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Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Abse's novel Swedish encounter
Writer Dannie Abse
Dannie Abse believes he has one more poem left in him

Writer and poet Dannie Abse stood in a blue room lined with pictures of his beloved Cardiff City and promised the team would one day be back in football's top flight.

The author was back in his home town for the launch of his latest novel The Strange Case of Dr Simmonds & Dr Glas.

Dr Dimmons & Dr Glass
Abse's latest work is based on a famous Swedish book

But the beautiful game was never far from Abse's mind during his visit, which was hosted by Academi.

He read from the novel, described as an 'encounter' with the Swedish book Dr Glas published almost a century ago.

"There is something about supporting a team which is at the bottom of the Third Division.

"I have always been with the underdog," he joked.

The latest novel sits alongside probably Abse's most famous work Ash on a Young Man's Sleeve, which charts the writer's adolescence growing up with his two brothers in south Wales in the 1930s.

It also includes early memories of Abse's first visit to the Ninian Park ground accompanied by elder brother Leo, who went on to become Labour MP for Pontypool and Torfaen.

That work - first published almost 50 years ago - is now being reissued but Abse admits to it still having "too many adjectives".


Medicine is a vocation, whereas poetry is destiny

Dannie Abse

Inbetween, he has worked as a journalist, written several books and poems, drawing vastly on his Jewish and Welsh background.

This latest journal-style novel then is a departure for him.

Set in London's Hampstead in the 1950s, when Abse himself worked as a physician in a chest clinic, the main character Dr Simmonds 'is slightly anti-Semetic'.

Abse makes use of his encounter with the earlier Swedish novel Dr Glas, incorporating it into the work and reworking it while guiding his own Dr Simmonds towards an altruistic act of murder towards a Jewish victim.

The work touches on some troubled and still topical themes - of euthanasia, the fallout after the war, and the refugee question.

Dannie Abse
Abse read from some of his earlier work

Abse, who has a home in south Wales, admits that his own early experiences as a doctor helped him with writing the work.

"Medicine is a vocation, whereas poetry is destiny," said the writer, who admitted his own debt to Dylan Thomas.

Now 79, and drawing towards the end of a career of much distinction, Abse said he believed his writing days were almost over.

"I don't know if I have got another book to write... but at the moment I think I have another poem in me."

But the eternal question for the lifelong Bluebirds supporter still remains - will Cardiff City ever gain promotion to the Premier League?

See also:

31 Jul 99 | Wales
09 Nov 98 | Entertainment
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