Everything Must Change

Grahame Davies
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
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"..simply the best novel I have ever read from our nation.." Mike Jenkins (Welsh Poet and author)

Everything Must Change is a thoughtful first novel, exploring the place of passionately held, radical beliefs in the modern world. The novel intercuts the story of French philosopher and activist Simone Weil, with that of  21st century campaigner Meinwen Jones, adrift in a post-devolution Wales. Hailed as ‘the first post-national novel’ by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Meinwen’s inner struggle echoes Simone’s as she devotes herself exclusively to her cause of anti-globalisation and protecting culture.
Meinwen sacrifices love, a career and a future to the ‘cause’ as she follows the activists’ trail through TV studios, political rallies and prison, taking Simone as inspiration in her lonely battle.  But in the chambers of the Assembly, the chic restaurants of Cardiff or her hilltop in north Wales, she finds her old certainties being called into question as victory fades from view. A world away in an inter-war Europe threatened by fascism, Simone, an idealistic gifted young Jewish woman seeks a vocation to satisfy her passion for justice as well as her dangerous desire for self-sacrifice.
In factories, on farms and on the battlefields of Spain, she challenges “The Great Beast” of totalitarianism and fascism. But her ideals seem ever more at odds with reality. When friends become enemies and enemies offer friendship, both women have to question their long-held beliefs, and find themselves facing a stark choice between life and death.
A novel of ideas, Everything Must Change examines ideals of asceticism and devotion to a cause in a materialistic modern society.

Everything Must Change was first published in Welsh as Rhaid i Bopeth Newid (2004, Gomer) and was longlisted for the Welsh Book of the Year 2005. It has been translated and extended by its author, the poet, critic and journalist, Grahame Davies.

Priase for Everything Must Change:

“Philosophically weighty …it reminds me of Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1940s trilogy, Les Chemins de la Liberté (Paths of Liberty). Here… is set out the Welsh post-nationalistic choice. This is the first post-national novel.” - Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas

 “… a compelling glimpse of a compelling personality [Simone Weil]. The book is pertinent, provocative and entertaining – rich nourishment for anybody interested in the way culture and identity inform the lives we make.” - Owen Martell 

“his sure eye and an ironic detachment enable him to reflect on the duality and mutability that abound, post devolution … this is a serious book, but not a heavy one; there is a wry humour, the narrative progresses at a good pace, and scenes interleave like filmic episodes. In short it’s well worth reading”. Alwyn Evans, Cambria, October 07

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Review by fionnchy (Blogtrotter)

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Grahame Davies's astonishingly poised novel comparing and contrasting Weil's ambition with that of a latter-day Welsh language activist, 'Everything Must Change'. Bookers, Pulizers, and Nobels have been granted for far less. I rarely praise a novel so, but this I do. Review on Blogtrotter

01/12/2010 - 14:23
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Review by Mike Jenkins

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I have just finished reading a novel which has changed my life. Many book do this, of course, but not in the revelatory way that can only happen on rare occasions. Afterwards, everything has changed. 'Catch 22' did this for me, as did Kesey's 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' and, most certainly, '1984' and 'The Handmaid's Tale'. But this book is one from and about Wales, though with an important European dimension. It is called 'Everything Must Change', published by Seren and written by Grahame Davies. This novel was long listed for the Wales Book of the Year in its original Welsh-language form in 2005. As far as I know, the English version has received no prizes. For this novel, Davies deserves international acclaim. It is simply the best novel I have ever read from our nation. I have to admit I cried at the end of the novel and fiction rarely has this kind of impact; songs regularly do though. Not since the stories of Bernard MacLaverty have I been so moved. I didn't want to leave Meinwen and Simone behind, but knew I must. The novel made me re-think my perceptions of Wales and Europe, of political struggles but, above all, it bought to life the ideas and conflicts of its two protagonists so vividly. I followed closely their journeys and their changes. How Simone's unique view of the world was fashioned by her times, but also stood outside those times and how Meinwen underwent such a radical development through painful experiences. In a way, Weil represents the complexity of Europe itself and Meinwen that of a modern Wales, yet both are so much more than mere ciphers for Davies's theories; indeed his own political agenda is never uppermost. I could go on, but the best thing I can do is recommend this book. It's a grave injustice that it still exists on the periphery; if the battles of our people had fought with bombs and guns then probably the London literati would pay more attention! Mike Jenkins April 2010

01/12/2010 - 14:14