Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Desolation Island

It's always quite jolting when one comes across unexpected references to Wales in great works of literature. As, for instance, when a couple of characters suddenly start talking about the Men of Harlech during A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick. I've mentioned elsewhere the name-checking of Cardiff and Penarth in Conrad's The Nigger of the Narcissus. Another example would be Primo Levi's The Periodic Table in which references are made to Aberdare, Holywell and Mount Snowdon. In the Mercury section of that book the narrator explains how Desolation Island (the loneliest island in the world) came to have Welsh place names. Some of the soldiers who were sent to guard the island were originally from Wales. Levi even provided us with a map of this mythical place (see pic) - the only one in the book. It's an uncharacteristically Borgesian tale and for curiosity value alone well worth a look.