Cynan Jones: The Dig


He looked up at the bare ash branches, mercurial and somehow elephantine, rising out through the low floodlights and they hardly stirred, making the sound seem very far away. A distant white noise. A noise bearing some primitive hushed whisper of the permanence of vast things.
Cynan Jones, The Dig

My current reading, which I finished last night. Cynan Jones is now recognised as a contemporary British writer of some significance, and The Dig, his fourth novel, is the one that really brought his name to the fore. It’s a short novel, but the brevity gives it a real power and sense of urgency as it hurtles to what seems clear from the outset to be anything but a happy ending. Jones’ world is a dark one, where men do bad things under brooding skies, and while the prose style does at time betray his influences – the most obvious of which is Cormac McCarthy – he certainly knows of world he describes. Farm life in west Wales is nothing like what’s depicted on Countryfile. This is blood and mud and shit and slurry, and there’s a real sense that the land itself can barely contain its disdain for man’s presence upon it. Once again I’m reminded that, more so than any other artists, the main influences for my paintings and drawings come from literature like this; writing that recognises the blackness in the everyday and accepts that, as John Burnside says, it is “for the best. For the best.”


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