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News from the Glen

The Glen: An Gleann – Recollections from a Lost World, by Séamas Ó Maolchathaigh translated and edited from the Irish by Micheál Ó hAodha, ISBN: 978-1851321049 In his book Outrageous Fortune Joe Cleary argues that “the most obvious form of licensed ignorance across the intellectual field has to do with the Irish language”. Certainly, cocksure judgments on the language revival or on literature written in Irish are commonplace among cultural historians unfamiliar with the language. But while their untenable self-assurance is remarkable, it is only fair to note that the number of literary texts translated from contemporary Irish is limited and that, for those cut off from the language an element of posturing may be the sole option. A common belief among language revivalists was that the growth of a modern literature in Irish tangibly demonstrated the success of the revival: literature gave the literary public a concrete reason to embrace the language. Recent years have witnessed a gradual erosion of this aversion to translation, not least as a result of the widespread teaching of Irish in North American universities and some at least of the literary achievements of the language revival are available to the present generation, much as the Blasket autobiographies were available to a generation of English readers in the1930s. The Glen: An Gleann, Recollections from a Lost World, translated by Micheál Ó hAodha ‑ from an original, An Gleann agus a Raibh Ann written by Séamus Ó Maolchathaigh (1884-1968) of Cruan, Newcastle on the south Tipperary-Waterford border and published in 1963 ‑ continues this trend towards translation of twentieth century texts. As a literary work this text is not easily defined. It is described in an unsigned preface to the original (not reproduced here) as “beathaisnéis shamhlaíoch”, an imaginative autobiography; it is described by the author himself in a foreword (not reproduced here either) as lacking anything that does not have “bunús fírinne”, a basis in fact. This type of fictionalised autobiography had already been published by the Donegal writer “Fionn mac Cumhail” (Maghnus Mac Cumhail) in his 1939 work Na Rosa go Bráthach, and given that Ó Maolchathaigh’s original is likely to have been written long before its publication in the1960s, the Donegal work may well have been an illustrative precedent, part of a genre described by Máirín Nic Eoin in Trén bhFearann Breac: An Díláthrú Cultúir agus Nualitríocht na Gaeilge as “na húrscéalta agus na saothair réigiúnacha a raibh sé mar…

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