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The Man Who Went Into the West: The Life of R.S.Thomas Paperback – 1 Jul 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd; New Ed edition (1 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845132505
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845132507
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 172,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘A biography touched by genius’

(Craig Brown Mail on Sunday)

‘A masterpiece’

(Daily Express)

‘Byron Rogers’ lively and affectionate biography… is unexpectedly, even riotously funny… Warm, perceptive, ruthless, gossipy and admiring’

(Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury The Sunday Times)

‘This book ought to win every award for which it is eligible’

(Andrew Martin Sunday Telegraph)

About the Author

Byron Rogers is a Welsh journalist, essayist and biographer. He has contributed to The Times, the Sunday Telegraph and the Guardian, and was once a speech writer for the Prince of Wales. He is also author of seven books published by Aurum, including: An Audience With an Elephant, one of several collections of his journalism; The Man Who Went into the West, a critically acclaimed biography of the iconic twentieth century Welsh poet, R. S. Thomas, which was awarded the James Tait Black Prize for Biography in 2007; and The Last Englishman, a biography of the quintessential Englishman and celebrated novelist J.L. Carr. Me: The Authorised Biography, was published in 2009. His most recent book is Three Journeys. He currently lives in Northamptonshire and Carmarthen.


Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's fair to say that Welsh priest and poet, RS Thomas (1913 - 2000), the oft-called `Ogre of Wales', was a man who drew strong and contradictory responses from those around him. While his literary executor, Professor Meurig Wynn Thomas wrote of him as `the Alexander Solzhenitsyn of Wales' in light of his habitual challenge to the Welsh conscience, Philip Larkin, in letters, referred to him as `Arsewipe Thomas'.

In this truly compulsive and often very funny biography, Byron Rogers goes way beyond the previously documented Thomas, the man who raged against the evils of domestic appliances and who refused to have even a refrigerator in his house because of the noise it made, who spent years with his artist wife, Elsi, while barely speaking to her, who ranted from the pulpit at his parishioners, but who would hide behind hedges rather than speak to them if he encountered them in the open.

Here we see Thomas in his many paradoxes - the Christian pacifist who nonetheless supported Welsh Nationalism and the firebombing of English holiday cottages in the 1980s - (what is one death against the death of the whole Welsh nation?) for instance, the man who despite his cut glass Oxford English tones, and the private English education he gave his son, only stopped `going West' in his quest for Welshness when he met the sea at Aberdaron in 1967, `thinking, to use his own image, to kiss the feet of the Welsh rainbow'.

Despite the paradoxes, and Thomas himself was well aware of them, he was a poet of immense, sometimes breathtaking talent, and in this delightful and very `human' biography, Byron Rogers brings us to a far greater understanding of the man and his passions. To read it is to be suffused with a sudden and urgent desire to revisit and reassess the work of this `barmy old coot'.

Zoe King - Cadenza magazine
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Format: Hardcover
This is a truly wonderful, readable book that is as well written as R. S. Thomas' poems are. What is most astonishing is the fairness that Byron Rogers brings to it. Unsparing in its portrayal, this portrait of a tortured man touched by genius makes clear the excessive (perhaps abnormal) sensitivity to the world he observed and lived in (made manifest in the poems) as well as the shy, sometimes kind, occasionally generous man and priest. An ogre, no matter how blameworthy, could not write the poems Thomas did. For corroborating evidence, please listen closely and carefully to the CDs of R.S. Thomas reading his poems recorded the year before he died. Then go back to the poems and read them for their clarity, integrity and compassion.
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Format: Hardcover
Any book about R.S.Thomas was always going to be interesting, since he was such a unique figure, but Byron Rogers has really gone to great lengths with this book to give the reader an accurate picture of Thomas' entire life.

It does this with fantastic interviews from a vast selection of people who knew Thomas, and in the process destroys many of the myths and preconceptions that many people had about Thomas. The Media-driven idea of him being 'The Ogre Of Wales' is firmly put to rest thanks to the accounts of people who paint him to be a very intelligent, sensitive, nature-loving and sometimes very jocular individual.

There are interviews with family, friends and even people who knew him as a young man, all of which attempt to address every facet of his personality, every aspect of his being. Some of his rare and unpublished poetry is also shown here, a great privilege to anyone who has any interest in poetry - since Thomas set the standard for Welsh poetry his entire life.

Rogers builds up a picture of a man who was often intimidating to people who met him, yet in rapture to the beauty of nature and the wonders of the Universe, the theologies of life. Thomas was a man who would think nothing of slamming a door in a person's face, yet fought persistently for CND and would think nothing of dismantling traps designed for catching animals. I must truly commend Rogers for allowing me to gain such insight into the life of such a fascinating man.

Many of the interviews are amusing, some are emotive and, (on a more personal level) there is even one from a family member of mine who was good friends with Thomas.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A completely readable and compassionate biography of a man many found impossible, unfathomable or both. Rogers had the great benefit of access not only to Thomas' family, but had been meeting the poet over a period of many years. Some comment not altogether favourably on the amount of personal reminiscence in the writing, but to this reader it was entirely justified by the light it throws on the subject. I have been an avid reader of R.S.T's poetry for many years; this book illuminates them with a new light.

And it's great to realise the sense of humour lurking behind that familiar, craggy face!
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Format: Paperback
As the other reviewers have said, this is a biography that holds one's interest and presents an entertaining and engaging portrait of a fascinating man. I looked forward each evening to reading another chapter. It's interesting to read the contrasting impressions of those who knew him; some found him witty and entertaining, while other thought him self-centred, cold and difficult. The style of the writing is readable without being trivial, detailed without being pedantic.
I was lucky enough to meet R.S. Thomas in about 1970. I was a university student and a fellow student had decided to make a short documentary about the poet, with a grant from the Welsh Arts Council and the co-operation of the man himself. I was the cameraman and I still remember filming R.S. Thomas walking on the beach at Aberdaron, driving his Mini Clubman, or chatting in Welsh to a farmer at the door of his desolate cottage. This book helped to put my recollections into context - especially with regard to the poet's later years. One of the best books I've read this year.
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