved Radnorshire that one might suggest a new coinage, 'Conradnorism' - to denote the mysterious yet perfect fit between an individual and an landscape. Vibrant and very charming… his love for the place shines out.” – Rose Tremain
Watch Peter J. Conradi reading from At the Bright Hem of God as part of Presteigne Digital 2020. Available until 31st December 2020.
The irresistible title is a version by the poet R.S.Thomas of an old Welsh saying. Do not be put off by the sub-title(authors' or editors'?)"Radnorshire Pastoral" for this is no indulgent, unrealistic bucolic idyll, but rather an honest and all-embracing portrait of this ancient Welsh border county. The breeze of nostalgia occaisionally brushes the author, but there is no sentimentality. All aspects of rural life are here, closely observed by an author who, though not a native, has lived there for many years. History, culture, language, customs, traditions and remarkable local characters are all here in this engrossing and individual account.
A book to savour and to read and re-read.
Reading Radnor (Amazon customer review)
Conradi writes not just about Radnor, but what he calls Greater Radnorshire, with great lucidity. The book deals mostly with how writers have reacted to Greater Radnorshire, and, as both a writer and a Radnorshire incomer, I read 'At The Bright Hem of God' with delight.
For literate lovers of this extraordinary part of the world, Conradi's book will be required reading for years to come.