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The Tip of My Tongue

Trezza Azzopardi
ISBN-13: 
9781781721056
Format: 
Paperback
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
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Enid wants a dog and wants to be a spy, but listening in on adult conversations doesn’t seem to bring her any nearer to understanding their troubled world. For all that,when times get tough and she has to stay with the Erbins, particularly her rich and spoilt cousin Geraint, she has plenty of verbal ammunition to help her fight her corner.

Trezza Azzopardi transforms the medieval heroine who won’t be silenced into a brave 1970s girl from downtown Splott in Cardiff who, no matter how difficult the circumstances, always seems to get the last word.

The original Enid defends her misguided husband by warning him of approaching villains, even though he has forbidden her to speak. Trezza Azzopardi’s young Enid is also unlikely to respect a gagging order.

 

Trezza Azzopardi’s The Tip of my Tongue is a re-imagining of The Mabinogion story ‘Geraint and Enid’.
 

Listen to Trezza Azzopardi read an extract from her novel, ‘The Tip of My Tongue’:

 

 

REVIEWS

REVIEW by Anna Scott, The Guardian

Friday, November 1, 2013

Perspicacity is a prerequisite for someone "learning to be an International Spy", and it is a quality that Enid is keen to hone. Set in 1970s Cardiff, Azzopardi's reinvention of "Geraint, son of Erbin", a tale from the Mabinogion (two 14th-century manuscripts collating an earlier oral tradition) is a deceptively simple story of loss with an irrepressible little girl at its heart. When her mother dies, Enid's father sinks into a "Brown Dudgeon" and farms her off to the Erbins, wealthy relatives whose son, Geraint, is Enid's "Nemesis" and a decided "Waste of Space". The Erbins may present the perfect picture of respectability, but Aunty Celia dusts the drinks cabinet with suspicious frequency, while Uncle Horace practically exhorts her to have an affair and Geraint masturbates furiously in his bedroom. Although an acute observer, Enid's perspective is that of a child and there are certain nuances about those around her that don't quite register. While there is comedy in this, Azzopardi also conveys the vastness of a grief that Enid, with her voice "which cannot be silenced", is unable to either fully comprehend or articulate.

User Reviews

Anonymous's picture

Review from Planet

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From the title to the final page, Trezza Azzopardi’s The Tip of my Tongue, part of Seren’s “New Stories from the Mabinogion”, evocatively engages with a theme that cuts through not only the source tale of The Mabinogion’s “Geraint Son of Erbin” but also through a wider body of writing which reworks older traditions. The silencing of the “other,” of the disenfranchised, is central to the functions of many myth tales, and as a result becomes a primary target for writers who wish to uncover, recover and reclaim silenced voices. The Mabinogion, however, does not provide such a clear-cut dichotomy between the powerful and powerless, the narrator and the narrated. Just as the Island of Britain is a space where magic and the mundane coexist, so too is language a unpredictable complex of power. Azzopardi’s character Enid embodies the tensions between who is allowed to speak and who is not.
Set in 1976, just as punk erupted I the UK, nine-yea-old End is sent to live with her distant relatives Celia and Horace Erbin, and their teenage son, Geraint. Enid’s poet mother has died from an unspecified illness and her father’s recurrent depression leaves him unable to care for her. When the adults in Enid’s life refuse to communicate or to understand, they misdirect and codify language. Enid is intent on becoming a spy so that she too may learn the subliminal powers that language represents; she understands, like her namesake Enid daughter of Ynywl, that to survive in a world in which you are expected to be silent, language is “the most potent weapon in your armoury”, Secrets and storytelling bond mother and daughter and allow Enid’s mother to instil survival strategies into her daughter long after her mother’s death. Enid’s tongue becomes the locus of her power and whether she uses it or not informs her own, and others’, destiny. However, just as in the source tale where Enid ap Ynywl is punished for defying a prohibition on speaking, Enid Bracchi must understand that the power at the tip of her tongue comes with responsibility and consequences. When Enid demands that Geraint return the poetry collection written for her by her mother, the hurbled book causes an outpouring of blood. When Enid ap Ynywl refuses to obey her rescuing knight she gets a “clout on the ear”. Despite vocalising their right to agency, both Enid Bracchi and her namesake discover that words are double-edged swords.
Trezza Azzopardi asks not only who has the right to speak but also questions the patterns of power which underpin all language. In the afterword, Azzopardi reveals how important it was for her to give Enid the last word – “Deal!” a single word which indicates negotiation of authority through language interchange.

Bethan Coombs

22/05/2014 - 11:26
Anonymous's picture

Review from NWR

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No votes yet

Trezza Azzopardi has taken an oblique, pared-down approach to the medieval Geraint fab Erbin in her contribution, one of the concluding pair, to Seren’s New Stories from the Mabinogion. While romance and knightly prowess and status are, not surprisingly, the mainstays of the medieval Arthurian romance, it also has an arguably modern interest in proper conduct and intimate human relationships. The Tip of My Tongue focuses on how Geraint misunderstands Enid’s words and commands her silence, and how they are ultimately reconciled. Subverting the relatively submissive female roles of the original, Azzopardi’s updated version has a positive feminist perspective. Inspired perhaps by the reputed genesis of the Mabinogion as tales of youthful adventure, it also takes a quirky and poignant view of complex family relationships through a child’s eye. This is the young girl Enid’s story, and Geraint features as her annoying adolescent cousin.
Considering the cultural currency of the Mabinogion, I fend it revealing of a confident post-devolution Wales that so few contributors to the series have foregrounded national identity and that none have resorted to the all-too-easy nationalistic pietas towards the source texts. Likewise, The Tip of My Tongue has no overt patriotic agenda, yet Enid’s cultural reference points subtly locate her story in an alternative Welsh cultural space: multicultural Cardiff of the 1970s and the increasing allure of transatlantic popular culture. In terms of the narrative, this multicultural metropolitan context, and Enid’s distinctive colloquial cadences, signpost the social and economic gulf that separates Enid and her affluent relatives, the Erbins. Beyond the text, it signals that Welshness over the centuries is as adaptable and vital as the Mabinogion stories themselves.
The title plays with the importance of voice, and I would urge readers to read the author’s Afterword before enjoying the novella itself in order to fully apprehend the nuances of the youthful female voice: ‘It was the opportunity to explore the idea of the female voice as powerful, as a tool – as a weapon,’ Enid I playfully silenced by her mother in the novella’s opening scene, and the child learns the importance of using her voice tactically: ‘I’d like to ask her my question but she has taught me that there are moments I can speak and moments I must Keep Schtum.’ The original Enid accepted Geraint’s introduction and disobeyed only to assist him, but modern Enid’s words are for herself. The novel hints at home women in the 1970s internalised sexism- witness Aunt Cecilia, the cosseted, frustrated housewife – but modern Enid has a sense of entitlement, if not equality, instilled in her by her creatively fulfilled mother. Enid will not be bullied:

The moral is, if that Geraint starts to pick on you, you just
Tell him: he’s got no right, and you will do him no harm if he
Simply leaves you alone.
And lets me be of benefit to Mankind
Exactly.
But Mam, what if he doesn’t listen?
Then you punch his lights out.

The novella is all about Enid, but with its figurative journey towards maturity, it is also about growing up and achieving a fairytale ‘happy ending’, complete with Mabinogi-style mist! Enid copes with bereavement, poverty, and both cultural and geographic dislocation, but her knowingness as child narrator is framed as training in spy-craft. Her child’s voice is also visible on the page in intentional misspellings and use of capitalisation for emphasis, and serves to underscore the, at times, unfathomable language of adult relationships and interaction. The child narrator also introduces seemingly innocuous detail, but Enid is a self-conscious narrator after all.
In conclusion, I’d like to congratulate Seren Press and Penny Thomas (the series editor) on their extraordinary vision in commissioning and publishing the New Stories from the Mabinogion, and ensuring that these stories remain fixed in our cultural awareness. I enjoyed reviewing three earlier titles in the series, but having moved from a research post to a lectureship since the publication of my last review for NWR, I read this latest novella with a different reading experience in mind. Now that the series is almost complete, the time is right to debelop an innovative course around it that will engage students of literature, not only with the concepts of literary translation and adaptation, but also ith how creative reinterpretation of these classic Welsh texts can confront us with new truths of our present, and with possibilities for the future. The series would even make a rewarding PhD subject for someone!

Cathryn A Charnell-White

22/05/2014 - 11:23
Anonymous's picture

Review from the Daily Mail

0
No votes yet

The romance of Geraint, an Arthurian knight, and Enid, a beautiful maiden, is one of the eleven tales that comprise the Welsh Mabinogion, a collection of legends, myths and folktales dating back to medieval times.

In Cardiff-born Trezza Azzopardi’s 1970s-set re-imagining, however, Geraint is a posh pubescent wannabe punk and Enid his council-house dwelling seven-year-old cousin. With the death of Enid’s hippyish mother, Geraint and Enid are thrown together, but while the former is busy ripping his clothes and safety-pinning his cheeks, the latter is as determined as ever to achieve her aim of becoming a Russian-speaking spy (if not Wonderwoman).

The power of the female voice is, as Azzopardi explains in an afterword, one of the themes connecting her tale with its source, and the ingenuity of her adaptation is admirable. But it’s a joy in its own right too: deftly executed, funny and affecting.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/article-2479094/SHORT-STORIES.html

04/11/2013 - 10:17

Comments

Anonymous's picture

Review from the Daily Mail

0
No votes yet

The romance of Geraint, an Arthurian knight, and Enid, a beautiful maiden, is one of the eleven tales that comprise the Welsh Mabinogion, a collection of legends, myths and folktales dating back to medieval times.

In Cardiff-born Trezza Azzopardi’s 1970s-set re-imagining, however, Geraint is a posh pubescent wannabe punk and Enid his council-house dwelling seven-year-old cousin. With the death of Enid’s hippyish mother, Geraint and Enid are thrown together, but while the former is busy ripping his clothes and safety-pinning his cheeks, the latter is as determined as ever to achieve her aim of becoming a Russian-speaking spy (if not Wonderwoman).

The power of the female voice is, as Azzopardi explains in an afterword, one of the themes connecting her tale with its source, and the ingenuity of her adaptation is admirable. But it’s a joy in its own right too: deftly executed, funny and affecting.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/article-2479094/SHORT-STORIES.html

04/11/2013 - 10:17
Anonymous's picture

Review from NWR

0
No votes yet

Trezza Azzopardi has taken an oblique, pared-down approach to the medieval Geraint fab Erbin in her contribution, one of the concluding pair, to Seren’s New Stories from the Mabinogion. While romance and knightly prowess and status are, not surprisingly, the mainstays of the medieval Arthurian romance, it also has an arguably modern interest in proper conduct and intimate human relationships. The Tip of My Tongue focuses on how Geraint misunderstands Enid’s words and commands her silence, and how they are ultimately reconciled. Subverting the relatively submissive female roles of the original, Azzopardi’s updated version has a positive feminist perspective. Inspired perhaps by the reputed genesis of the Mabinogion as tales of youthful adventure, it also takes a quirky and poignant view of complex family relationships through a child’s eye. This is the young girl Enid’s story, and Geraint features as her annoying adolescent cousin.
Considering the cultural currency of the Mabinogion, I fend it revealing of a confident post-devolution Wales that so few contributors to the series have foregrounded national identity and that none have resorted to the all-too-easy nationalistic pietas towards the source texts. Likewise, The Tip of My Tongue has no overt patriotic agenda, yet Enid’s cultural reference points subtly locate her story in an alternative Welsh cultural space: multicultural Cardiff of the 1970s and the increasing allure of transatlantic popular culture. In terms of the narrative, this multicultural metropolitan context, and Enid’s distinctive colloquial cadences, signpost the social and economic gulf that separates Enid and her affluent relatives, the Erbins. Beyond the text, it signals that Welshness over the centuries is as adaptable and vital as the Mabinogion stories themselves.
The title plays with the importance of voice, and I would urge readers to read the author’s Afterword before enjoying the novella itself in order to fully apprehend the nuances of the youthful female voice: ‘It was the opportunity to explore the idea of the female voice as powerful, as a tool – as a weapon,’ Enid I playfully silenced by her mother in the novella’s opening scene, and the child learns the importance of using her voice tactically: ‘I’d like to ask her my question but she has taught me that there are moments I can speak and moments I must Keep Schtum.’ The original Enid accepted Geraint’s introduction and disobeyed only to assist him, but modern Enid’s words are for herself. The novel hints at home women in the 1970s internalised sexism- witness Aunt Cecilia, the cosseted, frustrated housewife – but modern Enid has a sense of entitlement, if not equality, instilled in her by her creatively fulfilled mother. Enid will not be bullied:

The moral is, if that Geraint starts to pick on you, you just
Tell him: he’s got no right, and you will do him no harm if he
Simply leaves you alone.
And lets me be of benefit to Mankind
Exactly.
But Mam, what if he doesn’t listen?
Then you punch his lights out.

The novella is all about Enid, but with its figurative journey towards maturity, it is also about growing up and achieving a fairytale ‘happy ending’, complete with Mabinogi-style mist! Enid copes with bereavement, poverty, and both cultural and geographic dislocation, but her knowingness as child narrator is framed as training in spy-craft. Her child’s voice is also visible on the page in intentional misspellings and use of capitalisation for emphasis, and serves to underscore the, at times, unfathomable language of adult relationships and interaction. The child narrator also introduces seemingly innocuous detail, but Enid is a self-conscious narrator after all.
In conclusion, I’d like to congratulate Seren Press and Penny Thomas (the series editor) on their extraordinary vision in commissioning and publishing the New Stories from the Mabinogion, and ensuring that these stories remain fixed in our cultural awareness. I enjoyed reviewing three earlier titles in the series, but having moved from a research post to a lectureship since the publication of my last review for NWR, I read this latest novella with a different reading experience in mind. Now that the series is almost complete, the time is right to debelop an innovative course around it that will engage students of literature, not only with the concepts of literary translation and adaptation, but also ith how creative reinterpretation of these classic Welsh texts can confront us with new truths of our present, and with possibilities for the future. The series would even make a rewarding PhD subject for someone!

Cathryn A Charnell-White

22/05/2014 - 11:23
Anonymous's picture

Review from Planet

0
No votes yet

From the title to the final page, Trezza Azzopardi’s The Tip of my Tongue, part of Seren’s “New Stories from the Mabinogion”, evocatively engages with a theme that cuts through not only the source tale of The Mabinogion’s “Geraint Son of Erbin” but also through a wider body of writing which reworks older traditions. The silencing of the “other,” of the disenfranchised, is central to the functions of many myth tales, and as a result becomes a primary target for writers who wish to uncover, recover and reclaim silenced voices. The Mabinogion, however, does not provide such a clear-cut dichotomy between the powerful and powerless, the narrator and the narrated. Just as the Island of Britain is a space where magic and the mundane coexist, so too is language a unpredictable complex of power. Azzopardi’s character Enid embodies the tensions between who is allowed to speak and who is not.
Set in 1976, just as punk erupted I the UK, nine-yea-old End is sent to live with her distant relatives Celia and Horace Erbin, and their teenage son, Geraint. Enid’s poet mother has died from an unspecified illness and her father’s recurrent depression leaves him unable to care for her. When the adults in Enid’s life refuse to communicate or to understand, they misdirect and codify language. Enid is intent on becoming a spy so that she too may learn the subliminal powers that language represents; she understands, like her namesake Enid daughter of Ynywl, that to survive in a world in which you are expected to be silent, language is “the most potent weapon in your armoury”, Secrets and storytelling bond mother and daughter and allow Enid’s mother to instil survival strategies into her daughter long after her mother’s death. Enid’s tongue becomes the locus of her power and whether she uses it or not informs her own, and others’, destiny. However, just as in the source tale where Enid ap Ynywl is punished for defying a prohibition on speaking, Enid Bracchi must understand that the power at the tip of her tongue comes with responsibility and consequences. When Enid demands that Geraint return the poetry collection written for her by her mother, the hurbled book causes an outpouring of blood. When Enid ap Ynywl refuses to obey her rescuing knight she gets a “clout on the ear”. Despite vocalising their right to agency, both Enid Bracchi and her namesake discover that words are double-edged swords.
Trezza Azzopardi asks not only who has the right to speak but also questions the patterns of power which underpin all language. In the afterword, Azzopardi reveals how important it was for her to give Enid the last word – “Deal!” a single word which indicates negotiation of authority through language interchange.

Bethan Coombs

22/05/2014 - 11:26
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