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Synge: entre Paris et Inis Meàin

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John Millington Synge ((1871-1909), poète, écrivain et accessoirement musicien, était aussi photographe. Issu de la bourgeoisie protestante irlandaise, il passa une partie de sa vie à voyager pour étudier les arts et la littérature.

En 1897, malade, il décide de vivre entre Paris et Inis Meàn, dans les îles d'Aran. Il y effectue un véritable travail d'ethnologue, sillonnant la campagne avec son appareil-photo, collectant récits et chansons à chacun de ses passages.

En 1907, il publie son livre Les Iles d'Aran, illustré par Jack Butler Yeats. Les photos prises par Synge dans les îles d'Aran entre 1898 et 1902 ne seront rassemblées et publiées qu'en 1971 dans un recueil intitulé My Wallet of Photographs aux éditions Dolmen Press.

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Cripil Inis Meáin le Martin McDonagh

Aistrithe ag Micheál Ó Conghaile & faoi Stiúir ag Beartla M. Ó Flatharta

Láthair:     Áras Inis Gluaire, Béal an Mhuirthead, Co. Mhaigheo.
Dáta:        Dé Máirt 21ú Iúil 2009
Ám:          8.30pm
Ticéidí:      €10


I934. Tá scannán Robert Flaherty, Man of Aran, atá á dhéanamh ar Inis Mór, an áit a bhfuil sé suite ag cur iontais ar mhuintir Inis Meáin. Tapaíonn an 'Cripil' Billí Claven a dheis éalú óna dhá aint atá ag coinneáil súil ghéar air, Kate agus Eilín, lena shaoirse a bhaint amach. Téann sé go hInis Mór ag tóraíocht clú agus cáil le cúnamh ón iascaire Bobby Bhobby in éineacht le cailín báire na dúiche, Helen agus a deartháir Beairtlín, a bhfuil dúil mhór aige i milseáin.

Idir an dá linn, is breá leis an bhfear beadáin Johnny Pheaitín Mhaidhc an deis cainte atá aige agus mearbhall ar mhuintir an oileáin faoi eachtraí an cheathrair agus imní orthu an mbeidh  an 'cripil', Billí, in  ann déanamh dó féin sa saol mór.

Is é Mícheál Ó Conghaile a d'aistrigh an dráma dorcha seo go Gaeilge agus is é Beartla M. Ó Flatharta atá ag déanamh an chéad léirithe riamh de. Baineann pearsantacht láidir agus domhain le carachtair Mhartin McDonagh. Is taispeántas casta, gasta, greannmhar é seo a choinneoidh an lucht éisteachta faoi dhraíocht de bharr a spraoi agus an spleodar atá faoi. Tá aisteoirí mór le rá rannpháirteach ann ina measc: Bríd Ní Neachtain, Darach Ó Dubháin, Bridie Ní Churraoin, Mícheál Seoighe, Mícheál Ó Dubhghaill, Brídín Nic Dhonncha, Seán Ó Flatharta, Breandan Murray agus Áine Ní Dhroighneáin. Dearadh Stáitse - Dara McGee agus Dearadh na Soilse ó John Comiskey. Is é Máirtín O'Connor a chum an ceol agus is é Conor McBrierty atá i mbun Dearadh Fuaime.

Beidh Cripil Inis Meáin á léiriú in Áras Inis Gluaire, Béal an Mhuirthead, Co. Mhaigheo, Dé Máirt an 21ú Iúil, ag 8.30i.n. Is féidir tuilleadh eolais a fháil agus ticéid a chur in áirithe ag Áras Inis Gluaire (097-81079), nó téigh chuig suíomh idirlíon na féile: www.feileiorras.org


Áirithintí: Áras Inis Gluaire (097) 81079

O Ceallaigh's journey of longing to Inis Mor

The Pleasant Light of Day
Philip O Ceallaigh
Penguin, €16.89

By Emer O'Kelly
Sunday July 12 2009

When Philip O Ceallaigh's first collection of stories burst on the reading public, it had a fairly electrifying effect. The likelihood was that after Notes from a Turkish Whorehouse, his second collection might disappoint; and a dip would have been acceptable from such a disturbingly unique voice. But The Pleasant Light of Day merely confirms his reputation.

That, in itself, is phenomenal: to have become a respected fixture with only two books is, to say the least, unusual.

There are, by and large, three locales for this collection of stories (where there is a recognisable locale other than the uneasy world of a detached soul). They are set in Ireland, North Africa and eastern Europe, all made similar to each other by their individual narrators/central characters who obsessively seek salvation through a kind of grim self-sufficiency that withdraws fearfully from contact with the world.

From the student residences of Galway to the tourist hotels of Cairo and chalets of rest in the mountains of eastern Europe, the locale is actually a desert of the soul, a single journey of troubled longing, ending nowhere, but with arms still reaching out.

In Tombstone Blues, a man follows the reputed travels of St Antony to the roots of Coptic Christianity and settles in for what purports to be some research in a monastery library. Effectively, he is in retreat, indeed "on" retreat as Roman Christianity would put it. The supervising priest does not read the books which surround him. Questioned, he says merely, "I used to".

The pilgrim reflects on Athanasius' Life of St Anthony, in which the saint is mocked because he has no letters, and when he questions his mockers as to which is first, mind or letters of mind, they accept that mind is first and the inventor of letters. Antony tells them, "Whoever, therefore, hath a sound mind hath not need of letters."

The equating of anti-intellectualism with purity and peace of mind pervades most of the stories. That seems to be the universal search, broken only by a surging sexual desire that is almost profane in the context of its cold detachment. The narrator of Tombstone Blues seeks out a woman traveller he sees from his window, uses her as though she were hanging on a cross for him, but never wonders at the self-abasement of her compliance.

He makes no connection when she tells him she is dying of cancer; the darkness he later experiences when there is a power cut in his seedy Cairo hotel illuminates nothing for him: as long as he can locate the bottle beside him without knocking it over, it is enough. It's the light that is disturbing: when the power comes back, he is disturbed because the room is ugly.

In Uprooted, a young lecturer goes to a student party because, until he has tenure, he and his wife can't afford to live together, and he's lonely. The city is Galway, the hostess a young Circe who watches herself exercising power over men. There is damage in her smile, but Jonathan emerges relatively unscathed because he believes "the obstinate will inherit the earth".

Aidan, too, a sculptor at a loose end on a trip from Inis Mor, salvages his equilibrium with a return to the basics of collecting driftwood and preparing his barren island holding for planting after the visual and aural stench of the student party. Isolation is salvation.

Back in Cairo, in the story of the collection title, a man takes his small son to visit the museums, meticulously explaining the meaning of the words he uses to the avid youngster, combining truth with a tempering of realism.

When the boy asks why the ancient arrows on display are barbed, he tells his son it was "to hurt more", not that any attempt to pull them out would have ripped the flesh agonisingly. But he avoids the room of mummies, and as they sit to eat ice cream in the square named for the assassinated Anwar Sadat, he reflects that every generation goes about its business as if none of it had happened before.

This is O Ceallaigh's insistent, contradictory message. To find peace, the stories demand, man (and it is always man: women are receptacles in this strange world) must avoid analysis and immure himself in intellectual oblivion. But, by so doing, he condemns himself to learn nothing. And thus he remains an eternal traveller in a barren, unsure landscape of his own making, out of time and place.

It's a hell of a message; that O Ceallaigh delivers it so compellingly, enticing us, however reluctantly, into what he sees as its lonely certainties, is remarkable.

- Emer O'Kelly

Beidh Cripil Inis Meáin á léiriú in Áras Inis Gluaire, Béal an Mhuirthead, Co. Mhaigheo, Dé Máirt an 21ú Iúil, ag 8.30i.n. I934. Tá scannán Robert Flaherty, Man of Aran, atá á dhéanamh ar Inis Mór, an áit a bhfuil sé suite ag cur iontais ar mhuintir Inis Meáin.


Tapaíonn an 'Cripil' Billí Claven a dheis éalú óna dhá aint atá ag coinneáil súil ghéar air, Kate agus Eilín, lena shaoirse a bhaint amach. Téann sé go hInis Mór ag tóraíocht clú agus cáil le cúnamh ón iascaire Bobby Bhobby in éineacht le cailín báire na dúiche, Helen agus a deartháir Beairtlín, a bhfuil dúil mhór aige i milseáin.

Idir an dá linn, is breá leis an bhfear beadáin Johnny Pheaitín Mhaidhc an deis cainte atá aige agus mearbhall ar mhuintir an oileáin faoi eachtraí an cheathrair agus imní orthu an mbeidh  an 'cripil', Billí, in  ann déanamh dó féin sa saol mór.

Is é Mícheál Ó Conghaile a d'aistrigh an dráma dorcha seo go Gaeilge agus is é Beartla M. Ó Flatharta atá ag déanamh an chéad léirithe riamh de. Baineann pearsantacht láidir agus domhain le carachtair Mhartin McDonagh.

Is taispeántas casta, gasta, greannmhar é seo a choinneoidh an lucht éisteachta faoi dhraíocht de bharr a spraoi agus an spleodar atá faoi.

Tá aisteoirí mór le rá rannpháirteach ann ina measc: Bríd Ní Neachtain, Darach Ó Dubháin, Bridie Ní Churraoin, Mícheál Seoighe, Mícheál Ó Dubhghaill, Brídín Nic Dhonncha, Seán Ó Flatharta, Breandan Murray agus Áine Ní Dhroighneáin. Dearadh Stáitse - Dara McGee agus Dearadh na Soilse ó John Comiskey.

Is é Máirtín O'Connor a chum an ceol agus is é Conor McBrierty atá i mbun Dearadh Fuaime.

Is féidir tuilleadh eolais a fháil agus ticéid a chur in áirithe ag Áras Inis Gluaire (097-81079), nó téigh chuig suíomh idirlíon na féile: www.feileiorras.org

Solas Nua

 Solas Nua is a non-profit arts organization seeking  to support both feted and unknown work by contemporary artists in Ireland to promote awareness of modern Irish culture in Washington D.C.
 Solas Nua is the only organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to contemporary Irish arts. www.solasnua.org 
Celtic Music Workshops and Lessons in Tucson For those musicians in the Tucson area, mark your calendars for August 26 an 27.  (For the Aran connection, read on....)
That's when you'll have the opportunity to take private lessons and/or workshops with the internationally renowned, award-winning musicians who make up the groups Cara and 2duos. The bands are performing on Saturday August 29, at the Temple of Music and Art (for ticket information, see www.inconcerttucson.com). The bands are arriving in town early and will be available to teach private lessons and workshops on Wednesday August 26 and Thursday August 27. Private lessons are $40/hr and workshops are $30 each. For more information, or to register, contact me at melissaltatum AT yahoo DOT com. Please note these are not beginner workshops - students are expected to provide their own instruments and know how to play them. Whistles should be in the key of D. Wednesday Aug 26 (Cara only): Private lessons available from 10am - 12:00noon and from 2:00-4:00pm on bodhran, fiddle, guitar, flute & whistle Thursday Aug 27 (Cara + 2duos): private lessons and workshops Private lessons available from 10am - 9pm on bodhran, fiddle, guitar, bouzouki, vocals, flute & whistle Thursday workshop schedule (note: for fiddle, flute, guitar,and whistle, two teachers are available and the workshops will be divided into two skill levels where necessary) 4:30-5:45pm fiddle 4:30-5:45pm flute 6:00-7:15pm guitar 6:00-7:15pm bodhran 7:30-8:45 pm whistle All events will be held at Rountree Hall on The University of Arizona campus. Band biographies: CARA tour world wide with their unique interpretation of Celtic music. They are rooted in traditional music and song, but their own exciting compositions have received wide critical acclaim. While the two female lead singers are surely a hallmark of the band, the quality standard for instrumentals and arrangements is equally high. Cara combine their mastery of vocals, piano, fiddle, flute, guitar, bodhrán, uilleann pipes, accordion and concertina with a dry-witted and very entertaining stage presence. For more about CARA, check out the band's websites at www.cara-music.com/english/ and www.myspace.com/caralive 2duos consists of four well renowned and successful musicians from Europe - two from Scotland and two from Germany - all with a passion for Irish, Scottish and German folk music. Demonstrating that the musical culture and heritage of their home countries does indeed have lots in common, 2duos have been wowing both audiences and critics alike with their unique blend of German, Irish and Scottish tunes since their formation in December 2006. For more about 2duos, check out their websites at www.2duos.com/ and www.myspace.com/2duos Instructor biographies: Patricia Clark is studying for a BA in Irish music and Dance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick. She taught at numerous festivals around Europe like Cambridge Folk Festival and Sidmouth Folk Week in the UK, Le Bono in France and many more. She also is a sought after teacher for masterclasses by musicians visiting Ireland. Toured with several international artists such as Altan, At First Light, Gráda and The Outside Track. Patricia plays fiddle and piano Aaron Jones was voted 'Instrumentalist of the Year' at the Scots Trad Music Awards 2005 and is also a member of award winning Scottish band 'Old Blind Dogs' - winners of 'Folk Band of the Year' at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2004 and 2007. He is in great demand as both an accompanist and a singer and continues to work with some of the biggest names in traditional music. He is also a founding partner in traditional music resource www.tradmusic.com, which launched in 2002. As well being a Committee Member for the Musicians Union of Scotland and Northern Ireland he is also an official accompanist at the prestigious BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Awards. Aaron sings and plays bouzouki and guitar. Claire Mann has established herself as one of the leading performers and teachers of traditional Irish fiddle and flute. She has toured extensively worldwide with bands Tabache, Croabh Rua, The New Shoes, Tom McConville and Christy O'Leary and is also a tutor of traditional music on the renowned RSAMD and Newcastle University folk degree courses. Claire sings and plays flute, fiddle, and whistle. Claus Steinort started playing the Irish Flute in 1989. He has been touring and recording with several bands, including Dereelium, Steampacket and Cara. Claus has spent a lot of time in Ireland in the 90s, including a semester in Dublin, where he studied applied languages. Claus has a diploma degree in applied languages (technical translation). He has taught Irish flute playing since 1996 at various occasions, mainly for the Uilleann Pipes Society of Germany, at Wimborne Folk Festival (UK) and various Folk Weeks across Germany. He also started playing the Uilleann Pipes in 2004 and is a master of ornamentation and interpreting a tune. He also plays and teaches tin whistle. Juergen Treyz was classically trained on the piano and graduated in Jazz Guitar at the MGI Munich. He also got involved with medieval music as well as folk music from all over Europe. He combines his knowledge of harmonic structure with a sure taste in styles and is one of the most distinctive guitar players and arrangers in Celtic Music today. He also works as a composer for audio books, TV series, theatre plays and movies. He runs his own recording studio named artes Musikproduktion and produced a vast amount of CDs, both with his own music and as a producer for various bands. Rolf Wagels started playing bodhrán in 1993 and was rated among the best bodhrán players of continental europe. He teaches all over Germany and is a member of the highly praised trad irish bands Cara, DeReelium and Steampacket. In June 2005, he was the first non-irish teacher at the renowned Bodhrán Summerschool "Craiceann" on Inis Oirr (Aran Islands) and was asked to return every year since. His style is a mixture of traditional pulse orientated playing and the more extroverted top end style. Webpage: http://www.bodhran-info.com and http://www.myspace.com/rolfwagels Gudrun Walther was classically trained on the fiddle, but picked up folk music also from a very young age and combines the two styles in her fiddling. She studied in master classes with many internationally known fiddlers from Ireland, France, Germany and Scandinavia, and makes her living as a touring musician since 14 years. Gudrun is also a popular teacher for fiddle as well as for ensemble playing and arranging.

Galway Arts Festival - 2009 line up



Galway Advertiser

Primal Scream.

By Kernan Andrews (Galway Advertiser, June 04, 2009)

GLAM ROCK legends the New York Dolls and a major dance show by the brilliant Michael Clark, inspired by the Glam era of David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed, are just two of the many exciting shows, concerts, events, readings, and exhibitions lined up for this year's Galway Arts Festival, which runs from July 13 to 26.

Theatre and dance

Fans of dance and classic rock music will be looking forward to the show by the Michael Clark Company in the Black Box from July 15 to 18, which explores, celebrates, and was inspired by the work of David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed in the 1972-73 period. This will be the show's Irish premiere.

Propeller theatre company will stage two works by Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant Of Venice - in the Town Hall from July 22 to 26. Directed by Edward Hall, the plays will feature male only casts (as it was in The Bard's day) and be reinterpreted in contemporary settings. This will be both show's Irish premiere.

No arts festival is complete without Druid and this year the acclaimed Galway company will stage Tom Murphy's The Gigli Concert in the newly refurbished and soon to be re-opened Druid Theatre from July 17 to 25. There will also be the Druid debuts and a celebration of JM Synge in St Nicholas' Collegiate Church on July 26.

The Irish premiere of Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre's production of Judith Thompson's Palace Of The End, described by The Guardian as containing "the most penetrating images of the Iraq war...astonishing", will take place in the Town Hall from July 14 to 18.

Circe, Australia's premiere physical theatre company will bring its wonderful fusion of acrobatics, dance, gymnastics, and drama to the arts festival when it presents the European premiere of its new show Furioso to the Black Box from July 21 to 26.

Irish theatre companies will be staging works during the arts festival such as Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (BofI Theatre, NUI, Galway, July 20 to 25); Martin McDonagh's Cripil Inis Meáin (Seanscoil Sailearna, Indreabhán, July 15 to 19); Blackbird by David Harrower (Nuns Island, July 15 to 25); Dragonfly's production of Reptilian (Town Hall studio, July 13 to 18); and Galway Youth Theatre's staging of DNA (Nuns Island, July 14 to 25).

Children will get great fun out of Pignit Productions' Flea Circus in the Town Hall Theatre foyer throughout the festival. They will also enjoy Cork Circus' Higgeldy Piggeldy, about the adventures of three little pigs in NUIG (July 16 and 17) and Your Man's Puppets' The Legend Of Lowry Lynch in the Town Hall studio (July 23 to 26).

Music

The show at the arts festival that everyone is talking about and excited by is Bon Iver (US Indie-folk singer Justin Vernon) at the Big Top in the Fisheries Field on Thursday July 23. If you've heard his album For Emma, Forever Ago, you'll know why. If you don't have it, get it now and then you will understand.

Also playing the Big Top are David Gray (July 21 with support from David Kitt); Femi Kuti, a true giant of African music (July 22); and a mouth-watering triple bill of Primal Scream, Spiritualized, and DJ David Holmes (July 24).

The Róisín Dubh will host a major series of gigs throughout the arts festival and the Dominick Street's impressive line-up features New Orleans' Hot 8 Brass Band on July 13; the Indie-pop and b-movie mayhem of Fight Like Apes on July 14; anti-folk singer Emmy The Great on July 16; the legendary glam-rock/proto-punk band, the New York Dolls on July 17; Jerry Fish and The Mudbug Club on July 18; soul singer Candi Staton (best known for the hit 'Young Hearts Run Free') on July 19; Brooklyn's powerhouse Indie-folk band O'Death on July 20; soul legend Brooker T, former leader of The MGs and the man behind the classic instrumental 'Green Onions') on July 21; and the great Jack L on July 24.

The Róisín will also hold its popular annual Trad Lunchtimes from July 16 to 25.

Sean Tyrrell will present his Message Of Peace show in The Crane on July 18 and 25. Campbell's Tavern in Cloughanover, Headford, will host acoustic guitar wizard Andy McKee on July 13 and songwriter Mary Gauthier on July 25.

Classical music enthusiasts have much to look forward to with the Kronos Quartet, premiering work by Blur's Damon Albarn in the Radisson SAS Hotel on July 14; the left-field classical meets avant-garde meets pop of The Penguin Café Orchestra (Radisson, July 17); and jazz from the highly promising Neil Cowley Trio (Radisson, July 16).

ConTempo will join the award winning Galway singer and composer Julie Feeney for a concert in St Nicholas' on July 16 and then perform with Alexander Balanescu for a show entitled Inner Journey in the same location on July 18.

Latin music fans can look forward to the New York salsa sounds of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra in the Radisson on July 19.

Street events

No arts festival is complete without street events and this year will see two events which will take place at night. The Macnas parade Orfeo, directed by Noeline Kavanagh, based on the idea of Orpheus' journey to the underworld takes place on July 19 at 10pm. It will begin at the Spanish Arch, travelling to Flood Street, Merchant's Road, Lower Abbeygate Street, William Street, Eglinton Street, Francis Street, Salmon Weir Bridge, and into the Fisheries Field.

Germany's Theatre Titanick will present Firebirds in the city centre on July 14 and 15 at 2pm and 10pm, so expect to see daredevil pilots, driving crazy machines through the streets. Dance Theatre Of Ireland will present its new show Bloc Party in Spanish Parade, Spanish Arch, on July 23.

Comedy

The mighty Tommy Tiernan will play a run of shows at Cuba*, Eyre Square, from July 13 to 18. Also playing Cuba* are David O'Doherty (July 20) and Maeve Higgins (July 22). The inspired comedy meets pop-rock band antics of Dead Cat Bounce return to the Laughter Lounge in the Róisín Dubh on July 15; while Mark Thomas will be exploring matters financial in It's The $tup£d €conom¥ in the Radisson on July 18.

Literature/talks

Niall Stanage, author of Redemption Song: An Irish Reporter Inside The Obama Campaign will read on July 17; One In Four founder and amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O'Gorman will speak on July 18; Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist Of Sarajevo, will read on July 24; BBC/Discovery Channel reporter Ben Anderson will be looking at everything from football to September 11 at his talk on July 25. All take place in the Hotel Meyrick, Eyre Square.

Visual arts

ABSOLUT is the new partner of the Festival's ABSOLUT Visual Arts Programme. With the establishment of ABSOLUT ART in 1981, the company commissioned a broad range of international artists from Louise Bourgeois to Andy Warhol to create new work. This exhibition, featuring a selection of work from the ABSOLUT Collection, includes Louise Bourgeois, Pierre et Gilles, and Miguel Barcelo. See a selection from the collection in the Festival Gallery (McDonagh's/Instore, Merchants Road).

The great British artist David Hockney will exhibit his visual interpretations of stories from the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales in the same venue. Also in the Festival Gallery, the photo exhibition Child Soldier will be held.

The Galway City Museum will host a photographic exhibition by Russia's Varvara Shavrova who will contrast images of Bejing and Ballycastle, Co Mayo. Other photographic exhibitions include Colm Hogan's depiction's of Cork Travellers (Galway City Museum) and John Minihan's classic depiction's of Beckett and Francis Bacon (The Kenny Gallery).

Other exhibitions include Sean Cotter and Ger Sweeney (Festival Gallery); Lars Laumann (Galway Arts Centre); John Barry (Festival Gallery); Mart (thatch cottage, Henry Street); Lisa Sweeney (Norman Villa Gallery); Lorg (NUIG gallery); Tracy Sweeney (UHG); Dolores Lyne (White Room Gallery); and John Kingerlee (Kenny's).

All exhibitions run for the duration of the festival.

Tickets for the Big Top shows are on sale now. The festival box office will be opened on Merchant's Road (McDonagh building) from June 22. For more information go to www.galwayartsfestival.com

Nooteboom and the Aran islands

Los Angeles Times

April 8, 2009 Wednesday

Tim Rutten

Cees Nooteboom, now 75, is one of the two Dutch writers -- along with his slightly older contemporary, Harry Mulisch -- whose name always turns up on those mysterious annual short lists of Nobel Prize contenders so beloved of European literary journalists.


 Nooteboom is the sort of writer who can can describe Irish grass as "idiotically green" and observe that not knowing the language of the country in which a traveler finds himself turns him "into a very small child, a dog, or a foreigner -- for these three are none of them capable of understanding what you say." (The latter reaction came in a pub on the Aran Isles, where the author encountered his first native Irish speaker.)

The relatively short works here are not, in other words, pieces that slip easily into the conventional Anglo-American travel-writing genre. (That's part of what renders them rather mesmerizing.) Nor does it work to label them "travel sketches." Despite their brevity, these are deeply layered, richly allusive and -- in the best sense of the word -- demanding, wholly original pieces. Perhaps they best could be described as meditations on various destinations.

There's more

A subtle way of seeing (Inis Meain)

A subtle way of seeing

Joseph O'Connor delights in the unusual talent on display in a short story collection

Notes from a Turkish Whorehouse, the 2005 debut collection of short stories from Philip O'Ceallaigh, garnered deservedly strong reviews and a handful of prizes. Its follow-up, The Pleasant Light of Day, will extend and deepen his already considerable reputation as an artist of extraordinary gifts. He is assiduous with words, a writer of craft and vision, and refreshingly so sparing with similes and self-announcing images that to read him is to be reminded of the power of plain prose to break into territories of the imagination. When he does use a metaphor, it bursts off the page. ("The hoofed beast of jealous panic ran through him.") Of the dozen stories here, perhaps 10 are so perfectly achieved and exhilaratingly confident that you feel O'Ceallaigh is developing a form all his own.

  1. The Pleasant Light of Day
  2. by Philip O'Ceallaigh
  3. 264pp,
  4. Penguin
  1. Buy The Pleasant Light of Day at the Guardian bookshop

There's a focus on telling it as it is, not on saying what it's like. In "Uprooted", a story unusual for being located in his native Ireland, "Gulls quiver on the wind, swoop, rise again, wheeling in the updraught." The wind is "picking up the crashing swell at the cliffs of Inis Meáin, propelling it halfway across that island as salt rain."

In "Walking Away", a strange and compelling piece set shortly after a funeral, the narrator resists facile or inherited assumptions of the meaningful. "What foolishness, to speak of beyond, when we hardly know what we have here, on this earth, right before our eyes." What can be seen is always important in these vivid, measured stories. This is an author who looks at things carefully, annihilates the clichés. John McGahern wrote that any artist needs first a way of seeing. Philip O'Ceallaigh has one.

This is a world where sexuality is tough, a contested ground, and the comings and goings of his hungry-hearted characters rarely yield a sense of communion. And in "My Secret War" he unfolds a nightmarish vision of suburban American life: "In the evenings, after the kids are in bed, me and Martha might drink a bottle of beer on the porch, listening to the crickets. A flag flies over our tranquil lawn, for our brave men and women in the service ... Evil lies in every human heart, awaiting the faltering of our vigilance. There is no need to say much to Martha because she knows already."

A resident of Bucharest, he conjures east-European cities with shimmering precision; these metropolises of trams and urban insularities and recently vacated pedestals. But the stories that have rural settings are brilliantly achieved too. In "High Country", a hauntingly beautiful piece, a man hikes alone into the countryside beyond a provincial town, the resulting spell of self-confrontation unfolded with such exactitude and delicacy that you feel you've walked through the same rainstorm. Revelations are few and epiphanies fewer. The trekker in the story is not quite sure of destinations but tells himself "the time patiently taken was what you offered up, trusting that the moment would come." It's a thought that often arises on the journey through this exquisite collection, for this is work that invites slow rereading, not in order to understand it, but so as to glimpse again the consolation of the world being described.

The standard is extremely high, which is one of the reasons why "The Alchemist", an only intermittently funny satire of the work of the Brazilian inspirational writer Paulo Coelho, might have been better omitted. Fish in a barrel sometimes need to be shot, but the 32-page death they receive from O'Ceallaigh comes to feel dismayingly drawn-out. There is also a slightly cluttering inter-textuality, tropes from one story materialising in another. (O'Ceallaigh's first book is referenced in the opening story, with a title so thinly disguised as to demand immediate recognition.) When the playfulness works, as it sometimes does, the result is an attractive complicating of the textures of the stories, a sense that they are linked like the verses of a song or the overlapping circles of a Venn diagram. This is a writer who is pushing hard at the boundaries of the form. If it doesn't always come off, you admire his courage and purpose, his avowal that there are still things undone that words might do, in a genre that might yet come to be important for our times. "In Another Country", the longest story, and thematically a central one, is a masterpiece that earns every line of its 53 pages. The prose is graceful and poised yet supercharged with the edginess that makes the events it describes unforgettable.

All in all, this is a profoundly impressive and haunting suite of stories, remarkable for being only the second collection from an author who is already touched by greatness. In one of them, a character kneels on a riverbank, "where the water was deeper than in other places and he could see the clean stones on the riverbed". It's what O'Ceallaigh's writing achieves, a clarification, a revealing, a pointing to realities so fundamental and unchanging that most of the time they go unnoticed. He is a scintillating talent and this is work of immense strength, but also of light and elusive hopefulness.

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"The Life & Times of James Connolly"

"The Life & Times of James Connolly" from "The Non-Stop Connolly Show" by Margaretta D'Arcy & John Arden.

A 2-hour version of our 14-hour 1975 epic drama "The Non-Stop Connolly Show (a cycle of continuous struggle)" was read to a crowded lounge bar on the island of Inis Meain, Aran, on Sunday afternoon, the 27th of August.

As the story of James Connolly's life and work unfolded, the intensity of the listeners, and their reaction to each nuance of the speeches, made us realize that this is a living history and that Connolly is even more relevant today than he was when the script was written. It struck us very forcibly for instance, as we read out parts of his Irish Socialist Republican Party manifesto (1896), that he was campaigning in those days for all sorts of things which we still have not got - or are already losing - for instance: "public ownership of the land and all instruments of production, distribution and exchange ... nationalization of both agriculture and industry ... a minimum wage and a 48-hour week, free education under the control of popularly-elected committees, pensions to be paid for out of a graduated income tax."
Early in the play we show Connolly as a young soldier in the British army (round about 1885) posted to the west of Ireland and staring round-eyed at a desolate prospect:
"In every field where good corn ought to sprout
The weeds and nettles grow so thick
Ye'd need an earthquake shock to root them out.
The only vigour and order that I can discover
Are the soldiers and the constables with their bright brass and polished
leather:
They glare out over the green, where at every crossroads they stand -
It is as though their cold blue eyes had poisoned the whole land."
 
A museum exhibits the old clichéd photographs of spinning wheels, curraghs and women in shawls - a dead and static culture, bound to the Irish language but without any gateway into the vibrancy of the modern world - J.M.Synge is recognized because he has been in a sense turned into a brand-name to give lineage to the Celtic Tiger - there is however no mention of the altar made for the parish church by Patrick Pearse's sculptor father (did young Pearse accompany him?) no mention of the glorious church window by Harry Clarke, one of Ireland's greatest and most controversial 20th-century artists (whose work was banned by the government because of its sexuality), no mention of how so many of the 1916 leaders came to the island to study not only the language but the possibility of national transformation. The museum of course is for the tourist, native as much as foreign, a magpie nest of glittering pickings from the past taken altogether out of context and presented as that strange commodity "heritage" which needs no sense of continuity and must lead to no significant action - "that was THEN, multi-nationals are NOW and are the only acceptable forms of progress" - what else is the message of our government's selling of Shell in County Mayo?
"The spread of global capitalism has not been balanced by a spread of democracy or values" - Joseph Stiglitz (ex-chief economist at the World Bank), who goes on to pose the question, can globalization be good if it does not rest on sound foundations? Connolly knew the answer, over a century ago.
To return to the play. The performance ended with a spontaneous rendering by Mary Coughlan of the ballad "Where O where is James Connolly?" - one of the most emotional theatrical experiences that we've ever had.


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Christopher Nolan, Irish Author, Dies at 43

Christopher Nolan, an Irish writer who, mute and quadriplegic since birth, produced a highly praised volume of verse and short stories at 15 and went on to publish a prize-winning autobiography, "Under the Eye of the Clock," died Friday in Dublin. He was 43 and lived in Sutton, near Dublin.

His death was confirmed by a condolence message from the president of Ireland, Mary McAleese. His family told the Irish and British press that he died after food became trapped in his airway.

Oxygen deprivation during a difficult delivery left Mr. Nolan physically helpless, able to communicate with family members only through eye movements. At 11, supplied with a new drug to relax his neck muscles, he began writing with a "unicorn stick" strapped to his forehead, pecking a letter at a time on a typewriter as his mother held his chin with her hands.

The brain that one doctor had predicted would remain infantile turned out to contain a distinctive literary voice awaiting release.
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The go-to guy for Irish accents

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Speaking Synge

Stephen Gabis comes across like speech therapy. That's because Mr. Gabis is a go-to dialect coach whose craft can be heard on Broadway and beyond.
He just did a production of "The Playboy of the Western World" for Queens College, NY. It's one of the most difficult things. I find it tougher than Shakespeare, that particular play by John Millington Synge.
He went to the Aran Islands and literally listened to people through keyholes. English was the second language. Most of them spoke Irish Gaelic first, and the specific Gaelic of that province, of Connacht. It's written in convoluted language. You can't say "I love you." You say things like [speaking in an Irish accent], "It is to you I might be thinking of giving love next Thursday if I'm not milking the cows and stuck somewhere because I drank too much." [back to an American accent] It's a real roundabout way of speaking. It's tonal, like Chinese.
WITH talk of diphthongs and tongue positions, a dialogue session with  His fluency with accents helps make the rounded vowels of "The Seafarer" or the dropped r's of "To Kill a Mockingbird" sound authentic enough to sometimes fool even native speakers of the represented regions.
Read the full NYTimes profile here

New York Times raves about "Cripple"

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On a Barren Isle, Gift of the Gab and Subversive Charm

Published: December 22, 2008
For those of you for whom an annual reading of "A Christmas Carol" is as welcome as a two-ton fruitcake, the Atlantic and Druid Theater Companies have provided a savory alternative. That's the fine imported Irish revival of Martin McDonagh's "Cripple of Inishmaan," which opened Sunday night at the Linda Gross Theater, offering its own salty variation on that sugarplum Tiny Tim. He is called Cripple Billy, and like Dickens's beloved tot, he is sickly, misshapen and deeply wistful. I can promise you, though, that he isn't about to say, "God bless us, everyone."
There's more at the NYT

Why it's time to bring a major Irish artist home



Maybe now we've sufficiently recovered from both the cultural ideology of the 1930s and the subsequent reaction against it to look at Peig Sayers for what she is - a remarkable artist. Its time to recognise a great storyteller's magic imagination says The Irish Times' Fintan O'Toole 
read it here

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