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Thread: IT critique of The Islander

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    Politics.ie Member Estragon's Avatar
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    Default IT critique of The Islander

    A Blasket bore - The Irish Times - Sat, Oct 13, 2012

    The Islander is a book I read quite a long time ago. Pretty good read I thought. The guy had a pretty rugged life and the story was pretty well told overall I thought.

    There are echoes of it in one of my favourite books ever, The Tree Of Man by Patrick White. Both explore very big themes with a great delicacy of touch.

    There is a new edition out, which I haven't read, but Keith Ridgway has kindly reviewed it in the Irish (sic) Times for us.

    I feel sorry for the Ridgway fella. He obviously seems to have picked up this book on the misunderstanding that the Islander in question was a Manhattan islander, a sort of Woody Allen character who would lay out his soul for us like it was an emotional grown up Topsy and Tim or something.

    This review is depressing, less because of what it says about the Islander, which will stand on its own merits for many a long year yet, but about the kind of space contemporary Irish writing is occupying. It's simultaneously self-obssessed, embarassed, ossified, pyschotically insecure, toweringly snobbish and ideologically driven in the worst possible sense of that word.

    On the rare occasion I read modern Irish writing I find my self hopelessly depressed about the state of it. Generally it's narcisscist, unreadable crap that won't last the decade.

    It's almost a vindication of The Islander's quality that Ridgeway has reviewed it in these thumb-and-forefinger, pinch your nose type terms.
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    The Islander was a good book and I liked the passages from it that bedecked our old currency notes. Ridgeway strikes me as an avant garde clown. Tomás O’Crohan told his story as best he could. He spent most of his life in a relatively isolated off shore island in the 19th century. What did Ridgway expect? Finnegans Wake? Lots of the 19th century English prose is repetitive and would not make the cut today. Beats me who buys Ridgway's books but I suppose it takes all sorts

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    Politics.ie Member cogar's Avatar
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    I thought it was a well written review of the new translation. It's no harm to throw a bucket of cold water, (now and again) on sacred cows. We need more of it!

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    What else do you expect from the Irish media? Their mission is to pour scorn on their own people, and a large swathe of people are insecure enough to thank them for it. Sad.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cogar View Post
    I thought it was a well written review of the new translation. It's no harm to throw a bucket of cold water, (now and again) on sacred cows. We need more of it!
    Certainly, O'Criomhthain would never have intended his work to be read as untouchable literature, but for that very reason the criticism seems excessive - the book was a well-written account of a vanishing life, warts and all, and certainly more entertaining than Peig.
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    I read An tOileánach years ago. I remember enjoying the Irish in it, but also being a bit taken aback by how little the author talked about his family, glossing over family deaths, and the reviewer did touch on that theme in his article. On the whole I'd agree that the reviewer was overly harsh though.

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    Politics.ie Member Cruimh's Avatar
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    An ugly review.

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    Try 'The Five Point Plan'.

    It's a riveting read!
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    Quote Originally Posted by iago1709 View Post
    I read An tOileánach years ago. I remember enjoying the Irish in it, but also being a bit taken aback by how little the author talked about his family, glossing over family deaths, and the reviewer did touch on that theme in his article. On the whole I'd agree that the reviewer was overly harsh though.
    That's one of the aspects I liked about it. His attitude in that regard would have reminded me of some of my older male relatives. Just because someone doesn't wallow in these matters in public, doesn't mean they don't care about them or feel very, very deeply about them.

    If you want to read books about people spilling their guts, Christ knows there's any God's amount of those.

    As has been stated previously, it was never written to be Proust, it's a decent yarn, it is a sight better than Peig, it has enduring worth both cultural and as a work of literature.

    From the tenor of his review Ridgway seems to think poohing poohing this book marks himself out as a bright young thing, kicking against old Ireland and all that crap. The reality is he is just going with the herd. He is showing absolutely zero unique critical insight and has a painfully retarded understanding of the rich and varied tapestry that composes human experience. Reviewing this book in the manner requires about as much effort, insight and courage as might be involved in buying a pint of Bass in Fagan's.

    I, for one, don't want to live in a world were every book is like an Anne Enright novel.
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    Having read Robin Flower's translation of An t-Oileánach and several other books about the Blaskets, I've just started reading this new translation and, from the very first pages, I've found what I consider two mistakes.
    First of all, when putting name to his brothers and sisters, in this new translation it says: "I also had two brothers, Patrick Donal and Tomás Donal". On the other hand, the previous translation said just "Patrick and myself, Tomás". I find it difficult to believe there was another brother by the same name (checked in the family chart, Muiris Mac Conghail, The Blaskets: People and Literature).
    Then, when describing his house, the new translations says: "Our door faced north and the door of the other part of the house faced south". Anyone who has an interest in Blasket history knows that the old houses only had one door, as the previous translation says: "Our house was reversed; that is, its door faced north - all the others were turned to the south".
    And this in the very first TWO PAGES. Should I keep on reading?

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