Jun 30, 10
Read in June, 2010
This short novel, written by Brian O’Neal (whose most commonly used pen name was Flann O’Brien) under the pseudonym Miles na gCopaleen, was written in Irish Gaelic and later translated, thus being subject to all the vagaries associated with translations. It is a parody on the style of works of the Irish literary revival, his satire being aimed at those who want to romanticize the Gaelic people and culture. In the novel, the author exaggerates the poverty, the ignorance, the fatalism, the drunkenness, and the general boorishness of the Gaelic-speaking population. Since the work was written in Gaelic and thus could be read only by the very people he satirized, it must be supposed that they were able to look upon themselves with a degree of humor. It is likely that this parody became for them an even greater joke on the outside world that they knew viewed them thus. It really is quite witty.
It also raises interesting issues about cultural stereotypes. We all have them, I suppose, often out of ignorance. How often, I wonder, do we recognize them as such? I have found that travelers often fall into one of two groups. Some are genuinely curious, hoping to find out things that they do not already know, open to new people and experiences and disappointed if they encounter nothing unexpected. Others, perhaps more what one might categorize as “tourists,” primarily hope to have their prejudices and stereotypes reinforced. If, for example, they travel to Ireland and do not find talk of leprechauns, hear “Danny Boy,” and see quaint thatched cottages, they feel that they have not seen the “real” Ireland at all. What a shame.