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Translations

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  3,015 ratings  ·  127 reviews
The action takes place in late August 1833 at a hedge-school in the townland of Baile Beag, an Irish-speaking community in County Donegal. In a nearby field camps a recently arrived detachment of the Royal Engineers, making the first Ordnance Survey. For the purposes of cartography, the local Gaelic place names have to be recorded and rendered into English. In examining th ...more
Paperback, 91 pages
Published March 16th 1995 by Faber & Faber (first published 1981)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Marthine Satris
This devastating, gorgeous play about the Ordinance survey of Ireland in the early 19th century is one of the best, if not the best, of Friel's plays. It is a direct comment on the replacement of Gaelic with English, and it also comments on the role of mapping as an assertion of imperial control through language and representation over land. The whole point is that you have to suspend your disbelief really hard via the Brechtian device of having all characters speaking English but the Irish char ...more
Barry Pierce
I like Friel. I feel he's oddly overlooked in the "modern Irish literary canon", especially outside of Ireland. The basic plot of this play can be summed up by simply saying, 'oh weren't the British just awful'. I feel my personal prejudice coming over me when I review this so I'll keep it short. I personally think the Irish language needs to be killed and we have to stop living in the past. I was kinda siding with the British during my reading of this. Yes they were barbaric and brutal and just ...more
Maxwell
First read in spring of 2013

April 2015: I enjoyed this even more the second time! It was wonderful to revisit it after having read it while studying abroad in Ireland. It not only brought back so many memories for me, but it was easier to understand as well. Having seen the play in Dublin after reading it the first time really helped clarify the image of the play in my mind. And I could revisit that while reading it a second time.

I think this is one of those great plays, like Stoppard's, that r
...more
Priya
Apr 19, 2008 Priya rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who want to start their own Empire
The last time I read this, I was a young 'un in my teens so I thought my views of the play were coloured by that but it remains as good a read as I recalled. Considering I'm using another Friel work as(The Key to the City) a source for my thesis, this one--since it's more explicitly about language, Colonialism and Ireland--was a good follow-up. It's about Irish history and culture but also about how culture changes in the face of challenges, both internal and external.

The writing (and I'm a Fri
...more
Laura
From BBC radio 4 - Saturday Drama:
A new production of Brian Friel's masterpiece about language and power.

It's the summer of 1833. In a hedge-school in Donegal, the schoolmaster's prodigal son is about to return from Dublin. With him are two army officers. Their aim is to create a map of the area, and, in the process, replace the Irish place names with English equivalents. It's an act with unexpected and violent consequences.

Thirty years ago playwright Brian Friel and actor Stephen Rea founded th
...more
Blair
Studied at college, which I'm thankful for, because I wouldn't have loved it as much, I'm sure, without all the breaking down and taking apart and criticising. Responsible for innumerable favourite lines and passages which my best friend and I still quote to each other to this day.

***

Doalty: Ignari, stulti, rustici - pot-boys and peasant-whelps - semi-literates and illegitimates.

Yolland: It wasn't an awareness of direction being changed but of experience being of a totally different order. I had
...more
Princess
This is a familiar enough story for the reader from a former British colony. The English arrive in a small Irish townland, for what appears - at first - to be a purely innocuous reason: they want to draw a map of the area, and they want to Anglicize the Gaelic names that the locals have attached to particular places. Interestingly, the local that they choose to work with - the interpreter, if you will - is a handsome young man, charming and cheerful, where his brother - who resists the English - ...more
Emily Philbin
An excellent drama! Friel's "Translations" is a short but powerful play, yet in its own way quiet and understated somewhat, written in 1980 that clearly brings to life the struggle of maintaining a cultural identity by couching such a battle in the seemingly endless dispute between Ireland and England. Taking place in Ireland in the 1830s, Friel depicts a young man unable to see he is compromising his own cultural identity by willingly working to replace Irish place names with Anglicised ones. A ...more
Laura Buechler
A few weeks ago I read a play in my History of Drama class that really capitivated me. It's Translations by Brian Friel, set in the early nineteenth century, and it tells the story of a group of Irish peasants/farmers struggling to get an education in a hedge-school because the British Empire has made public Irish education illegal. This is set agains the backdrop of the arrival of a group of British army surveyors who are there to map the region - meaning, either renaming or translating the Gae ...more
Phillip
Translations is a really interesting play because of the language games it engages in. So many languages lay alongside or atop one another, and the relationships between them are so meaningful that the play becomes incredibly complex. The main two languages in direct conflict are Irish Gaelic and English--the language of the colonized and the colonizers. In early 19th century Ireland (through the 20th century) the British colonial forces tried to (and largely succeeded) wipe out Irish as a langu ...more
Zan
Everyone in my programme was buzzing about this play the other day, and I've heard a great deal about it before, so I finally sat down to read it. And I loved it.

This play is based on the concept of the Ordnance Surveys taking place in Ireland in the 1830. The purpose of the project was to map the country in great detail, six inches to the mile, as well as to standardize the names of places in Ireland. The action of the play also revolves around a hedge school, a type of school that predated the
...more
S
The first time I read this for college I thought it was terrible, but then realised the way we read plays in english class would make anybody hate them. I've had to read it again for a resit and I've read it about 3 or 4 times in a few weeks, I can't get enough of it. The structure is just fantastic.

I think plays are closer to poetry than prose/novels in their technical sense - it's not about a load of people sitting around complaining about the english, but just the right amount of different t
...more
TheBookofJules
Quite the cast of characters, a fantastic play regarding language and colonialism that never quite gives you its opinion.

Full review to come TOMORROW because I need to get caught up.
Sarah
A gorgeous play, one Friel might be more remembered for in the long run, rather than Dancing At Lughnasa. This work centers on an 1800s Irish village, and its struggle to maintain the Irish language when the new British rulers come in and start renaming everything in sight. Only one of the soldiers is charmed by the indigenous culture and his attempts to communicate in the incorrect language with Sarah, the local he has fallen in love with, create the beating heart of the matter: language define ...more
Rachel York
"please, maire, i want to jouk in the back here" has got to be the best line in the whole thing
Joseph
About the only thing I can say against this play is that I'm completely incapable of imagining it inside my head. The Celtic words are so strange that they continually drag me away from the play, as I try to figure out how they sound, and the fact that Friel uses English to represent two different languages doesn't help.

But none of this is any fault of the play, but merely a symptom of my own ignorance. In truth, the play is brilliant, addressing language as both a form of healing and as a corru
...more
Audra
The concept for this play sounded interesting and some of the wordplay was. In the end I felt like the story didn't quite get where it was going. Or maybe the problem is that it's the same old story of colonization and its ugly truths. I thought the relationship between the two brothers might be flushed out, but it wasn't. In the end there wasn't enough newness or depth of character for my taste.
Christine
BBC

A new production of Brian Friel's masterpiece about language and power.

It's the summer of 1833. In a hedge-school in Donegal, the schoolmaster's prodigal son is about to return from Dublin. With him are two army officers. Their aim is to create a map of the area, and, in the process, replace the Irish place names with English equivalents. It's an act with unexpected and violent consequences.

Thirty years ago playwright Brian Friel and actor Stephen Rea founded the Field Day Theatre Company in
...more
☯Bettie☯
Jan 30, 2015 ☯Bettie☯ rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Radio 4 listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jaslyn
The ending made me quite melancholy. It was really a quite striking play. Manus, Yolland, Maire, Sally. They're all such tragic characters. What happened to George?
Gina Boyd
I didn't know this play existed, but thats part of the joy of having a kid in high school, bringing home books.

It's beautiful and sad, and also quite funny. Writing and staging it all in English but with the understanding that the Irish characters are speaking Gaelic and the English characters are speaking English is brilliant and seems almost daring, and adds to the humor and the heartbreak. So does the idea of translating the Irish place names into English. It's not something I'd ever conside
...more
Carey Combe
Wonderful play about the power of language in every sphere. Beautifully imagined, wonderful characters fleshed out and realistic.
Sammy
I studied this for A Level English Literature, it is a very clever play packed full of symbolism and meaning.
Padraic
A people forget how to speak. Dún Laoghaire becomes Kingstown. We all get drunk. So it goes.
Angela
Such a lovely play. I've yet to see a production of it though which is a shame.
Mike Jensen
Friel's play does not seem as great now as it did at first encounter. I do not deny that there is much greatness in it, but, I presume, in order to not be trite and polemic, Friel chooses to make one of his English characters sympathetic and one of his Irish characters unsympathetic. This maneuver, once realized, exposes the bones of the play and the magic disappears. It is still a play rich in ideas, allusion, reveals the atrocities visited on the Irish by the English even in a time of relative ...more
Mark
A great short play looking at the effects of the English trying to kill off the Irish Gaelic language in Ireland. The interactions between the soldiers speaking English and the villagers speaking Gaelic are very interesting and quite amusing (the whole script is in English, however). I loved the role reversal of the native Gaelic interpreter Owen pushing for the translation/Anglicization of local names vs. the English soldier Yolland being drawn into the Irish land and actually appreciating the ...more
rabbitprincess
Jan 03, 2013 rabbitprincess rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who like Ireland, language and the classics
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: Jenny at Jenny's Books
* * * 1/2

This play is set in Ireland, in the village of Baile Beag, County Donegal, in the early 1830s. A group of English surveyors has come to town with the goal of mapping the area and standardizing/Anglicizing the place names. The play explores the clash between Irish and English cultures and by extension traditional vs. modern lifestyles. Most of the action takes place at a hedge school run by an amiable if somewhat unorthodox/absent-minded teacher, where the students learn pretty much what
...more
Shayaan Rasul
This is definitely not your ordinary play. With a beginning that's difficult to grasp, Friel's production forces readers to immerse themselves in the action right from the start. Set in 1833 Baile Beag, a small Irish town in Donegal county, 'Translations' follows the personalities of a group of hedge school students who struggle fiercely with the English language. However, when an army of Englishmen, led by Captain Stancey and Lieutenant Yolland, arrives in their little township to map out the I ...more
Niamh Nutty
I had to study this play for school for my leaving cert.

When I actually read the play, I didn't really like it. I don't think it had much substance to it and I actually asked my English teacher if anything actually happened.

But then, during the year, I actually saw the production and I fell in love with it. You saw the substance that Friel wanted you to see and how the relationships grew.

I ended up seeing it twice!
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34171
Brian Friel is a playwright and, more recently, director of his own works from Ireland who now resides in County Donegal.

Friel was born in Omagh County Tyrone, the son of Patrick "Paddy" Friel, a primary school teacher and later a borough councillor in Derry, and Mary McLoone, postmistress of Glenties, County Donegal (Ulf Dantanus provides the most detail regarding Friel's parents and grandparents
...more
More about Brian Friel...
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“To remember everything is a form of madness.” 16 likes
“Even if I did speak Irish, I’d always be considered an outsider here, wouldn’t I? I may learn the password but the language of the tribe will always elude me, won’t it? The private core will always be ...hermetic, won’t it?” 10 likes
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