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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  2,155 ratings  ·  98 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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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
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
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
Nov 02, 2012 Phil rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: drama
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
I studied this for A Level English Literature, it is a very clever play packed full of symbolism and meaning.
Shinji Moon
this is such a beautifully executed play about the imperialistic nature of the english language. so so good.
A people forget how to speak. Dún Laoghaire becomes Kingstown. We all get drunk. So it goes.
Such a lovely play. I've yet to see a production of it though which is a shame.
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
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!
Surprisingly enjoyable - yes, that's the word - and with many things to be fascinated about, Translations is a play that is worth a read, indeed. With a very intriguing setup of the British impending colonization of Ireland, the play manages to show how powerful the act of translation is, and not just in a single sense.

We can see how meaningful names and one's language is to one's identity. Essentially, it can determine the dominant world view. The play also shows the inevitable subjectivity of...more
Perhaps it was because I read this rather than seeing it performed, but some of the plot twists in the third act seemed to come out of nowhere. The first two acts were quite enjoyable, as Friel established the status quo of this quiet little village and as the English soldiers came into contact with a group of people they'd never encountered before. I liked watching them try to interact with people who look just like them and are technically under their rule but do not speak their language, and...more
I really hated this play. The premise was moderately promising, the idea of languages and cultures colliding as the British tried to come up with new names for places throughout Ireland. But what a snooze it ended up being. Everything seemed deliberately pretentious, particularly the ridiculous amount of obscure Greek history thrown in. But the thing that was most infuriating was the fact that while all characters are speaking English, you have to suspend your disbelief enough to believe that th...more
Vrinda Pendred
I had mixed feelings on this one. I had to read it for A-Levels, and I can see the importance of this play, for its issue was that it didn't go anywhere. I don't like things that don't have any sort of conclusion and leave everything hanging. It doesn't need a neat and tidy ending, but this just felt like it kept going and going and suddenly stopped. I felt no satisfaction from it.

What I did find interesting was learning about the English changing of Irish place names, and the cultu...more
A. Mary Murphy
I saw this important play at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. It's a lesson in language, and like the best Irish stories, it refuses to offer a simplistic, one-note treatment of the British in Ireland. Having just reread the play, I am even more struck by Friel's complex conversation among languages, so-called dead languages, the loss of speech quite literally inherent in the removal of language, the loss of identity and familiarity with place. The translation of place names means that people suddenl...more
This play is namely about language and its ties to culture, and the degree to which that culture is valued. Central to this plot is the task of renaming Irish towns with anglicized versions. The "name book" is created by a British lieutenant and a translator from a small Irish town, who is initially indifferent to the renaming, despite its implication that English is superior to Gaelic. Then a romance springs up between the lieutenant and a local girl, infuriating a local man. In addition to exa...more
One of my favourite reads of 2012 so far; a play about language and power and how they interact - about how our words shape how we live and how we think. Set in Ireland, the play follows several characters during the early 1800s when England began to Anglicize the country; set right at the crux of incredible change to Ireland's culture. Favourite quote: "I am a barbarian in this place because I am not understood". Also has some incredible characters considering its small 72 page length and enter...more
Tabrez Ahmad
Translation is a play written by Irish writer Brian Friel. it deals with a wide range of issues, stretching from language and communication to Irish history and cultural imperialism. Friel responds strongly to both political and language questions in modern-day Northern Ireland.
Very interestingly , by the time i was reading the book , i was assigned to write a article on translation , during collecting materials and information i came across the line " translator is traitor " i failed to underst...more
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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
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“To remember everything is a form of madness.” 10 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?” 7 likes
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