Island of Lightning
Island of Lightning is the latest book of travel essays by the prizewinning Robert Minhinnick, poet, novelist, translator, cultural commentator and environmentalist. In it he travels from his home in south Wales to Argentina, China, Finland, Iraq, Tuscany and Piemonte, Malta, New York, Zagreb, Lithuania and the lightning island of Malta.
In conventional travel essays and leaps of imaginative narrative his subjects include the annual Elvis convention in Porthcawl, Neolithic sculptures, the cruelties of late twentieth century communism and its aftermath, rugby union, the Argentinian writer Alfonsina Storni, poets playing football, the body of a saint and the definition of cool. His themes are big ones: the relationship of man and landscape, man and time, man and nature, immigration and war, in one sense ultimately humankind itself.
Minhinnick explores with the eye of a poet and the gift of a telling image or metaphor. His walk from Cardiff to the Rhondda valleys is almost geological as he passes through the social and cultural strata of the area’s history. His astonishment at the sheer number of people – the scale on which society works – in China, results in an inventive grappling with the hugeness of the world (and its growing problems). At the other end of the spectrum his re-imagining of the life of Alfonsina Storni, her love for Borges and her suicide is a delicate commentary on the personal and the solitary.
Readers will be entertained, informed and provoked by this series of essays in which Minhinnick takes his subjects as though holding them in his hand, turning them for new perspectives and understanding.