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Welsh National Opera turns In Parenthesis war poem into a bestseller


The Welsh National Opera’s interpretation of In Parenthesis has sparked interest in David Jones’ modernist poem about World War I. The book has been the top search term on AbeBooks.co.uk during July and is now a bestseller… 79 years after it was originally published.

The poem was published in 1937 and won Hawthornden literary prize the following year. It recounts of the experiences of a private travelling from England to the front and an assault on the German trenches during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

In Parenthesis by David Jones

TS Eliot, who worked for Faber & Faber, the original publisher, said: “I am proud to share the responsibility for that first publication. On reading the book in typescript I was deeply moved. I then regarded it, and still regard it, as a work of genius. Here is a book about the experience of one soldier in the war of 1914-18. It is also a book about War, and about many other things also, such as Roman Britain, the Arthurian Legend, and diverse matters which are given association by the mind of the writer.”

The WNO performed the opera from May 13 until July 1. However, the WNO has posted a performance online which can be viewed for free during the next six months. There are also series of videos about In Parenthesis and a dedicated website.

Born in Kent to a Welsh father, Jones (1895-1974) was a watercolour painter and a poet. In World War I, he enlisted with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1915 and his experiences included fighting in the battle for Mametz Wood during the Somme offensive.

He was also a talented wood engraver and produced illustrations for Golden Cockerel Press, whose publications are adored by book collectors. His artwork can be seen in The History of Pompey the Little (pictured below),  The Chester Play Of The Deluge, and Gulliver’s Travels.

The-History-of-Pompei-the-Little

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