Iain Sinclair: Black Apples Of Gower
The truth is whatever it needs to be…
I first read Iain Sinclair’s Black Apples Of Gower a couple of years ago, not long after I’d visited the Gower Peninsula for the first time in my life. We were in Rhossili for a single gloriously balmy weekend in June and the strange atmosphere of the place left its mark on me. We walked across Rhossili Down, looming over the wide expanse of beach and Wurm’s Head under a vast sprawl of blue sky, feeling like we were marching back through time in a way, an illusion heightened by our discovery of the crumbling remains of a WW2 radar station where wild horses now grazed. The scene was one of a benign post-apocalyptic landscape where man’s departure from the stage of life on earth was not necessarily a bad thing.
Sinclair’s book, published a couple of months after that visit, only served to reinforce the impressions I’d felt about the Gower. It seemed like one of those increasingly rare places that seem removed from the 21st century, both physically and psychically. For starters, you have to really want to go there, after first running the gauntlet of Port Talbot, which is The Road To Wigan Pier as imagined by J.G. Ballard. Then you’re following increasingly narrower roads through ever-more marginal villages and hamlets until finally you’re surrounded by water and there’s nowhere left to go. Sinclair, Welsh-born, had strong associations with the place dating back to his youth and writing the book had brought “the deluge of memory that is South Wales.” As it’s so replete with personal resonances, the book is more successful and arresting than some of his recent London-centric efforts, and in support of the project Sinclair teamed up with long-time collaborator Andrew Kötting to make a short film.
A cynic might argue that the results are what you get when men without proper jobs are left to their own devices, but I saw something akin to Rentaghost colliding with No Wave cinema in a berserker never-to-be-transmitted feature for Countryfile. There’s an attempt to convey the underlying strangeness of the place and what it does to a mind that’s receptive to such sub-lunar wavelengths, and for that I’ll cut them a lot of slack. The book itself I highly recommend both as an introduction to Sinclair at his best, and as a renegade guidebook to the Gower itself.