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The Dirty Dust: Cré na Cille

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  652 ratings  ·  125 reviews
Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s irresistible and infamous novel The Dirty Dust is consistently ranked as the most important prose work in modern Irish, yet no translation for English-language readers has ever before been published. Alan Titley’s vigorous new translation, full of the brio and guts of Ó Cadhain’s original, at last brings the pleasures of this great satiric novel to the ...more
Hardcover, 328 pages
Published March 24th 2015 by Yale University Press (first published 1949)
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Roger Brunyate I find it charming that a question about the English translations of an Irish-language book should have been answered in Ukranian! Whatever, the link …moreI find it charming that a question about the English translations of an Irish-language book should have been answered in Ukranian! Whatever, the link to The New Yorker article was very helpful indeed. Thank you for it. (less)

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I don't usually pay attention to the disclaimers at the beginning of novels, the statements about any resemblance to actual persons living or dead being purely coincidental. However, when I was about half way through the English translation of this novel set in a village graveyard in Connemara during WWII, I opened the original Irish version of the book and the disclaimer (there's none in the English version) jumped out at me: Níl aithris sa leabhar seo ar aon duine dá bhfuil beo nó marbh, ná ar ...more
MJ Nicholls
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
A classic of the Irish language, and a lost modernist epic, a multitude of voices from beyond the grave narrate this foul-mouthed novel, led by the histrionic Caitriona Puadeen, keen to dispel gossip about her character from the longer-dead residents of the cemetery. A frenetic stream of insults, hearsay, banter, prattle, and bickering, the novel flits from one unidentified voice to another (Caitriona identifiable with her oft-used catchphrase “I’m going to burst!”), split into ten sections with ...more
Emer (A Little Haze)
Cré na Cille was originally written in Irish and published in 1950. It has since been proclaimed to be be one of the finest pieces of modern literature written in the Irish language and I have always meant to read it.

One tiny problem.

I hate reading in Irish. I know.... Bad Irish person and all that jazz but yeah.... That's me!!!

Enter this new translation into English!!! HALLELUJAH (I know there's another translation available but this one seemed to appeal more to me).

And what an interesting bo
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very unique idea and style that I felt was very well translated by Titley, as its meaning is very difficult to interpret in Irish never mind in English. My only qualm is that it is unclear, aside from the odd quirk, to ascertain who is speaking in the novel when the story is told in a constant dialogue with no speakers obviously labelled. At the same time this is part of the book's unique style yet I couldn't help but find it frustrating and unfocused at times. I'll have to read the Irish orig ...more
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Petty squabbles amongst small-minded townsfolk repeated for eternity create an extremely bleak imagining of the afterlife. Sometimes funny but mostly an exhausting, plodding experience in spite of all the swear words. I felt bad for the French pilot who learned Irish only to engage with these bickering lamers.
Mar 08, 2015 rated it liked it
According to Colm Toíbín this book is “the greatest novel to be written in the Irish language”. I have to take his word for that as I’ve never come across any other book originally written in Irish, but certainly it’s an unusual and quite distinctive novel that feels very Irish to me. Shades of Joyce and Beckett, for sure. Toíbín also claims that it’s “amongst the best books to come out of Ireland in the twentieth century”. Praise indeed. It was published in 1949 but has only now been translated ...more
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
As it turns out, the conversations of the dead is only very interesting for 100 pages or so.

The story (or stories) are found in the dialogue so you have to work for it. The reading can be difficult and confusing because there isn't even a "Patrick said' to guide you. You must learn each speaker's style of speech or recall who discusses who/what.

Anyway, I lost interest eventually because there isn't a whole lot of development in any of the stories. We learn a lot about all the different character
The key things to know about this book, which was originally published in Irish in 1949, are explained by Alan Titley in his Translator's Introduction. First: "In The Dirty Dust everyone is dead" (vii). And next: "It is a novel that is a listening-in to gossip and to backbiting and rumours and bitching and carping and moaning and obsessing about the most important, but more often the most trivial, matters of life, which are often the same thing. It is as if, in an afterlife beneath the sods, the ...more
I dipped in and out of this original edition of O'Cadhain's novel while reading the English translation.
I particularly enjoyed finding out what certain characters' names were in Irish - Tomás Taobh Istigh sounded better than 'Tomás Inside' as the translator renders the name - though they mean the same thing.
I was interested in the place names too - some of them are very beautiful. Doire Lacha for example, which becomes the more awkward sounding Wood of the Lake in the translation.
Once I'd read
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
petty squabbles and town feuds dragged from terrestrial life into the afterlife of the 15-shilling cemetery. a unique narrative of voices that would probably work really well as a play, with lots of humor and culture and even irish history to be gleaned from these irritable deceased villagers. i'll remember it well, i twisted my ankle.
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: genre-challenge
Thank God I finished it . I really wanted to like this novel but for the most part it was extremely boring. I really got tired of dead people still complaining about the the things they complained about when they were alive . Not a nice outlook about the afterlife and I don't believe there was a point to novel at all ...
Audrey Coughlan
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A little hard to always know which of the characters are speaking but a fabulous book. Considered by experts to be the greatest masterpiece originally written in the Irish language. The translation by Alan Titley is amazing.
Mar 08, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland, 20th-century
this is an odd book to review in the sense that although i didn't enjoy it, there is a lot to like.

the central conceit of the novel is excellent - the dead lie buried in the earth and chat and bicker as though they were still alive - but i'm not sure if it ever really went anywhere interesting beyond the initial humour in its concept. the translation is pretty good, apart from a few oddly overtly modern curses that feel very out of place in the mouths of 1940s Irish speakers (ie 'Holy fuckaroni!
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
What the what? I've read so many reviews praising this book, and all along I wondered at what point was I going to be smacked so hard by it's awesomeness that I forget the pain of all the previous pages.

Perhaps it's because it's the first time the English speaking world gets a peek at it, maybe it's because it's got a different format and interesting writing style (critics love that stuff). I don't know. What I do know is that the blurb told me everything I needed to know about this book. Go on
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Made up almost entirely of dialogue, this book takes place in an Irish graveyard where the dead still chatter away to one another. When mean-spirited, chintzy Caitriona Paudeen is buried in the graveyard in a dirty winding-sheet, she's horrified to find herself amid all the people she couldn't stand above ground. She spends her time spitting insults at them all (especially her son's hated mother-in-law), and interrogating new arrivals for gossip about her still-living rivals. Meanwhile, the othe ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to read this because it has been described as the most important, most critically acclaimed, and most popular prose in the Irish language. Also, noting the subject matter, I pictured a "Spoon River Anthology" or "Lincoln in the Bardo", two favorites of mine. But I was disappointed as it seemed to focus on a single deceased with a chorus or approving or disapproving voices, giving it a very narrow appeal. These are the dead and buried in an Irish churchyard having conversations wi ...more
julián medrano hoyos
although i didn't like this one i think there's a lot to like, the fact that there's no narration and only dead people talking seemed to be just the thing for me, but i think it just goes on for waaay too long. that said, i'm glad this book exists.
May 19, 2018 marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-read-soon
It was pretty fun to see everyone's character unfold via neighborhood gossip. Are people exaggerating or do they think more highly of themselves than their neighbors do?
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, novels, m
I absolutely love this novel. I wish I'd read it sooner. There are so many aspects that are perfectly worked out; the premise is executed so simply and beautifully. It makes me want to learn more languages, and more about languages. The interplay of generations and cultures and dialects is incredible, I can't get over how well characters are established simply through dialogue. I hope I ever write something half this good.
Kieran Healy
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
All the characters in this novel are dead and buried, but they are not quiet. There is no peace or silence in the graveyard. In fact, death holds no enlightenment at all, and the residents are just as petty, jealous and gossipy as they were above ground. Insults and half-truths are hurled back and forth as only the Irish can do. The story is not so much about what happens below ground, but anxiously awaiting news about what's happening above it. Unfortunately, the narrators are liars, morons and ...more
Aaron (Typographical Era)
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Originally published in 1949, Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s notorious novel The Dirty Dust is widely considered to be a masterpiece of Irish literature. Yet in the fifty-plus years since it arrived on the scene, shocking the sensibilities of many of the upstanding citizens of Ireland with its liberal use of crass and filthy words, no one has attempted to provide non-Irish speaking readers with an English language translation. All that finally changes today however, thanks to the arrival of Alan Titley’s e ...more
Patrice Miller
Apr 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If a book can be Irish, this book is quite Irish. Lovely, existential, difficult to follow, full of sad humor and folks who even in an afterlife that clearly proves otherwise continue to believe in one way or another in Catholic theology. Relying on sound/voices as its only story telling device, it hit my love of theater and character performance while maintaining a highly literary style on the page. Very grateful this has been translated in my poor Anglo-American English, despite Cadhain's vali ...more
May 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am sure I missed a few cultural references, but I was so enthralled with this book that I don't think I care! Told entirely by conversation among the deceased, Cre na Cille is a hilarious rendering of life above ground told by those who deliver news as soon as they join them in their graves. Will Katriona get her cross of Connemara marble? Will her despised sister join the ranks of the dead soon, as she wishes? And as for her other archenemy, Toejam Nora, why is she suddenly so "cultured" here ...more
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: translated, 2016-read
I really liked this. It's certainly modernist (the entire book is dialogue that weaves in and out of comprehension) and the characters aren't particularly likable. They are all dead and interred in the local graveyard, but they are no less petty and provincial. Old insults fester and new insults bloom throughout and watching the dead continue on in their profane, affronted, unproductive afterlife still somehow makes for a dark comic narrative that was an enjoyable read.
Catherine Meyrick
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 2018
Graveyard Clay (Cré na Cille) is set in a graveyard in the west of Ireland in the early 1940s and is a continuing dialogue between those buried there. These are not spirits waiting to be translated elsewhere but rather the coffin-bound corpses of the dead. They have brought with them into the afterlife the petty squabbles and animosities, injustices, pretensions and ambitions of their previous lives. Some hunger for news of the outside world, bedevilling new arrivals with questions about the goi ...more
Scott Cox
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently read “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders. Bardo is defined as the state between death and rebirth, a Buddhist concept. I thought at the time that Saunders’ story was unique in its employment of this concept to a fictional account involving Abraham Lincoln and his beloved deceased son, Willie. The idea of a graveyard society of the recently deceased was indeed novel (pun intended), however “Graveyard Clay” (Cré na Cille) by Irish novelist Máirtín Ó Cadhain incorporated a similar ...more
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Christ's cross protect me!-- Am I alive or dead? Are the people here alive or dead? They are all rabbiting on exactly the same way as they were above the ground! I thought then when I died that I could rest in peace, that I wouldn't have to work, or witty about the house, or the weather, that I would be able to relax... But why all this racket in the dirty dust?"

This is one of the most important novels written in the Irish language and all the characters in it are dead. What happened above grou
Jun 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Graveyard Clay on the recommendation of an Irish member of our book club. I liked the book, but I think I would have appreciated it more if I had a greater connection to Ireland. I do not believe I missed too much, although I think the characters felt more familiar to our Irish members.
The book’s concept is entertaining. Corpses in a graveyard engage in fierce, and often humorous, gossip. Each arrival of a new body brings news from the living world and more scandal. Graveyard Clay exempli
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-novel
Irish literature (especially in the Irish language) has a reputation for misery as most stories focus on poverty and death. As this book is set in a graveyard, I was afraid that this would be more of the same. It has received high praise from critics, but this made me fear that it would be full of fancy literary words that you can't understand. As the whole book is comprised of dialogue, I wasn't sure if I would understand what was going on.

To my delight, it was a hilarious and easy to read book
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Máirtín Ó Cadhain (1906 – 18 October 1970) was one of the most prominent Irish language writers of the twentieth century.

Máirtín Ó Cadhain was born in Cois Fharraige in the Connamara Gaeltacht in 1906. He is best known for his major novel, Cré na Cille (Dublin, Sáirséal agus Dill, 1949). It has been translated into English as Graveyard Clay, and into many other languages, including Danish and Norw

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