The Novel in Irish since 1950: From National Narrative to Counter-Narrative

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No matter how often a book is praised, the praise is meaningless for English-language readers without Irish until they can read the text in translation. (1)

This essay describes the main trends and developments within the Irish-language novel in the period 1950-2000. It is intended for those interested in the genre but hindered by a dearth of translations. (2) This essay does not seek to bring salt to Galway by duplicating the scholarship currently available in such articles, nor will it depict the novel decade by decade or comment on the major authors in a summary of their works. Rather, I hope to provide an overview of the novel in Irish since the mid-century by considering some major themes. Such a thematic approach will inevitably offer but a limited perspective: genuine appreciation can be achieved only by reading the novels in the original and consulting the criticism, the vast majority of which is also written in Irish. My approach to the Irish novel of this period is to consider two major thematics: a counter-narrative tradition writing against perceived stereotypes, and the tradition which seeks to expand and contemporize the novel through lexical experimentation. While the format I have adopted goes beyond an author-by-author approach or one focusing on a handful of novels, it is not without its flaws and limitations. But, absent the ability to read original texts and consider critical writings in Irish, it may serve to familiarize readers with trends in the modern novel in Irish.

The Free State Narrative

Before considering the counter-narrative, we must briefly consider the national narrative which modern writers are seeking to destabilize. Ensuing from the Revival and Free State efforts to offset centuries of negative portrayals, this narrative attempted to elevate the national culture by imbuing the nation with pride in its achievements and by emphasizing the dignity of its language, its culture, and its beliefs. The idealization of Irish native speakers, inhabitants of An Ghaeltacht--the official term for the Irish-speaking districts, i.e. a region in which Irish is the first language--and their wholesome lifestyle and oral culture was a central aspect of this cultural nationalist project. Maire Ni Annrachain, a literary critic and theorist, posits that the veneration of native speakers and cultural values of An Ghaeltacht derives from

the favouring of relentless realism, combined both with romantic, anti-industrial attachment to the supposedly pre-industrial life, and with the demands of cultural nationalism, [which] together meant that in so far as literary interest continued in traditional Gaeltacht life, that interest found most expression in a steady stream of regional, Gaeltacht, autobiography. (3)

An outstanding illustration which captures the dreary national narrative and the reaction against it is novelist and journalist Breandan O hEithir's recollection of the excitement Mairtin O Cadhain's Cre na Cille [Churchyard Clay] (1949) generated when first published:

Young Gaeltacht people, like myself, who had long tired of 'an teach beag in ascaill an ghleanna' [the small house in the corner of the glen], the sexless Nabla and the gormless Tadhg, could hardly believe our eyes when we read in the pages of this whirlwind of a book that the man with the dole form to fill, coming silently to the school after three o'clock, saw An Maistir Mor [The Big School Master] having it off with his assistant in the classroom. (4)

The Free State novel (1922-49) was by and large a genre which reflected the conservative Catholic and Gaelic agenda of the Statelet's various political administrations. The novel during this period retreated from the promise offered by Revivalist novelists such as Padraic O Conaire and Liam P. O Riain. That retreat, coupled with the censorship enacted most particularly on Sean O Caomhanaigh's Fanai (5) [Wanderer], and with the delays in publishing works by Seosamh Mac Grianna, (6) ensured that the Free State Irish-language novel was an innocuous and inoffensive object which re-enforced Catholic doctrine and offered no challenge to the Free State. (7) Novels of this period reinforced the link between the Catholic faith, the language, and the land, a trinity which critic Philip O'Leary describes as 'a central article of the unspoken nationalist creed'. (8) Similar to the role and function of Social Realism in the post-revolution Soviet Union and early Nazi Germany which subordinated art to the needs and dictates of the Party, the novels produced by An Gum (the State Publishing Agency established in 1925 to oversee publishing in Irish) served and fostered the State's aspirations through art. (9) If the Russian artist was the engineer of the human soul, the An Gum novelist was the draughtsman of the Gaelicized Free State. The native speaker as a result became the idealized image for the emulation of the subject reader. The Maynooth critic Tadhg O Dushlaine contends that from the Revival until the 1960s a Puritan and Victorian moral code in tandem with nationalistic propaganda ruled literature in Irish. (10) The Free State novel in Irish, in addition to largely avoiding the Civil War (1922-23), was dominated by tropes of fractured families, characters of uncertain identity, insecurity about legality, and the social condition of the Irish-speaking districts. The few novels in Irish that did challenge Free State orthodoxies of piety faced censorship and or considerable delays. Autobiographical texts of native Irish speakers served as paradigms for the post-revolutionary Irish generations. (11) The 'sexless Nabla and the gormless Tadhg' in their picturesque locality, monetarily poor but spiritually wealthy, lived a jolly and terrifically Gaelic life under the guiding eye of a benign priest, occasionally interrupted by visitors from the degenerate city or immoral London.

The institutional history of Free State literature in Irish is the story of An Gum. The national narrative in Irish under An Gum's tutelage emphasized native Irish speakers' 'Irishness', their physical superiority, their deliverance from degeneration, and their higher moral values. Evidence of such abounds, but Padhraic Og O Conaire's Ean Cuideain [Odd Bird] (1923), Sean O Ciarghusa's Bun An Da Abhann [Mouth of the Two Rivers] (1933), Diarmuid O hEigeartaigh's Tadhg Ciallmhar [Clever Tadhg] (1934), and Sean O Ruadhain's Padraic Mhaire Bhain no An Gol agus an Gaire [Fair Maire's Padraic or the Tear and the Laugh] (1936) are emblematic of the hypocrisy and humbug which, many critics believe, An Gum cultivated. Philip O'Leary sums up the literary credo of Padhraic Og O Conaire, one of the most productive novelists of this period:

The creation of sympathetic and authentic fictional accounts of the lifestyles and values of the people of his native Conamara were to be the guiding principles of Padhraic Og O Conaire's literary life. [...] Yet paradoxically his own novels [...] are now themselves seen as virtual caricatures, clumsy, naive, and/or propagandistic idealizations of the Gaeltacht folk the new Irish state wished to advance, in theory at least, as the backbone of the new emergent nation. (12)

Seamus O Neill, the Ulster author of Maire Nic Artain (13) (1959) and Tonn Tuile [Tidal Wave] (1947), which dealt with marriage failure in urban Ireland, complained that 'translations and the publication of original writing of the poorest quality have blunted the effectiveness of An Gum. One could make an intimidating list of books that were worse than sheer waste of paper'. (14) Mairtin O Cadhain, candid as ever, dismissed such productions as follows:

They need not detain us. They are as harmless as cement or tractor novels. Under this soviet organisation of literature [An Gum] two censorships operated, the ordinary state censorship and a special Gum censorship which presumed that everything that was to be written in Irish was for children or nuns. (15)

Efforts to widen the novel's timid and limited scope commence in the final years of the Free State. Flann O'Brien (sometimes Brian O Nualain, sometimes Myles na gCopaleen), after initial rejection, succeeded in having his first novel in Irish published by the National Book Press in 1941. O Nualain's An Beal Bocht [The Poor Mouth] exposed the cultural nationalist cant that permeated the vast majority of novels in Irish during the Free State. Despite his averred respect for Tomas O Criomhthain's legendary autobiography An tOileanach (16) [The Islandman] (1929), O Nualain's satirical novel savaged the thinly disguised polemics which idealized the inhabitants of the Irish-speaking districts. O Nualain's effort to subvert this ideological prescriptive was bolstered by Mairtin O Cadhain's episodic novel Cre na Cille [Churchyard Clay] (1949). O Cadhain submitted his manuscript to An Gum only to have it rejected on the grounds that it was too 'Joycean'. Sairseal & Dill, an independent publishing house founded by Sean O hEigeartaigh, which provided an outlet for new authors in Irish, did publish it in 1949. Like An Beal Bocht, it too attacks the officially sanctioned perception of Irish-speaking districts and inverts the national narrative by portraying its inhabitants as just as mean-spirited, corrupt, and petty-minded as any other collection of human beings in any other locality, and rejected the idea that the mere possession of Irish ensured higher moral behaviour, richer spirituality, and innate cultural sophistication. While An Beal Bocht was written by an outsider, Cre na Cille was written from the inside, by a fellow native speaker and native son. Just as the Gaelic League baulked at Liam O'Flaherty's decision to write in English, many cultural nationalists seethed at O Cadhain's depiction of An Ghaeltacht. Reaction to this second assault on the official State version of Irish life, in the words of critic Joan Trodden Keefe, 'ranged from puerile hostility to bewildered awe'. (17)

The destruction of the revivalist national narrative came at a cost. It created a vacuum, which novels in Irish have struggled to fill ever since, replicating the dilemma of other post-revolutionary States around the world. (18) Today's counter-narrative novelists, successors to O Cadhain and O'Brien, still feel the burden of the Free State legacy. Many of them consider that culture and literature in Irish suffered from being framed as rural, religious, revivalist, and fit only for nuns and school children. They reject the stereotypes defined by Revival traditionalists and conservatives and propagated by Free State writers under An Gum's edicts. Such stereotypes portrayed Ireland and Irish as a symbiosis of strict Catholic morality, traditional culture, and values exemplified by poitin distilling, match-making, card-playing, crossroads-dancing, fishing, and subsistence farming. While this complex originated in the Free State period, it combined with the inevitable neurosis of writing in a minority language to affect many (perhaps all) writers in Irish. Consequently, they feel an urge to validate their work and their tradition against the infinitely more powerful Irish literary tradition in English. Burdened with this yoke across their collective broad shoulders, some retreat into satire, some return to battering the ever-persistent national narrative, while others seek to investigate the issue of identity as it pertains to Ireland, the Irish language and in the modern world. (19)

These counter-narrative writers recognize the misguided patriotism and loyalty that produced what they consider such drivel, but emphatically deny that it reflects or represents Irish-language literature and refute the notion that it speaks for either Irish-language writing or culture. Paradoxically of course, the traditional school and its ideology dominate the writing of the counter-narrative authors. The Free State narrative defines the counter-narrative that is compelled to define itself in negative terms: uncertain as to its identity, definite only what it is not.

In an important article entitled 'Triocha Bliain Ag Fas' [Thirty Years A' Growing] Tadhg O Dushlaine cited some of the most prominent and influential Irish-language critics, noting in particular their shared belief that the novel is, among other things, the most underdeveloped genre in twentieth-century Irish-language writing--that Irish is in fact bereft of a novel tradition. (20) In a devastating overview, he challenged their collective understanding and proceeded to detail the history of novels in Irish from 1895 to 1990. Shortly after O Dushlaine's article Alan Titley's weighty and significant monograph on the Irish novel An tUrsceal Gaeilge [The Irish Novel] (21) appeared. Titley's intervention transformed the academic study of the novel in Irish and initiated the publication of several further studies.

These counter-narrative authors strive to destabilize this traditional perception and to challenge readers, frequently by shocking them in opening scenes. (22) Padraig Ua Maoileoin's novel Bride Bhan [Fair Bride] (1968), for example, commences with the female hero posing a question, which in translation, reads: 'Where's the man in this [Gaeltacht] locality that's worth a girl sleeping with?' (23) Padraic Standun's Suil le Breith [Lovers] (1983) starts with the native speaker Paddy McEvilly contemplating masturbation into a sock, a trick he learned not from a folktale or oral culture but from John McGahern's The Dark (1965). (24) Mairtin O Muilleoir's Ceap Cuddles [Cuddles' Plan] (1996), a spoof on Belfast politics and the 'Peace-Process' in which Sinn Fein politicians debate whether to decommission their linguistic arsenal of Fr Dineen's Dictionary, begins: 'Fred lifted his cheek from his chair and released a long watery fart, buuuuurrrrpppp.' (25) This urge to appal and provoke is no mere opening technique designed to seize a reader's attention; it is emblematic of a deeper concern: to define the text as distinct and unencompassed by the national narrative tradition. Seamus Mac Annaidh's Cuaifeach Mo Londubh Bui [My Yellow Blackbird's Whirlwind] (1983) is described by one critic as a novel in which 'the debunking of the national myth continues and all the sacred cows are slaughtered'. (26) The Canadian-based novelist Padraig O Siadhail's Eagnairc [Absence] (1994) revolves around the events of Bloody Sunday (30 January 1972) in Derry and the issues of memory and trauma. It has been described as a far cry from the triumphalism of Fr Padraig Ua Duinnin/Patrick Dineen's Cormac Ua Conaill (1901), the first historical novel in Irish. (27) His Peaca an tSinsir [Original Sin] (1996) is the tale of a university professor accused of sexually assaulting his female graduate student and his subsequent removal from the University. Donall Mac Amhlaigh's satirical novel Schnitzer O Se (28) (1974) continues in lightly veiled satire where An Beal Bocht paused by pursuing urban language enthusiasts and their literary pretensions from the linguistic heartlands to their Dublin base. Lorcan S. O Treasaigh's Bas san Oirthear [Death in the East] (1992) with its aptly named narrator Caoilte O Broin similar to Hugo Hamilton's memoir The Speckled People (2003), describes the childhood of a Revivalist's son. O Treasaigh's narrator forgoes the more tender portrayal offered by Hamilton and satirizes the Revivalist as a horned animal with a tail hidden beneath his tweed coat.

Again and again, counter-narrative writers of the Irish Republic shatter the revered icons of Revival and Free State Ireland in adult novels. (29) If the Free State narrative idealized the natural beauty of An Ghaeltacht and beatified the native speaker, the counter-tradition dispels the lyrical Bord Failte [Irish Tourist Board] description of Western Ireland, and the native speaker is indistinguishable from any other European pleb. (30) The poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill suggests 'basically our generation's job as Irish speakers and writers is the de-Gaelicization of Ireland. It's a natural development, maybe, of the de-Anglicization of Ireland'. (31) O Dushlaine, writing in the literary journal Comhar in 1987, mischievously imagines the modern writer in Irish as a clerical student or novitiate who jumps the wall and, after a long abstinence, is driven mad by a first glimpse of Playboy and Private Eye. Consumed by desire and greed, contact with life's pleasure and peril leads to insanity. (32) This humorous comparison stresses the radical shift from the national narrative to the counter-narrative and captures many of the strains found in post-World War II writing in Irish.

Writers who may be assigned to the counter-narrative category are Padraig Standun, Breandan O hEithir, Micheal O Conghaile, Maidhc Dainin O Se, Robert Welch, Padraic Breathnach, and Aodh O Canainn. In their project such authors seek to portray a Gaeltacht and an Ireland so culturally inverted that Free State readers would hardly recognize it. The critic and poet Sean O Tuama has noted that Diarmuid O Suilleabhain's novel An Uain Bheo [The Living Moment] (1968) 'deals with the dissolute fringes of contemporary urban life in a style which is nervous, impressionistic, and a little bewildering for anyone brought up on Gaeltacht life'. (33) In their compulsion to offer an alternative vision to the dominant trope these authors feel free to incorporate whatever sites, subjects, and controversial characters they feel necessary. All that was once repressed and censored floods forth in abundance in the contemporary Irish-language novel: clerical celibacy (Padraig Standun), political and religious conspiracy (Aodh O Canainn, Micheal O Ciosoig), religious belief (Padraig Standun), child adoption scandals (Joe Steve O Neachtain), homosexuality (Padraig Standun, Micheal O Conghaile), drug smuggling (Maidhc Dainin O Se), and human bondage, devil worship, and sexual fantasy (Robert Welch). Sex, either pre-marital or marital, having momentarily raised its head in 1910 in O Conaire's Deoraiocht [Exile], and again in Mac Giolla Iasachta's Cursai Thomais: shios seal a's shuas seal [Tomas' Affairs: Times Good and Bad] (1927), all but failed to reappear within the covers of any An Gum novel; nowadays it is apparently compulsory. (34)

Ironically, the counter-narrative is based on a false premise: just as the representation it seeks to denigrate is fictional, so the reader it hopes to scandalize is fabricated. The Fainne-toting, tweed-suit-wearing, Messenger-reading, soccer-hating Irish-language fanatic reader, while a convenient oppositional construct, is ultimately a chimera. As the idyllic West and the reservoir of authentic culture is a bogus paradigm, so is the novel-reading language fanatic an invention. The dependence of many counter-narrative novelists on the national narrative recalls poet Sean O Riordain's comment on the modern Irish writer and the weight of tradition, quoted and translated by Cathal G. O Hainle:

Were it not for the old tradition he pretends to attack, he would be barren. [...] He had to make his own of the tradition which preceded him in order to reject it. He has taken possession of the old tradition so completely, he has digested the old tradition so thoroughly, it has become so utterly part of him, that the new independent thing which he writes will be brimming over with the old tradition. It is in his rejection of it that the countenance of the tradition will be clearly visible. (35)

The counter-narrative tradition is focused on historical cultural debates and driven by outmoded ideological and cultural nationalist concerns. In addition, the reader might note that there is no evidence that either committed and active language activist or the token language enthusiast reads contemporary literature. Counter-narrative texts, rather than shocking their intended audience, are read by the converted--thus confirming their rhetorical and ideological opinions. Rather than being challenging and seditious, they tend to be predictable and harmless.

However, from time to time a novel appears that achieves its aim and offers more than a simplistic counter-narrative text. Examples of such are Lig Sinn i gCathu [Lead us into Temptation] (1976), Suil le Breith [Lovers] (1983), and Cuaifeach mo Londubh Bui [My Yellow Blackbird's Whirlwind] (1983). Yet shock value is a limited resource. No novelist has managed to write two novels that send a jolt through the Irish language discourse. Padraig Standun followed his first novel Suil le Breith with the futuristic A.D. 2016 (1988) and Cion Mna [A Woman's Love] (1993), a novel of spousal abuse and lesbian love in the Connemara Gaeltacht, but they failed to send a similar quiver down the collective Irish-speaking spine. Mac Annaidh's subsequent novels have similarly failed to replicate the hype surrounding his first novel. (36)

Standard Language: Stable Identity

A second broad trend among Irish novelists can be discerned in the group of writers who concern themselves with critiquing the nation and their identity through a rejection of the linguistic standard. Just as the counter-narrative authors rejected the stereotypes imposed from An Gum, located in the metropolitan centre, this group reject the linguistic standard imposed by State institutions, concerned less with resisting an antiquated and skewed image than on undermining the codified and standard language. Central to their project is a renewal of language and an adaptation of Irish to contemporary life in all registers and contexts. Robert Welch, author of the futuristic novel noir and Foucault-inspired Tearmann [Sanctuary] (1997),37 concludes his essay on Mairtin O Cadhain by paraphrasing one of the guiding philosophies of the Irish language movement: 'Language involves us in being. A people's language is involved with how they are, at the deepest level of awareness. To begin to realize that, for Irish people, is the beginning of the repossession of Ireland. Seen in this radical, indeed revolutionary way, life has the potential of transformation, in time, in the harshness of the actual.' (38) For many authors the most subtle way of critiquing identity and society is not through detailed plot construction, but through language. For them, codified Irish is impregnated with State control. A rejection of the language of the State is a radical challenge to control and gives power of language back to the margins at the expense of the centre. Titley has noted a concern with language register as a defining trait of Ireland's Irish-language literary tradition. Regarding the use of Hiberno-English dialect, he argues that 'its impetus is sentimental where it is not financial. In the case of Irish, it is much more likely to be part of the battle of the dialects, where each region tried to show by literary excellence that its particular forms should be dominant in whatever national standard would eventually emerge'. (39) The 'battle of the dialects' occurred in the first half of the twentieth century, but the use of dialect and non-standard Irish nowadays is demanded not by local pride and petty jealousy but by political and cultural requirements. The use of dialect, non-standard speech, irregular grammatical forms, hybrid words, newly composed terms, international cognates, and transliteration all signal a rejection of the cultural nationalist passion for cultural purity. If one's language is impure, one's identity is also tainted; if one's language is hybrid, one's identity is multifaceted. This school is particularly focused on language and on capturing the living language in its dynamic hybrid forms, its corrupt dialectical forms, its older richer literary forms and its freshly minted slang. Such writing appears in the radical linguistic register of Alan Titley, Donall Mac Amhlaigh, and Seamus Mac Annaidh, and may be found in less radical form in Eoghain Mac Cormaic, 'Robert Schumann', Padraig O Ciobhain, Liam Mac Coil, and Breandan O Doibhlin. Alan Titley, in response to complaints by critics such as Maire Mhac an tSaoi regarding the wordy and verbose style of his second novel Meirscri na Treibe [Tribal Scars] (1978), countered that that was indeed the point: 'What I wanted to do was to produce a language which would be as abundant, extravagant, ramshackled, excessive, weedy, wretched, wasteful, immoderate, unstable, immeasurable, inestimable as the forest growth itself', he proclaimed [translated]. (40)

An obsession with language defines these modern novelists. It is impossible to read such novels where language is anything but quiescent, without marvelling at their command, inventiveness and resourcefulness. Such a concern with language may seem quaint or over literary to the reader of a major world language; but concern with language is never mundane to the writer of a minority tongue. Just as oxygen is a given until the onset of suffocation, one is unperturbed by language until one begins to stutter and stammer and grope for the appropriate word. A concern with extending and critiquing language is at the heart of works as diverse as An Beal Bocht, Cre na Cille, Meirscri na Treibhe, and most recently, Ag Altoir An Diabhail: Stripease Spioradalta Bheartla B [At the Devil's Altar: The Spiritual Striptease of Beartla B] (2003) by Barcelona-based Tomas Mac Siomoin.

Titley, described by Ni Dhomhnaill as 'the epitome of anarchy', (41) recognizes the gaunt language of many modern Irish novels and dazzles us in his own works with an opulent vocabulary so that critic Sean O Tuama could write of his short stories that to read them is to imagine that the Irish language never suffered the linguistic fate that it endured. (42) Eoghan O Tuairisc commenced an article on Donall Mac Amhlaigh's Dialann Deorai [An Irish Navvy: The Diary of an Exile] (43) in a downbeat tone, describing it as 'dim and dull beyond redemption' and 'a most tiresome book, apparently nothing but the private jottings of a very naive young man'. (44) Yet O Tuairisc recognizes that Mac Amhlaigh

begins to find a new identity for himself in the creative amalgam of the two languages, an amalgam beginning to ring--not with the cliches of these tongues--but with the rich and very individual overtones of each. In this new medium, he explores, through the shifting scenes of the day, that deeper Exile for which there is no socio-political cure. [...] Mac Amhlaigh, I see now, is one of the real revolutionaries. His book is a must for all who have the remaking of Ireland at heart; and it is one which those who have but a modicum of remembered Irish can read. (45)

Seamus Mac Annaidh has received more critical attention than any of his contemporaries, much of which focuses on his dazzling and astounding manipulation of languages. Maolmhaodhog O Ruairc's slim but astute monograph Seamus Mac Annaidh agus Macallai sa Scathan [Seamus Mac Annaidh and Echoes in the Mirror] concentrates on Mac Annaidh's trilogy (Cuaifeach mo Lonndubh Bui (1983), Mo Dha Mhici [My Two Mickies] (1986), and Rubble na Mickies (1990)), (46) and on his most recent novel An Deireadh [The End/Conclusion] (1996). O Ruairc, a translator and the foremost advocate of overhauling and simplifying Irish grammar, commends Mac Annaidh for the blithe attitude towards grammar displayed in his novels. Irish, according to O Ruairc, is fixated on its own revival at the expense of efficiency and energy, worn out by the hucksters of learning and simplicity and certainty. Mac Annaidh, in his opinion, 'has achieved an incredible feat, as he has, to a certain point, attempted to save the language from the grammarians' grasp and the non-writers who have naught to say as well as from the brickies who do not understand architecture' (pp. 90-91). (47) The wilful distortion of language is an important weapon in the modern novelist's literary arsenal.

In an effort to transcend the counter-narrative tradition and to provide more than mere popular fiction, writers such as Padraig O Ciobhain, Breandan O Doibhlin, Eoghan O Tuairisc, Liam Mac Coil, and Diarmuid O Suilleabhain offer more cerebral and intellectual fare, which unfortunately renders them, perhaps, the most under-read novelists in Irish. O Ciobhain is the youngest of this quintet with three novels to his credit; in the opinion of Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill he writes 'a kind of metafiction the likes of which is hardly available in modern English in Ireland'. (48) O Ciobhain's literary credo draws on Italo Calvino's rejection of readers' expectations of what a story should be and on the scholarly writings of UCLA's Celtic scholar Joseph Falaky Nagy. The West Kerry-born O Ciobhain is attracted to Nagy's writing on Irish hagiography, in particular to the 'open-endedness [...] as story, the solving of narrative problems [...] that makes this literature resemble a mythology in its own right'. (49) The novelist describes his work as delineating life as lived and as creatively imagined. (50) He refuses to offer a definite perspective on anything within his novels, preferring a multifaceted and multidimensional approach, which requires the reader to evaluate and consider the varying depictions on offer. This style tends toward repetition and verbosity which militates against the novels' energy and poses challenges for readers' endurance.

O Doibhlin, a former professor of French at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, introduces French philosophical thought into his novels An Branar Gan Cur [The Fallow Plot] (1979), a probing philosophical tract on identity set on a train journey from Dublin to Derry which utilizes interior monologue. His works, like those of O Ciobhain, are erudite and weighty, designed for serious consideration and not for idle reading; more akin to John Banville or Milan Kundera than to Roddy Doyle or Joseph O'Connor. His Neal Maidine Agus Tine Oiche [Morning Cloud and Night Fire] (1964) commences by advising his reader than if they seek to pass a pleasant hour this is not the book for them. (51) Liam Mac Coil, novelist and literary critic, attests in relation to O Doibhlin's critical essays that 'reading Breandan O Doibhlin is like entering a severe intellectual world; such things as duty, the word of God, the Christian tradition, are taken as absolutes and his arguments are followed through with logical determination'. (52)

Bilingual novelist, dramatist, and poet Eoghan O Tuairisc, has been well served by his critics. Critic and literary historian Mairin Nic Eoin's study Eoghan O Tuairisc: Beatha agus Saothar [Eoghan O Tuairisc: Life and Work] combines textual criticism with biographical detail. (53) James M. Cahalan considers the historical novel L'Attaque [The Access/Attack] to be the best Irish historical novel of the early sixties in either language. (54) O Tuairisc's subsequent work, D, Luain [Monday], is a quasi-Proustian novel which focuses on recording the thoughts and impressions of a number of significant individuals, not on any mundane day, but a most important day, Easter Rebellion morning 1916.

Liam Mac Coil's An Dochtuir Athas [Doctor Joy] (1994), (55) whose use of Freud's life and his theories of psychoanalysis illustrates how far the novel has come since the folktale days of An tAthair Peadar's Seadna, (56) is in translator Gearailt Mac Eoin's opinion 'the classic Irish novel of the latter part of the century, holding its own with anything by William Trevor or John Banville'. (57) His second novel, An Claiomh Solais [The Sword of Light] (2003), described as 'a novel of ideas,' examines the role of television on society and tells of a young man's return from England to join an innovative television station which fronts a new cultural revolution. (58)

Finally, according to Sean O Tuama, Diarmaid O Suilleabhain 'has been the most dedicated writer of novels in recent times. His untraditional use of Irish and his experimental modes of narration make him also, one suspects, our most unread novelist of recent times. This is unfortunate for he is a writer of undeniable talent'. (59) O Suilleabhain, in Philip O'Leary's estimation,

has produced one of the most challenging and controversial bodies of work in the contemporary literature of either of Ireland's two languages. Over twenty-five years and eight novels he has confronted with ever-increasing sophistication and profundity some of the central themes of twentieth-century thought. While capable of savage criticism of what he sees as the moral decay of Irish society, he remains a courageous idealist refusing to compromise his belief in the ability of the Irish people to direct their lives and the life of their country with dignity and purpose. (60)

Much of the current crop may be perceived as post-nationalist writers who, in the words of Richard Kearney, perceive 'themselves as "mongrel islanders" rather than as dwellers in two pure, god-given and rival nation-states'. For such authors, he continues, 'there is no such thing as primordial nationality. Every nation is a hybrid construct, an "imagined" community which can be reimagined again in alternative versions'. (61) Such authors may be seen as concerned with questions and dilemmas similar to those which Ray Ryan, author of Ireland and Scotland: Literature and Culture, State and Nation, 1966-2000, defines as 'Bolgerism'. (62) Just as Dermot Bolger's characters endure internal exile and lack a coherent narrative, O Doibhlinn, O Siadhail, Mac Coil, and O Ciobhain interrogate, through Irish, what it means to live as a private individual grappling with a perforated and fissured narrative of a minority language where the nation state privileges Irish in name only, where the language, its speakers and culture are ignored and written out of official accounts of reality. In contrast to their predecessors, their characters are private individuals not ideal citizens that offer no collective theory to unite a decentred language and culture in the place rather than the State they inhabit. The location of such novels are train journeys from Belfast to Dublin, foreign destinations, surreal locations, therapy sessions--the liminality as described by post-colonialist critic Homi Babha. (63)

Ironically, the deliberate and serious literary nature of such texts militates against their acceptance by the same Irish people. Novels in Irish seem to struggle between highbrow philosophical works of art and dull stories in graded language and accompanying glossary for adult learners of the language. Too rarely do we encounter 'a damn good read'. (64) More and more the best novelists reflect on identity: what it means to be Irish in an Anglo-American Ireland, what it means to be gay and Irish, what it means to be black and Irish. The better post-1950 novels concern the individual rather than the collective; where the Free State novel tended to celebrate the collective and its cultural unity, the modern novels tend to be anxious. In addition they frequently betray an anxiety of influence. They yearn to be as literary and innovative as, if not more than their English-language counterpart. As many of the citations quoted here bear out, the greatest praise for Irish novels is comparison with an English-language equivalent.

One of the great desiderata of fiction in Irish is the urban novel. Even before Joyce, critics in Irish have yearned for a city story to recreate in fiction the site from which the language was historically expelled. Such a yearning stems from the language's traditional antagonism to the urban centre. An urban tale would signify a spiritual healing and assuage feelings of insecurity. Sean O Tuama notes: 'A major difficulty--completely outside the author's control--is that of creating the life and mood of a city in a language which is not an urban community language.' (65) He suggests that contemporary writers resort to fantasy when dealing with urban fiction. (66) Irish thrived in the rural west coast, the barren valleys, inhospitable islands, and rocky mountainsides; English was the language of commerce, law, religion, and advancement, the language of the village, town, and city. Irish feels that it will forever be inferior until it produces the 'great' urban novel, despite the fact that O Conaire's Deoraiocht (1910) was set predominately in London and Art O Rinn's Lucht Ceoil [Music Folk] (1932) was located in London and Dublin; Mac Giolla Iasachta's Cursai Thomais: shios seal a's shuas seal [Tomas' Affairs: Times Good and Bad] (1932) dealt with tenement and Georgian Dublin, and Una Dix's Cailin na Gruaige Doinne [The Brown Haired Girl] (1932) treats of Dublin and Belfast. Yet the question persists: is the language capable of embracing the urban novel? (67) This enduring itch that critics like to scratch from time to time is a remnant of the growing pains endemic to minority languages and colonized nations--the need to prove oneself and replicate all that the dominant culture produced and entails. The desire for the urban novel in Irish seems slightly outdated now and more a concern of the day when Ireland was undergoing rapid transformation from rural to urban, and the discrepancies between city and town were more pronounced that they are in the post-Celtic Tiger island.

Mairin Nic Eoin concludes her article on the novel between the years 1974 and 1984 with a brief note on its deficiencies among which was the lack of women authors. (68) Siobhan Ni Shuilleabhain's 'Mills and Boon'-type novel Ospideal [Hospital] (1980) is the only such work appearing in the twenty years surveyed. In the subsequent thirty years a little improvement has occurred. Ni Shuilleabh n has published a second novel, Marach An Phog San [But for that Kiss] (2001), and Tina Nic Enri, her daughter, has also published a novel An Coimhthioch Caol Dubh [The Dark Slender Stranger] (1994). The poet Maire Mhac an tSaoi has published a historical novelette A Bhean Og On ... [O Young Woman from ...] (2001) set in England and inspired by the seventeenth-century poet Piaras Feirtear. The appearance of Eilis Ni Dhuibhne, may, however, be a cause for optimism. An accomplished writer in English and short listed for the 2000 Orange Prize for her English novel The Dancers Dancing, she produced her first novel in Irish Dunmharu sa Daingean [Murder in Dingle] (2000) which describes a murder investigation in the West Kerry Gaeltacht. (69) Attempting a counter-narrative in readable form for adult learners, this 'part Bridget Jones and part Miss Marple' story was a huge disappointment given her success in English. (70) Her second novel, Cailini Beaga Ghleann na mBlath [Small Girls of the Valley of Flowers] (2003) was a far superior, more nuanced effort dealing with a teenager's murder at Irish Language Summer camp and the consequences of repressing such memories until they erupt in later life. Praised by Alan Titley for its clear, plain, lucid and stylish writing, it is 'the story of a generation that went to a certain kind of Irish college, and of another generation that has lots of words for ailments of modern living but no more wisdom than before'. (71) Despite James J. Blake's recent optimism, Nic Eoin's other criticisms, however, are still valid. (72) Many texts appear as novels that would better serve as travelogues, autobiographies, or some such. (73) In this category fall Colm O Ceallaigh's Sclabhaiocht [Slavery] (1990) and his Deoir Ghoirt an Deorai [The Emigrant's Bitter Tear] (1993) with its prejudices and negative racial stereotypes. (74)

The best of the contemporary novelists deserve considered treatment in a detailed monograph rather than scanty mention in a necessarily brief article. This article makes no pretence at discussing every novelist, even those of literary merit, who has appeared in Irish since 1950. Sean O Durois, on the basis on his first work, deserves mention and may be a writer of serious talent. His Crann Smola [Blighted] (2001) tells of a nineteenth-century Royal Irish Constabulary detective discovering a pattern of child abduction at hiring fairs; on investigation, the detective discovers a cannibalistic serial killer on the loose in Ulster. It is an accomplished first novel, and deserving of the praise it received. (75) Mac Annaidh continues to publish, but has not achieved the public acclaim which attended Cuaifeach Mo Londubh Bui. The cluster of novels from Derry and Northern Ireland in the 1990s may be a coincidence or an indication of a regional literary flowering. Micheal O Conghaile, known better for his short stories, has produced one novel, Sna Fir [In the Men] (1999), and a short text Seachran Jeaic Sheain Johnny [The Wandering of Jeaic Sheain Johnny] (2001) and is an undoubted talent. Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill believes that O Conghaile's fiction expresses

a gay identity in a way that is open and overt and that is rare in English. Colm Toibin is a very good example of a novelist in English who works on that theme a lot. But I don't think anyone in English has gone so overtly gay as Micheal O Conghaile has done in his last novel Sna Fir (In the Men) which would have as many entendres as you want. (76)

Yet there is a risk, just as in the case of Cathal O Searcaigh, that such writing will be essentialized, and marginalized, as gay gaelic writing.

Alan Titley has most recently focused on short stories and children's fiction, but may return to the novel. (77) Padraig O Ciobhain publishes at a rate reminiscent of Diarmuid O Suilleabhain, and Padraic O Siadhail proves that living in Canada is no obstacle to producing entertaining and challenging novels. Recent political scandals in Irish life invest Aodh O Canainn's trilogy with added interest and resonance and poses once again the ongoing question about life and art.

Efforts to write the future of the Irish language novel are undertaken only by the reckless because, as Titley observed, 'you might meet the novelists around any corner and have forgotten your knife'. (78) He noted in 1996 that the number of novels being written and produced continued to increase: 'More novels, however, have been published in the nineteen eighties than in any previous decade and they span the same gamut of types from wild experimentation to boghole traditionalism as they ever did.' (79) While the number of novels published increases, the number of retailers stocking fiction in Irish drops--as does the number of readers. (80)

What assessment to make of the novel in Irish in the period 1950-2004? In summarizing like this, one is drawn to the acumen of previous generations. The Ulster novelist Seamus O Neill, as guest editor of a special edition of Irish Writing in 1950, feared that without a vibrant Gaeltacht, the language was doomed 'and the new writing merely the crackle of its funeral pyre'. (81) Yet he was buoyed by the Government's announced intention to establish a special Ministry charged with developing the Irish-speaking areas economically and stemming the language's decay. (82) Fifty-odd years later, the Irish Times on the internet reports that Seanad Eireann [Upper House] has sent a cross-party resolution to Dail Eireann [Lower House] requesting that the Government avail of the Irish presidency of the European Union to ratify Irish as an official working language rather than a treaty language as it is currently designated. Fifty years on, Ireland is dancing at a familiar crossroads. Plus ca change!

The year 2004 marks the centenary of the publication of Seadna, the first Irish language novel. (83) Critic, author, and revolutionary patriot Patrick Pearse, having bought a copy of Seadna in Dublin, commenced reading on a city tram, and continued on the train from Amiens Street station westwards to Ros Muc in the Connemara Gaeltacht. On returning to the capital from his sojourn he wrote in the Gaelic League newspaper, An Claidheamh Soluis [Sword of Light]: 'Here at last is literature [...]. We need have no misgivings as to the future of the literary movement which, in its infancy, has given us Seadna. The seeds of life are here.' Pearse's enthusiastic welcome of Seadna is understandable as it indicated the re-emergence of a native literary tradition. Bearing in mind, however, Cleary's recent caution that 'most accounts of contemporary Irish culture tend to be largely affirmative, even Whiggish, in cast', (84) this essay's conclusion will avoid hyperbolism when assessing the state of the Irish-language novel in the period since 1950.

The Irish-language novel has had its ups and downs; its development has not been smooth--nor, in a minority language, would one expect it to be. (85) The last one hundred years have produced a body of diverse, if uneven, work spanning many genres and styles. Maire Ni Annrachain, considering the period 1921-84, concludes: 'If the best of the later modern subject can be most clearly glimpsed in "places where the lust for life merges with real protest", then contemporary literature in Irish is a testimony to that modern subject, alive and well.' (86) There is a good deal to be proud of, some to be embarrassed by, and much to be read with pleasure and interest. If it surprises readers of this article that its terms of reference, rather than post-colonial, post-modern, or post-structural theory, were Government policy, native speakers, and socio-cultural aspects of Irish, it should be kept in mind that the novel is concerned with the life and reality of Irish speakers. As Aodan Mac Poilin writes:

While being aware of the larger culture, they engage with their modern hang-ups for a small but passionately committed audience, and within a literary tradition which is both one of the oldest and one of the most fragile in Europe. This double or triple vision is qualitatively different to that of English-language writers in Ireland, and provides a useful alternative perspective for those writing within the tradition of a local variant of an over-large and over-confident international world literature. (87)

Were Pearse to retrace today his journey from Baile Atha Cliath/Dublin to Gaillimh/Galway he would perhaps be amused at the stations' commemorative names but would surely be buoyed at the range, quantity, and quality of novels in Irish. Time will tell the fate of Irish as a communal language. The novel in Irish for its part has moved away from the village pump and taproom--the reek of turf is no more. The problems of today, the loves and hates, the human rights and responsibilities, desires and doubts of modern men and women are fearlessly dealt with. (88) If there has to be a definite judgement it is this: the novel in Irish since 1950 bears more resemblance to an illuminating bonfire than a funeral pyre. Here at last is something more than folklore, autobiography, or national narratives.

My thanks to Joe Nugent, Caitriona O Torna, and Ronan McDonald for their valuable comments and insight. Given this essay's purpose and target audience it draws, as far as possible, on criticism and sources in English. The translation of titles is as an aid to those without Irish but does not indicate the existence of a translation.

(1) Michael Cronin, Irish Times, 7 April 2001.

(2) In contrast to poetry, far less prose is translated. Michael Cronin, author of Translating Ireland: Translation, Languages, Cultures, remarks 'Whereas Irish-language poets through the medium of translation have enjoyed a certain public profile in recent years, Irish prose writers have remained almost wholly invisible to a large section of the Irish reading public' (Irish Times, 7 April 2001). A list of twentieth-century novels and relevant criticism translated from Irish to other languages can be found in Nollaig Mac Congail's Gaelic Bibliography at .

(3) Maire Ni Annrachain, 'Literature in Irish 1921-84', in A New History of Ireland, vii: Ireland, 1921-84, ed. by J. R. Hill (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 538-86 (pp. 574-75).

(4) Breandan O hEithir, 'Cre na Cille', in The Pleasures of Gaelic Literature, ed. by John Jordan (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1978), p. 72.

(5) See Tadhg O Dushlaine, 'Sceal Ursceil', Leachtai Cholm Cille, 19 (1989), 93-128.

(6) See Fionntan de Brun, Seosamh Mac Grianna: A Mhein Ruin (Dublin: An Clochomhar, 2003).

(7) Important exceptions such as Cursai Thomais, Lucht Ceoil, and Cailin na Gruaige Duinne should be noted. See Gearoid S. Mac Eoin, 'Twentieth-Century Irish Literature', in A View of the Irish Language, ed. by Brian O Cuiv (Dublin, Stationery Office, 1969), pp. 57-69.

(8) Philip O'Leary, 'Displaced Persons: Urban Life in Gaelic Fiction to the Founding of the Free State', Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, 7 (1987), pp. 28-64 (p. 33).

(9) Joe Nugent drew my attention to the link between the ideological similarity that informs Social Realism and the novels under discussion. All credit on this point is his alone.

(10) Tadhg O Dushlaine, 'An Coimpleasc Priompallanach', Comhar, 46.12 (December 1987), 4-11.

(11) It may be noted in passing that Irish-language autobiographies tended to be less negative and bitter than their English-language counterparts which stressed themes of marred growth and repression.

(12) Philip O'Leary, 'Discouraging Words from the Golden West: The Conamara of Padhraic Og O Conaire', Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, 8 (1988), 85-129 (p. 85).

(13) The novel's title is derived from the main character's name, Maire Nic Artain.

(14) Seamas O Neill, 'The Gum', The Bell, 12.2 (1946), 136-42 (p. 138).

(15) Mairtin O Cadhain 'Irish Prose in the Twentieth Century', in Literature in Celtic Countries, ed. by Caerwyn Williams (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1971), pp. 139-51, (p. 147).

(16) For an account of An tOileanach, see Maire Cruise O'Brien, 'An tOileanach by Tomas O Criomhthain (1856-1937)', in The Pleasures of Gaelic Literature ed. by John Jordan (RTE/Cork: Mercier Press, 1977), pp. 25-38 and Declan Kiberd, 'The Blasket Autobiographies', in Irish Classics (London: Granta, 2000), pp. 520-42.

(17) Joan Trodden Keefe, 'The Graves of Connemara: Ireland's Mairtin O Cadhain', World Literature Today, 59.3 (Summer 1985), 363-73 (p. 367).

(18) See Joe Cleary, 'Postcolonial Ireland', in Ireland and the British Empire, ed. by Kevin Kenny (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 251-88 (pp. 279-80). 'Hence, the most telling correspondences between Ireland and the overseas British ex-colonies have much less to do with direct contacts or influence, though these are not at all negligible, than they do with certain broad affinities of literary genre, structures of feeling, and intellectual problems that emerge when anti-imperial revolutionary excitement succumbs to post revolutionary tristesse and despair. Commenting on a wide body of post-colonial literature, Chidi Okonkwo has remarked that "disillusionment has been so established in post-independence literature that there is a danger of accepting it as the only discourse on the performance of post-colonial states"'.

(19) Maire Ni Annrachain stresses the creative fusion on a modern sensibility with older material prominent in contemporary literature in 'Literature in Irish 1921-84', p. 576.

(20) Tadhg O Dushlaine, 'Triocha Bliain Ag Fas', Leachtai Cholm Cille: An tUrsceal sa Ghaeilge, 21 (1991), 105-38.

(21) Alan Titley, An tUrsceal Gaeilge (Dublin: An Clochomhar, 1991). Titley's study contains an appendix listing the 160 novels considered in his study. This list, however, does not include detective novels, thrillers, or novels for 'adult learners'.

(22) This effort to shock readers may be compared to similar efforts attempted by writers of 'Northside Realism.' See Gerry Smith, The Novel and the Nation (London: Pluto Press, 1997), pp. 76-77.

(23) Padraig Ua Maoileoin, Bride Bhan (Dublin: Sairseal O Marcaigh, 1968), p. 7. 'Ca raibh an fear gurbh fhiu do chailin lui leis ar an mbaile?'

(24) For an account in English of Padraig Standun's fiction, see James J. Blake, 'Present-Day Irish-Language Fiction', New Hibernian Review, 5.3 (2001), 128-41.

(25) Mairtin O Muilleoir, Ceap Cuddles (Dublin: Coisceim, 1996), p. 5. 'Thog Fred leathleiceann tona on chathaoir agus scaoil broim fhada uisciuil, buuuuurrrrppppp.'

(26) Tadhg O Dushlaine, 'The Hippieization of the Gael and vice versa', Celtic Literature and Culture in the Twentieth Century (The International Celtic Congress, 1997), p. 56. See also Anthony T. MaCann, 'Ar Lorg na Gaoithe: Death, the Quest for Immortality and the Pursuit of the Unjustified in Seamas Mac Annaidh's Cuaifeach Mo Londubh Bui',

(27) The novel's title is derived from the protagonist's name, Cormac O Conaill. See Tadhg O Dushlaine, 'The Hippieization of the Gael and vice versa', p. 56.

(28) The novel's title is derived from its anti-hero, Schnitzer O Se.

(29) This trend is even more prominent in fiction for teenagers, but discussion of such lies beyond this essay's scope. Frequent themes, however, include murder, prostitution, drugs, seedy inner-city life, etc.

(30) Marion Eames notes that a similar trend occurs in contemporary Welsh-language writing: 'In Welsh we have a saying "bwrw swildod", which means shedding shyness, usually applied to newly-weds on honeymoon. Today's writers have certainly done their "bwrw swildod", even though, perhaps, the rather too prolific use of the F. word does remind us of a child who has just learnt to say a naughty word. A far cry from Kate Roberts and Islwyn Ffowc Elis' ('Welsh Literature Today', Celtic Literature and Culture in the Twentieth Century (The International Celtic Congress, 1997), pp. 30-43 (p. 43).

(31) Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, 'The Yeast in the Bread: The Rise in the Culture: The Role of Irish in Contemporary Ireland,' in Ireland in the New Century, ed. by Robert J. Savage (Dublin, Four Courts Press, 2003), pp. 198-205 (p. 202).

(32) Tadhg O Dushlaine, 'An Coimpleasc Priompallanach', Comhar, 46.12 (December 1987), 4-11.

(33) Sean O Tuama, 'The Other Tradition: Some Highlights of Modern Fiction in Irish', in The Irish Novel in Our Time, ed. by Patrick Rafroidi and Maurice Harmon (Lille: Publications de L'Universit, de Lille III, 1975), pp. 31-47 (p. 42).

(34) Nor are such trends to startle and disturb confined to the novel. The Irish Times (10 March 1999) reported that concern was expressed at a meeting of Udaras na Gaeltachta (The State Development Authority) that the flagship soap opera of TG4, the Irish-language television station, 'Ros na Run', portrayed homosexuality in storylines.

(35) Sean O Riordain, trans. by Cathal G. O Hainle and cited by Padraig Ua Maoileoin in Flos Fomhair 1973, p. 27. See Cathal G. O Hainle, '"The Inalienable Right of Trifles": Tradition and Modernity in Gaelic Writing Since the Revival', Eire-Ireland, 19.4 (1984), 59-77 (p. 77).

(36) The best article in English on Mac Annaidh is Joan Trodden Keefe's 'Dwelling in Impossibility: Contemporary Irish Gaelic Literature and Seamas Mac Annaidh', World Literature Today, 63.1 (Winter 1989), 46-51.

(37) See Pol O Muiri, 'Novel Noir of Bovver Buachaills', Irish Times, 10 May 1997.

(38) Robert Welch, Changing States: Transformations in Modern Irish Writing (London: Routledge, 1993), p. 203. 39 Alan Titley, 'Modern Irish Prose: A Necessary Introduction for the Uninitiated', in Krino 1986-1996: An Anthology of Modern Irish Writing (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1996), pp. 124-25.

(40) Titley, An tUrsceal Gaeilge, pp. 395-96. 'Fag an gean michuibheasach a thugas riamh d'aduaine is do leithleachas teanga as an aireamh is a thiocfadh i gceist is cuma cad a scriobhfainn, is e a theastaigh uaim a dheanamh na friotal a shaothru a bheadh chomh raidhsiuil, rabairneach, raingleiseach, iomarcach, luifearnuil, drabhl sach, caiteach, neamhchuimseach, barrbhaoiseach, antomhaiste, mimheasartha le frasa na foraoise fein.'

(41) Ni Dhomhnaill, 'The Yeast in the Bread', p. 203.

(42) Sean O Tuama, 'An Domhan a Chruthaigh Titley', Cuirt, Tuath agus Bruachbhaile: Aisti agus Dreachtai Liteartha (Dublin: An Clochomhar, [n.d.]), p. 177. 'mar scriobhann Alan Titley ar chuma a d'aiteodh ort nar chuaigh aon tra riamh ar fhorbairt na Gaeilge, agus go raibh cupla milliun leitheoiri aige a bhi sean-oilte da reir sin ar ciutai uile foclaiochta is machnaimh ata ag iomlasc go mearbhallach meidhreach ar fud a chuid scriobhneoireachta.'

(43) A translation was published by Routledge in 1964. Joe Cleary describes Dialainn Deorai along with Children of the Dead End and A Whistle in the Dark as 'among the "classics dealing with twentieth-century Irish settlement in Britain"' ('Postcolonial Ireland', in Ireland and the British Empire, ed. by Kevin Kenny (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 251-88 (pp. 279-80)).

(44) Eoghan O Tuairisc, 'Dialann Deorai', in Jordan, The Pleasures of Gaelic Literature, p. 62.

(45) Ibid., pp. 70-71.

(46) Maolmhaodhog O Ruairc, Seamas Mac Annaigh agus Macallai sa Scathan (Dublin: Cois Life Teoranta, 2001). Rubble na Mickies is a polylingual and intralingual pun and may be roughly translated as 'The Tail of the Mickies'.

(47) 'Ta an Ghaeilge chomh gafa sin lena hathbheochan fein nach bhfuil fuinneamh na eifeacht istigh inti a thuilleadh. Ta si idithe mar theanga ag mangaire na foghlama agus na heasaiochta agus na cinnteachta. Ta eacht as cuimse curtha i gcrich ag Mac Annaidh oir ta iarracht deanta aige an teanga a shabhail (go pointe airithe) o ghlaca na ngramadoiri agus na neamh-scribhneoiri nach bhfuil a dhath ar bith le ra acu, o na briceadoiri nach bhfuil tuiscint don ailtireacht acu.'

(48) Ni Dhomhnaill, 'The Yeast in the Bread', p. 202.

(49) Padraig O Ciobhan, 'An Bheathaisneis Laochda agus an Chumadoireacht Chomhaimseartha', a lecture delivered by the author at Dail Thuamhain, University of Limerick, 25 October 2003.

(50) 'Mar a mhairtear an bheatha, agus mar a shamhlaitear sa chumadoireacht i: leis an raiteas-san a dheimhin coimriu ar roinnt mhaith de mo shaothar fein.'

(51) Breandan O Doibhlin, Neal Maidine Agus Tine Oiche (Dublin: Coisceim, 1964), p. 9. 'A leitheoir ghr igh, ma theastaionn uait uair an chloig do chur isteach go pleisiurtha gan stro, fag uait an leabhar seo, impim ort, agus tarraing ort saothar eigin eile gur cuma lena udar faoi thalamh ur do bhriseadh na faoi dhaoine do sheoladh ar bhealach a leasa.'

(52) Liam Mac Coil, 'The Moral Agenda', Irish Times, 13 February 1999.

(53) Mairin Nic Eoin, Eoghan O Tuairisc: Beatha agus Saothar (Dublin: An Clochomhar, 1988).

(54) See James M. Cahalan Great Hatred, Little Room: The Irish Historical Novel (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1983), pp. 169-75. 'L'Attaque was the best Irish historical novel of the early 1960s-indeed, one of the most interesting of all Irish historical novels--because of its remarkable blend of realism and experimentalism, pessimism and heroism, all in Irish, the language of the peasantry. Many Irish historical novelists celebrated the peasantry, the 'common people'; only O Tuairisc wrote successfully about their history in their own historical language. He shows them with all their pessimism and all their contradictory impulses, and in his view they emerge as heroes nonetheless.'

(55) See Seosamh O Murchu, 'Freudian flips', Irish Times, 20 January 1996.

(56) The novel's title is derived from the main protagonist's name.

(57) Gearailt Mac Eoin, 'An Dochtuir Athas', Irish Times, 23 March 1996.

(58) Alan Titley, 'The Light in the Corner', Irish Times, 9 March 1999.

(59) O Tuama, 'The Other Tradition', p. 42.

(60) Philip O'Leary, 'Sea Stories and Soul Searching: Vocation in the Novels of Diarmaid O Suilleabhain', Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, 4 (1984), 9-38 (pp. 34-35).

(61) Richard Kearney, Postnationalist Ireland: Politics, Culture, Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1997), p. 188.

(62) Ray Ryan, Ireland and Scotland: Literature and Culture, State and Nation, 1996-2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 196-98.

(63) Homi Bhabha, 'Freedom's Basis in the Indeterminate', in The Identity in Question, ed. by John Rachman (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 49-61.

(64) See Eadhmonn Mac Suibhne, 'Leamh agus Litriocht', Irish Times, 3 December 2002.

(65) O Tuama, 'The Other Tradition', p. 42.

(66) Sean O Tuama, 'Introduction', Translation: The Journal of Literary Translation, 22 (Fall 1989), 3-7 (p. 6).

(67) See Philip O'Leary, 'Displaced Persons: Urban Life in Gaelic Fiction to the Founding of the Free State', Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, 7 (1987), 28-64.

(68) Mairin Nic Eoin, 'Urscealaiocht na Gaeilge 1974-1984', Comhar, 43.8 (August 1984), 15-21.

(69) The Dancers Dancing and Cailini Beaga Ghleann na mBlath share several similarities, including setting and theme. See 'Eilis Ni Dhuibhne Interview',

(70) Pol O Muiri, 'Self-Discovery in Dingle', Irish Times, 9 September 2000.

(71) Alan Titley, 'Anarchy, Artistry, Ailments', Irish Times, 4 October 2003. Ni Dhuibhne recently has written in relation to her own work: 'I have found it easier to deal with themes relating to Irish cultural and linguistic identity in Irish than in English, although I have written about these issues in my novel The Dancers Dancing, where Yeats' image of the dancer and the dance is used to convey the ultimate wholeness of the Irish linguistic and cultural experience, and where instead of viewing Irish and English as separate sides of Irish identity, the heroine, Orla, learns to view them as complementary and enriching.' See Eilis Ni Dhuibhne, 'Why Would Anyone Write in Irish?', in Who Needs Irish: Reflections on the Importance of Irish Language Today, ed. by Ciaran Mac Murchaidh (Dublin: Veritas, 2004), pp. 70-82 (p. 80).

(72) James J. Blake, 'Present-Day Irish-Language Fiction', New Hibernian Review, 5.3 (2001), 128-41 (p. 128). 'Irish-language fiction being published today is impressive in at least four ways. The first is the literary excellence of the creative works. The second is the increasing aesthetic range and variety of genres that have been mastered in Modern Irish. The third is the body of scholarly and critical commentary that has grown up around these creative works, which forms a significant cultural domain within the life of the Irish language. Finally, current Irish language creativity in fiction also involves the success, over the past few decades, of various private companies publishing only in Irish.'

(73) One suspects that the independent production companies which supply documentaries to TG4, the Irish language television station, now attract much of this material.

(74) The blurb to Deoir Ghoirt an Deorai announces that the novel's two strengths are the natural fluent language and the picture it provides of the emigrants' life in the USA. A similar portrayal of Irish immigrant life in the London is to be found in Sclabhaiocht.

(75) See Pol O Muiri, 'Rare Novel from a Rare Breed', Irish Times, 4 August 2001.

(76) Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, 'The Yeast in the Bread', p. 202.

(77) For an account in English of Alan Titley's fiction, see James J. Blake, 'Present-Day Irish-Language Fiction'.

(78) Alan Titley, 'Modern Irish Prose', p. 128.

(79) Ibid., p. 128.

(80) While such a decline is based on observation and unsupported by any empirical data, there appears to be a dwindling audience for novels and longer prose works in Irish. When one considers that Cursai Thomais reputedly sold 6000 copies and An Club Leabhar guaranteed a sale of 3000 copies for its book of the year, the amount of people reading contemporary prose in Irish would appear alarming. Mairead Ni Chinneide estimates that a text on a school or university syllabus will retail no more than four hundred copies (Mairead Ni Chinneide, 'Comhra eile Leabhar', Irish Times, 4 November 2003). It is difficult to explain such low figures, especially when Foinse, the Irish language newspaper, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, has a readership of twenty-five thousand readers. Among the reasons proffered is the difference between the register of texts and the 'Creole' spoken by pupils in Irish-language immersion schools (see Mairead Ni Chinneide, 'Ceist na Leabhar Gaeilge faoi Chaibidil i gConamara', Irish Times, 13 March 2002). Micheal O Conghaile details such problems in his Leacht Ui Chadhain, 2002, entitled 'Coismeigeacha Beaga, Coismeigeacha Mora'. Conversely, Gabriel Rosenstock finds such a state of affairs invigorating. See 'How I Discovered Irish or How Irish Discovered Me', in Mac Murchaidh, Who Needs Irish, 00-00 (pp. 71-72). While it is correct that more literature in Irish is published now than at any time previously, this reflects the growth in publishing in other countries. This increase reflects international trends where the number of books sold worldwide increased by more than forty-five per cent between 1999 and 2001. Despite claims that the internet would herald the demise of the traditional book, the opposite has occurred. See Edward Tenner, 'Rebound', Boston Globe, 25 (April 2004), D2-D3.

(81) Seamus O Neill, 'Gaelic Writing', Irish Writing 33, ed. by Seamus O Neill and Valentin Iremonger, (Dublin: Trumpet, 1955), pp. 7-10 (p. 7).

(82) Ibid., p. 10.

(83) Seadna had appeared in serialized form in Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge under the editorship of Eoin Mac Neill from November 1894 to April 1897. The novel's title is derived from the main protagonist's name.

(84) Joe Cleary, 'Toward a Materialistic-Formalist History of Twentieth-Century Irish Literature', boundary 2, 31.1 (2004), 207-41 (p. 207).

(85) John Rowlands, 'The Novel', in A Guide to Welsh Literature c. 1900-1996, VI, ed. by Dafydd Johnson (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1998), pp. 159-203 (p. 159). 'There is nothing peculiar about the slow and stunted growth of the novel in the Welsh language, for it is a genre which has not flourished in minority literatures, where the short story has usually been the preferred prose form.

(86) Ni Annrachain, 'Literature in Irish 1921-84', p. 578.

(87) Aodan Mac Poilin, Preface, Krino 1986-1996, p. xii.

(88) See Patrick Pearse, 'About Literature', An Claidheamh Soluis, 26 May 1906, p. 7.


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