You have to be well versed in Irish mythology for this book to appeal, and even then I'm guessing feminist scholars within the Celtic Studies communit...moreYou have to be well versed in Irish mythology for this book to appeal, and even then I'm guessing feminist scholars within the Celtic Studies community will be Findon's fans. In her work, Findon highlights Emer as an unusually influential female speaker in the mythos. I think Findon did a great job explaining her thesis and selecting sections from the texts to support it. She includes both the original Old and Middle Irish and English translations each time she quotes source material, and that made my nerdy little heart sing. This is a strong scholarly showing from Findon. (less)
Heaney's introduction explains that his decision to translate this particular play was largely a reaction to the accusations that those opposed to the...moreHeaney's introduction explains that his decision to translate this particular play was largely a reaction to the accusations that those opposed to the Iraq war were unpatriotic. In the current political climate, this version of the play is particularly keen and striking. I always love Heaney's translations. It's a great read, and I wish I'd had a chance to see the original production.(less)
If you have any love of Irish drama or Irish dramatists, you need to read this. I've been kicking myself for years for never having seen the original...moreIf you have any love of Irish drama or Irish dramatists, you need to read this. I've been kicking myself for years for never having seen the original performance, though I had no idea this translation of the play existed until I was, well, not in high school like I was in 1990.
Heaney has proved himself a fine translator. Tackling both Beowulf and Sophocles is no task for a coward. In this translation of the play, we find Philoctetes as a possible symbol for the injured nationalist Ireland--truly wronged, but perhaps short-sighted in clinging to that wrong and the need for vengeance for far too long. Heaney is light-handed with his use of local dialects--we get some whinging and an och or two, but we're not drowning in the peculiarities of Ulster's speech in this ancient setting. This retelling leaves the weight of Odysseus's crime against Philoctetes on the Atrean shoulders, but also calls Philoctetes to account for his own stubbornness.
Read it. Savor the language from the simple sweet dedication to the late Robert Fitzgerald, to the painfully apt use of Auden's poetry as an introduction, through to the redemptive end. Read it. It will be good for you.(less)
The Star Factory is perhaps the most poetic of autobiographies to come out of Ireland thusfar. Carson first made his literary mark as a poet before ve...moreThe Star Factory is perhaps the most poetic of autobiographies to come out of Ireland thusfar. Carson first made his literary mark as a poet before venturing into writing about traditional music. It is a joy to see his astounding love of and facility with language applied to Belfast, a city too many of us associate only with tragedy and strife. I've spent my obligatory weeks in Belfast, and found my own knowledge of the place just enough to bind me to the sweetness with which most of the vanished city of of Carson's kidhood is described. He lays out the map, and illustrates locations and people with clarity, but more often than not, Carson is immersed in the asides that make his work so pleasurable to read for we language buffs. Hs discusses the whys and wherefores of knitting in his family, the role of dinnsenchas (story of place names) in Irish, the post office in Northern Ireland and its legacy--the asides alone are worth the price-tag. Perhaps I love Carson's words too much. I certainly wish I could claim some small part of them. In the meantime, I'll read some of his poetry to sate myself while I wait for his next book to be published. (less)
Let me begin by inviting you into the club: there is no word in Irish, or in any of the Celtic languages, for "no." Nor is there a word for "yes." Rat...moreLet me begin by inviting you into the club: there is no word in Irish, or in any of the Celtic languages, for "no." Nor is there a word for "yes." Rather, answering yes or no requires the speaker to conjugate the verb into its positive or negative form. If you ask me "Are you going to the store today?" in Irish, I would have to answer either "I am going to the store" or "I am not going to the store." The importance of these linguistic oddments varies from one speaker or linguist to another. In many classrooms, the difficulty has turned into a bit of a game--how can you translate campaign slogans (i.e. "No new taxes") and still have them sound snappy? In Northern Ireland, particularly in nationalist communities, the lack of a native "No" has been relatively important over the years. Imagine attempting to make a bit of a slogan in your native tongue to refuse actions by an English-speaking government you reject--tough, eh?
Right, so, I've said it before and I'll say it again. Carson is a fine writer. In poetry, his dense, velvety language is even further compressed. His memory of bygone Belfast geographies is entrancing. And, he gets me with this every time, the man discusses the needle arts practiced by his mother and aunts lovingly. It is not a tome of poems about knitting or quilting, but it is a book of poems in which his mother, a needle-woman, appears as a shining example of thrift and talent and creative expressions of love. That alone makes the book worth reading, in my eyes. I loved it, savored it, reread it a few times, and will likely reread it several more times in my life.(less)