Richard Owain Roberts

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Richard Owain Roberts
Richard Owain Roberts.png
Born1982 (age 39–40)
Ynys Môn, Wales
LanguageEnglish, Welsh
Notable worksAll The Places We Lived (2015), Hello Friend We Missed You (2020)
Notable awardsNot The Booker (2020), Penfro short story prize (2019)

Richard Owain Roberts (born 1982) is a Welsh author. He is the author of two books, All The Places We Lived and Hello Friend We Missed You, which has been hailed as "a turning point for Welsh fiction"[1] .

Hello Friend We Missed You won the 2020 Not The Booker prize[2] in a "stunning victory that, for the English literary establishment at least, seemed to come from nowhere".[3]

There has been international interest in adapting his work for film and television.[4]

Known for his elusive reputation, Roberts has been described as "an important new voice in fiction, not just in Wales"[5] and an "authentic interpreter of contemporary hipster hell".[6]

Roberts is a supporter of Welsh independence and is a member of the non-party affiliated YesCymru movement.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Roberts was born and raised on Ynys Môn,[8] his first language is Welsh[9] and he has made a point of refusing to recognise the name Anglesey in interviews[10] or his work.[11]

Describing his time on Ynys Môn, Roberts said:  "It was very tranquil and idyllic but also it’s one of the most deprived places in Wales. I wasn’t fully aware of this at the time, it was probably just normal to me. A lot of people at my school arrived in Jaguars and Range Rovers but my friend and I used to show up in an old Lada. Seems really defiant somehow. I don’t know."[10]

Roberts studied English literature at the University of Manchester before joining the creative writing MA programme at Liverpool John Moores University[12] and more recently Bennington College[13]

All The Places We Lived[edit]

All The Places We Lived was published by Parthian Books in May 2015.[14] Roberts said he wrote most of the book at Chapter Arts Centre while listening to Kanye West: "I listened to 808 & Heartbreak during the writing period for All The Places We Lived and then Yeezus during editing."[15]

The book features a story about two characters named Kanye and Kim, which many reviewers have taken to be West and his wife Kim Kardashian.[16][17] It also features characters called James, Dave and Betsy Lou Franco and Eazy-E.[16][18]

Wales Arts Review selected it as one of their summer reads for 2015, João Morais stating that, "Read it if you like the understated satirical style of Bret Easton Ellis, or read it if you understand how Frank and April Wheeler can feel both alone yet together in Richard YatesRevolutionary Road. But more than anything, read it if you like great fiction."[19]

Bridey Heing, writing for Sabotage Reviews, stated that, "For the author, being human means a very particular brand of self-sabotage and misanthropy... he is more of an observer, documenting each interaction and each movement without commentary. His prose balances starkness with a unique lyricism borne of repetition, a flowing sort of growth from sentence to sentence. The writing is lean, with no extra filler to soften its harsh edges."[16]

Cult book review website Workshy Fop stated that, "Roberts creates strange, disjointed narratives; his prose features lists, brutally short sentences, social media updates and offbeat pop-culture references. The vignettes presented in All The Places We Lived reflect the influence of social media and marketing on our perception of the world and the people around us, with a darkly comic humour."[18]

Serbia tour and Terrence Malick[edit]

The Serbian translation of All The Places We Lived was released in November 2017 by Serbian publishing house Partizanska Knjiga. In his foreword, an essay titled 'Kim is Offline', the novelist and critic Srđan Srdić described Richard Owain Roberts as a natural successor to David Foster Wallace.[6] The forthcoming documentary, ULTRA, is set to cover Roberts' time in Serbia promoting the translation.

In September 2019, Roberts won the Penfro short story prize, judged by Niall Griffiths, for his story Terrence Malick.[20] Writing in Wales Arts Review, Nigel Jarrett described the story as, "fresh, fugitive, dreamlike, yet one in which the writer is in complete control of the aesthetic".[5]

In a review for Nation.Cymru, Jon Gower compared Roberts' writing to Paul Auster and said, "shot through with references to popular culture, cocaine and Pringles, the story acts as a playful, edgy advert for Roberts’ forthcoming debut novel".[21]

The Zero Point Fiction podcast has released an episode with Roberts reading the story.[22]

Hello Friend We Missed You[edit]

Robert's second book Hello Friend We Missed You was published by Parthian Books in May 2020 and won The Guardian's Not The Booker Prize in October 2020[23][24] with the competition organiser Sam Jordison writing "The net result is a novel that has impressed me more than any other on our shortlist. I do believe we’ve found a gem."[25]

It is described by the publisher as: "A deeply poignant and bleakly comic debut novel about loneliness, the 'violent revenge thriller' category on Netflix, solipsism, rural gentrification, Jack Black, and learning to exist in the least excruciating way possible."[8]

The Irish Times included it on a list of "books to watch out for" from independent publishers in 2020.[26]

Anthony Cummins writing for Literary Review, having made comparisons with Tao Lin and Martin Amis, said of the novel, "[it] is recognisably alt-lit in style and sensibility, but with the benefit of added heart. Above all, it succeeds because of Roberts’s gift for comic timing and for dialogue that rings true – or ‘rings true’, I should say."[27]

Kirkus Reviews described the novel as "a witty, irony-rich coming-of-age story" and a "brisk, surprisingly deep debut novel" that "recalls Roddy Doyle, albeit at more of an emotional remove."[28]

Duncan B Barlow, formerly of legendary cult punk band Endpoint, writing for Vol.1 Brooklyn wrote, "It's Roberts’ writing that really makes the story something special—a steady pulse of short sections and tightly wrought sentences which develop a rhythm that ripples forward in a wake of momentum, carrying the story forward with a delightful quickness."[29]

The novel was described in Wales Arts Review as "a witty and imaginative reflection on grief, loss and the importance of moving forward".[30] New Welsh Review compared Roberts to Bret Easton Ellis and said he was "able to perfectly capture the nihilism and pop culture of the adult millennial generation."[31] Hello Friend We Missed You was later shortlisted for the Wales Arts Review Book of the Year prize,[32] with the final award eventually going to the recently deceased Jan Morris for her non fiction collection Thinking Again.

In August 2020, the novel was included on The Guardian's Not the Booker prize longlist alongside such contemporaries as Jenny Offill, Garth Greenwell, Brandon Taylor and Rob Doyle.[33] It then survived a voting process[34] to be included on a six-book shortlist.[35] Speaking after being nominated, Roberts said: "I am very happy for anyone to email me, and my idea now is to continue and focus in this moment."[4]

On announcing Hello Friend We Missed You as the winner in October, Sam Jordison stated, "At the end of this process, we have a worthy winner. Hello Friend We Missed You is just the kind of book we hope to find with the Not the Booker prize. It’s a title that has not yet been widely reviewed, from a small publisher and – most importantly – by a writer of real talent and potential. It took me by surprise when I read it, and it’s haunted me ever since. It’s formally daring, with clipped sentences, short elliptical chapters, and almost impressionistic streams of thought. It’s also very funny. (The title itself turns out to be a fine joke about Domino’s Pizza.) But it’s the emotional complexity and gentle melancholy of the book that endures. It’s a moving experience – and that matters. Especially in a difficult year such as this one."[23]

The BBC Radio Review Show described Hello Friend We Missed You as "a turning point in Welsh fiction"[36]

As with Roberts' short fiction debut All The Places We Lived, the Serbian language rights for Hello Friend We Missed You have been acquired by Partizanska Knjiga, the first time Parthian Books have sold foreign translation rights ahead of English language publication.[37] According to the publisher, "Roberts follows Jarett Kobek, Ben Lerner and Miranda July as the latest English-language novelist to have his work translated into Serbian."[37]

A video of Roberts reading from the novel was published by Wales Arts Review,[38] along with a short clip of ULTRA,[39] as part of its Digithon festival, organised in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The novel was included by Tao Lin on a list of books he read in 2021, with praise for the "narrator's comically detached confusion".[40]

Personal life and controversies[edit]

In an interview with the Serbian cultural and political magazine NIN (magazine) Roberts stated his preference for partaking in MMA over sedentary activities.[41]

After the release of his first book, Roberts was "involved in a couple of spats that played out in the public forum".[10] Roberts' evasive and truculent approach to answering questions led Tachwedd to compare him to Joffrey Baratheon from the Game of Thrones television series.

Roberts, who is a vegan,[42] currently lives in Cardiff with his wife, daughters, and cat, Abi The God.[14] He has worked as a teacher at Cardiff prison[12] as well as delivering leaflets for "less than minimum wage".[43] Outside of writing, Roberts likes to "read sports management biographies on my wife’s Kindle, look at Jaden and Willow’s Twitter, walk aimlessly around Mount Chiliad trying to befriend the wildlife".[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Review Show - Not the Booker Prize, Comedy Podcasts, Gwenifer Raymond's Welsh Primitive and Bassey's Swansong - BBC Sounds". 2020-12-07. Archived from the original on 2020-12-07. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  2. ^ Jordison, Sam (2020-10-26). "Not the Booker prize 2020: Richard Owain Roberts wins with Hello Friend We Missed You". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-10-27.
  3. ^ Raymond, Gary (2021-09-30). "Richard Owain Roberts in Conversation". Wales Arts Review. Retrieved 2021-09-30.
  4. ^ a b "Welsh writer's debut novel up for prestigious award". Western Mail. August 25, 2020. p. 13.
  5. ^ a b Jarrett, Nigel (2020-01-08). "Heartland: The Penfro Anthology". Wales Arts Review. Retrieved 2020-01-08.
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ Roberts, Richard Owain (2020-09-17). "Running as an Art: Richard Owain Roberts". Wales Arts Review. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  8. ^ a b "Hello Friend We Missed You". Parthian Books. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  9. ^ "Interview: Guillaume Morissette". Plastik Magazine. 2014-06-18. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  10. ^ a b c Tachwedd, Bethan (2015-05-11). "So, Who is Richard Owain Roberts?". Wales Arts Review. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  11. ^ scottmanleyhadley (2020-08-30). "Hello Friend We Missed You by Richard Owain Roberts". Triumph Of The Now. Retrieved 2020-08-31.
  12. ^ a b "Richard Owen Roberts - Wales Literature Exchange". Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  13. ^ "Richard Owain Roberts in Conversation". 30 September 2021.
  14. ^ a b "All The Places We Lived - Parthian Books".
  15. ^ a b themetreview (2015-11-04). "Interview with Richard Owain Roberts Conducted by Renn Hubbuck-Melly". The Metropolitan Review. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  16. ^ a b c "All The Places We Lived by Richard Owain Roberts". Sabotage. 8 July 2015.
  17. ^ Milsom, Rhys (2015-07-15). "Fiction | All The Places We Lived by Richard Owain Roberts". Wales Arts Review. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  18. ^ a b "Workshy Fop: All the Places We Lived - Richard Owain Roberts".
  19. ^ "Our Summer Reads". Wales Arts Review. 9 July 2015.
  20. ^ "Penfro Festival".
  21. ^ "Review: Heartland - Penfro Anthology offers range and verve in the writing". Nation.Cymru. 2020-01-11. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  22. ^ "Zero Point Fiction: Terrence Malick by Richard Owain Roberts". Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  23. ^ a b "Not the Booker prize 2020: Richard Owain Roberts wins with Hello Friend We Missed You". The Guardian. 2020-10-26. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  24. ^ "Hello Friend We Missed You". Parthian Books. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  25. ^ "Not the Booker: Hello Friend We Missed You by Richard Owain Roberts – the gem of this year's shortlist". The Guardian. 2020-10-05. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  26. ^ Falvey, Deirdre. "57 books to watch out for in 2020 – all from independent publishers". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2020-01-30.
  27. ^ "Anthony Cummins - Like Hell". Literary Review. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  28. ^ HELLO FRIEND WE MISSED YOU | Kirkus Reviews.
  29. ^ "Life's Unexpected Detours: On Richard Owain Roberts's "Hello Friend We Missed You" – Vol. 1 Brooklyn". Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  30. ^ Pearson, Gemma (2020-06-01). "Books | Hello Friend We Missed You by Richard Owain Roberts". Wales Arts Review. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  31. ^ "Hello Friend We Missed You". New Welsh Review. 2020-06-30. Retrieved 2020-07-08.
  32. ^ "Welsh Books - Our Best of 2020". Wales Arts Review. 2020-12-07. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  33. ^ Jordison, Sam (2020-08-03). "Not the Booker prize longlist: vote now to decide the 2020 shortlist". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  34. ^ Jordison, Sam (2020-08-17). "Not the Booker 2020: the first three novels on our shortlist are …". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-08-18.
  35. ^ "Not the Booker: Emma Donoghue, Abi Daré and Shahnaz Ahsan join the shortlist". The Guardian. 2020-08-24. Retrieved 2020-08-25.
  36. ^
  37. ^ a b "Translation rights signed for Hello Friend We Missed You". Parthian Books. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  38. ^ Review, Wales Arts (2020-03-27). "Digithon Lit | Richard Owain Roberts". Wales Arts Review. Retrieved 2020-03-28.
  39. ^ Review, Wales Arts (2020-03-27). "Digithon Cinema | Ultra". Wales Arts Review. Retrieved 2020-03-28.
  40. ^ Lin, Tao (2022-01-11). "Leave Society: Books I read in 2021". Leave Society. Retrieved 2022-01-12.
  41. ^ "Richard Owain Roberts NIN Interview TRANSLATION from Serbian".
  42. ^ Gilliver, Liam (27 August 2020). "Plant-Based Writer Shortlisted For Major Award After Publishing Book Centered On Veganism". Vegan News, Plant Based Living, Food, Health & more. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  43. ^ Roberts, Richard Owain (2016-12-06). "What It's Like to Work for Less Than the Minimum Wage". Vice. Retrieved 2020-01-16.

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