978-0-14-018888-2 / 0140188886

Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices (Penguin Modern Classics)

by Thomas, Dylan

Publisher:Penguin Classics



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About the book:

To begin at the beginning: it is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobble streets silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloe black, slow, black, crow black fishing boat-bobbing sea. [...] And all the people of the lulled and dumbfounded town are sleeping now.

Subtitled "A Play for Voices", Dylan Thomas's best known work, Under Milk Wood, carries the double legacy of the author's extensive work for radio--a medium for which, like the very different Samuel Beckett, he had an almost intuitive grasp--and his skill and ability as a poet. A polyphonic evocation of a day in the life of an imaginary small Welsh seaside town, Thomas's play--"a green leaved sermon on the innocence of men"--visits in turn the inhabitants of Llareggub (read it backwards for the joke) while they sleep, when they wake and go about their daily activities, as the night falls. Balancing a rhythmic, densely poetic language with a nuanced ear for the musical cadences of speech, the play's gentle, affectionate charm and humour resonate to create a deeply textured portrait of a community responding almost mythically to the awakening of spring.

The introduction to this new edition details the book's slow genesis and reveals a more serious aspect of Thomas's creation--it was composed in part as a response to the terrible inheritance of World War II--in which the affirmative, redemptive cast of the play carries a moral dimension, an imaginative, lyrical empathy for the regenerative innocence of the average human being and their capacity for grace. Llareggub becomes a space in which eccentricity is tolerated, sin is forgiven and love is nurtured--or at least dreamt about and possible. Thomas has a democratic compassion for the small dramas of the everyday and a belief that what is commonplace unites us, all underscored by the transformative power of the language he bestows on each inhabitant. His characters--Captain Cat, Myfanwy Price, Organ Morgan, Willy Nilly the Postman, Polly Garter, Dai Bread, and others--generously animated and blessed by their author, have entered many people's affection and literary memory. In this light, it is easy to see why Under Milk Wood has remained one of the best-loved works of the 20th century and one of the great plays for radio. --Burhan Tufail

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