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3.82  ·  Rating details ·  4,487 Ratings  ·  195 Reviews
The action of this play takes place in late August 1833 at a hedge-school in the townland of Baile Beag - an Irish speaking community in County Donegal. The 'scholars' are a cross-section of the local community, from a semi-literate young farmer to and elderly polygot autodidact who reads and quotes Homer in the orginal. In a nearby field camps a recently arrived detachmen ...more
Paperback, 91 pages
Published April 27th 1981 by Faber Faber (first published 1981)
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Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Radio 4 listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Translations, set in a fictional Donegal village in 1833, is a play about a 19th century Ordnance Survey wherein a mass Anglicization of Irish-Gaelic place names occurred. This cartography project sets the context for Friel's narrative, a story which, for its many layers, is ultimately a bold examination of the function of language.

The characters in the play, a group of students who attend a local hedge school, speak only Irish. In actuality the actors on stage are speaking English, and when Eng
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama, ireland, 2013, 2015
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
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A real treat! I liked the way that the play works on different levels. The surface story, the historical, the social commentary about colonialism and the arrogance of renaming all of a country's landmarks, the idea of words as signposts, the way characters do & don't communicate even without words.

I have also listened to the BBC Radio adaptation which was marvelous. Perhaps I wouldn't have loved the written play as much if I didn't have those voices in my mind...
Grace Mc Gowan
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
9th January 1929- 89 years ago tomorrow Brian Friel was born at Knockmoyle (Cnoc Maol) near Omagh in Co. Tyrone- something I was largely unaware of until I started researching this piece. A hefty helping of Friel added to my literary education in secondary school, when our palettes had been thoroughly prepared by a proper diet of Seamus Heaney’s Blackberries from childhood. Despite this I always assumed Friel was born, and raised, and belonged completely to my hometown of Derry. This is an irrit ...more
Ângela Serrão
May 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
[mini opinião]
Adorei esta peça, especialmente em termos formais - escrita em inglês por um irlandês onde a maioria das personagens supostamente falam em irlandês, com a participação de outras que falam em inglês; tudo escrito em inglês. Estou a fazer sentido? Imaginem isto a ser representado no palco! É muito interessante ver estas trocas linguísticas e acrescentar o facto de existirem vários registos (personagens de diferentes mundos socioeconómicos). Muito divertido, teve tudo o que é preciso:
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
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008, college, plays, 2009
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
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
Rima Rashid
Nov 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Some of the best books you read are for school or uni. I absolutely loved this play about Britain's colonial control over rural Ireland.

The characters hit you in the heart in so many different ways. Young and mute Sarah learning to speak. Manus and Hugh witnessing the erosion of their home as English soldiers are sent to change the "confusing names" of places in Baile Beag. Owen realising too late his role in all of this and poor Yolland struggling to find a place where he belongs.

It's gut wren
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
I know I was meant to reread this for booktubeathon but I couldn't resist. This is such a fabulous play, full of so many complex thoughts, ideas and feelings. There is so much to think about as an English speaking Irish person who lives in an Ireland where place names are anglicised and thought of in their English form first. It's a powerful examination of one aspect of how colonialism changed my country as well as a look at what it means to be 'learned' or 'educated' especially when that entail ...more
Lindsay Wilson
May 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: plays
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
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
“He said the sooner we all learn to speak English the better! ”

This play clearly shows the manipulation of language. How do you measure the importance of one language over the other? How do you establish that your language is better than the other? Language is something which is entwined with your culture so denying your language and embracing another language can mean rejection of your culture. Some like to do it whole heartedly (those like Owen and Maire) but some reject it (Manus).

I liked the
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Me lo tendría que haber leído en noviembre para una clase but shit happens. Also i'm a mess así que bueno, primer libro del 2017 leído.
Feb 11, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Okay, I know this is going to sound weird, but if you just kind of... cut out a huge section of this play, I would have really liked it. I liked everything about it, the concept is so interesting. But they have these two characters, Hugh and Jimmy, who just go on and on in Greek and Latin and talk non-stop about Ulysses and it just came across as being pretentious?? The climax was ruined because yer man Hugh went on some feckin' rant about god knows what!
Ignoring the unnecessary Greek, I think
Emily  Philbin
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
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
Oct 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama, new-classics
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
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
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
Anna-Maria Morgenstern
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Even though this book just has 91 pages, the characters grew on me in that short time. The book was interesting and the plot went into a direction I did not expect at all.
Definitely recommending this one! Loved it.
Cleo Harper
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
This story revolves around English officers sent to Ireland to rename cities and landmarks with "more recognizable" names. It's short and sweet, with a tragic ending, but has a few funny moments when two people who don't speak the same language say the same thing and the other doesn't understand
May 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A people forget how to speak. Dún Laoghaire becomes Kingstown. We all get drunk. So it goes.
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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?
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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
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“To remember everything is a form of madness.” 31 likes
“...that it is not the literal past, the 'facts' of history, that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language.” 14 likes
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