The Way It Is
The Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard has admitted that he dislikes plots and feels oppressed by fictions. Writing, for him, is rather ‘a matter of trying somehow to reach the real life, how it tastes and feels. And there’s no story in real life. More than anything, stories stand in the way.’
The High Deeds of Fionn
The historical institution of the ‘fían’, on which the Fianna tales are based, provided an outlet for young free-born men, allowing them to improve their hunting and fighting skills. It was, however, seen by the church as a disruptive force, given to robbery and plundering.
Our Language, Their Babble
German concentration and extermination camps were run by the speakers of one language but inhabited by speakers of many others. Interpretation became necessary to both sides. Linguistic skills helped some inmates to survive, but the deployment of these skills could involve a cost.
Hunger Amid Plenty
By late 1846 there were 1,207 inmates in Tralee workhouse and families were being turned away, even though they met the admission criteria. In 1847 the famine worsened, yet the wealthy continued to celebrate festive occasions like the Tralee races with lavish dinners and balls.
A Bhealach Féin
The writer and thinker Desmond Fennell has spent nearly seven decades searching for ways in which we – the Irish that is, but not just the Irish – might live a civilised and decent life. If we had already been close to being able to live such a life there would have been no need for the search.
Circuitry of the Snowflake
The late Elise Partridge’s poems dealing with her cancer note that blurred vision can be a side effect of treatment. Yet even blurred vision – the alphabet letters b and d made out as ‘beer-bellied cousins’ – can for a poet mean enhanced vision, and seeing anew through metaphor and analogy.
Mark Granier’s poems are full of skies and hauntings, the missing, the dead, time’s erasures, ‘the slow shift of light’, the closely observing eye lighting on the city and where the city meets light and water and sky. He is, as one poem has it, an eternal ‘cloud watcher, seawatcher’.
A novel set on Rathlin Island at the end of the nineteenth century takes as its subject the arrival of Marconi’s men to conduct an experiment transmitting sound across the sea. It derives its considerable force from the conjunction of archaism and modernity, the clash of material and immaterial forces.
Mother of Invention
Éilís Ní Dhuibne is a deceptive writer, deceptively light in tone, deceptively erudite in her references, deceptively irreverent in her treatment of form. Her literariness betrays itself when she pulls the narrative rug from under the reader and in her likeness for embroideries and yarns.
A Study of Scarlet
Michel Pastoureau’s account of the history of the colour red is in many respects fascinating. But what worked well for his previous studies of black, blue and green comes up a little short for red, a colour which is oceanic and in whose multiplicity of meanings one might well drown.