Reading About Ireland

Margaret and I both bought books while we were on our trip, and we’ve both recently finished at least one each.

I picked up Dermot Healy’s novel Long Time, No See, which I thoroughly enjoyed, although it’s not what you would call an easy read. It’s unconventional and very much in the spirit of other unconventional Irish writers like Flann O’Brien and, yes, James Joyce. (Here’s the Guardian’s review.)

On the opposite end of that spectrum are the memoirs of the Blasket Islanders, one of which Margaret purchased when we were at the Blasket Centre on the Dingle Peninsula. Here’s what she had to say about it a few days ago:

I finished reading Twenty Years A-Growing this afternoon, the memoir of Muiris O Súileabháin’s (Maurice O’Sullivan, 1904–1950) youth on the Great Blasket Island, off the Dingle Peninsula and the southwestern coast of Ireland. I sometimes judge a book by whether I am truly sorry to finish it, and if I felt inclined to read portions of it aloud to whomever would listen. It was all that, and though translated from Gaelic, it could nearly be sung, the language is so fine. No doubt life on the island was not all humming bees, dancing to the fiddle, and hauling in fish to fill the curraghs to the gunwales, but we can forgive the author for focusing on what he loved most. Sadly, the island is no longer inhabited. Highly recommended.

As you know, I believe reading the literature of a country enhances your travel experience; you have to step outside your reading comfort zone just as you will your creature comfort zone to truly taste the place. Try it—you’ll see!