Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

"Irish English Had to Do with Personal Identity, and You Can't Get Rid of That". an Interview with Juan Jose Delaney

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

"Irish English Had to Do with Personal Identity, and You Can't Get Rid of That". an Interview with Juan Jose Delaney

Article excerpt

Walking around the streets of Buenos Aires one discovers many Irish connections, whether looking for them or not: there is the Parroquia San Patricio, el Hurling Club, el colegio Santa Brigida, and there are neighbourhoods, streets and train stations that carry the names of Irishmen who left their mark in the country: el almirante William "Guillermo" Brown, Juan Coghlan, Patrick Sarsfield, etc. The photographs and memorabilia preserved in the old Hotel of Immigrants, now the Museum of Immigration, bear the testimony of other less known Irish emigrants who settled in this country and also contributed in a smaller way to the (intra)history of Argentina. Juan Jose Delaney (Buenos Aires, 1954) has fictionalised the lives and stories of those immigrants. With Treboles del sur (1994), he won the Third Municipal Literature Prize of the City of Buenos Aires, Moira Sullivan (1999) and the nouvelle Memoria de Theophilus Flynn (2012) and the play La viuda de OMalley, followed later.

Carolina P. Amador-Moreno: You're a writer of Irish descent. Would you say that your own artistic inspiration comes from that Irish-Argentine background?

Juan Jose Delaney: When I was doing my secondary school I discovered the short story, and little by little I started collecting books... that was the beginning of my private library: Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, Horacio Quiroga and Jorge Luis Borges were my first friends. It was a secret collection because I was a boarder in a Salesian school and Borges was banned because he was considered a "destructor" and a "nihilist". The thing was that, as a reaction, the author of El Aleph became my idol and together with the other writers, a model when, at 15, I decided that I wanted to write short stories and become a writer. Two years after that I saw my first story published in The Southern Cross, the Irish-Porteno newspaper. It was called "Los dos suenos", it had nothing to do with the Irish and it was clearly influenced by Borges's works. My second story published by The Southern Cross was called "Los papeles de Nicholas Coughlan" and this time, yes, I paid tribute to my ancestors. Although I wrote and still write essays and fiction that doesn't refer to the Irish migration to the River Plate, this is recurrent in my writing because it's the topic I know best.

CAM: In what way would you say Irish-Argentinian writers of fiction have contributed to the overall literary scene of Argentina?

It's not easy to give an answer to this question since two of the three principal Irish or Irish-Argentine writers wrote their works in Irish English. I'm referring to William Bulfin and his Tales of the Pampas (1900) and Kathleen and Winnie Nevin and their novel You'll Never Go Back (1946). These works are important in two senses: they give an account of the Irish contribution to that South American melting pot which is Argentina, and they are significant linguistic documents of the slow process of integration and adaptation of the Irish and their descendants to the host country as well. Both books were translated into Spanish with no impact, since the essence of their value is in language, in the way characters speak English (or Irish English) and the way they try to include Spanish words in their speech.

Rodolfo Walsh is a different story. He wrote all his work in Spanish and his texts are seen as a model in terms of style. Critics have noted his masterly use of the resource known as ellipsis. It happens to me that while I'm reading his texts I feel that there is something else hinted or suggested by the narrator, that he is telling a story and at the same time another (the principal one) that is unseen. I feel that this comes from the English he learned at home and with the Pallotines in the Fahy Farm, an English variation influenced by the Irish language where ellipsis plays a considerable role. At present I'm working in an essay trying to prove this. Walsh is considered one of the four best short story writers in Argentina, together with Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar and Marco Denevi. …

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