’In the dream I’m travelling very fast and without effort high over the ground as if I’m a bird flying. There’s the trackless mass of trees and strips of mountain ridges and the thread of river like sour milk. The sky is dark blue and red like bruises. I swoop down and then up to miss smashing into the crowns of the trees and I see the bruised air and the black horizon. I come to a figure standing on the heather. He stands with his arms flung out, the fingers spread, like branches. I come close to his face, to his untidy red moustache and his head split by an appalling wound.’
On two nights separated by a gap of a dozen years, Griffri ap Berddig, a poet at the court of a minor Welsh prince of the twelfth century, tells his life story to a Cistercian monk. Part boast and part confession, his words turn into a compelling narrative which develops through an accumulation of obsessive images towards self-revelation. A complex mixture of historical detail and invention, Griffri is a serious and entertaining novel examining the limits of our knowledge of the world and ourselves.
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