Tag Archives: Irish writers

Cúpla Focal (A Few Words)

Image

FEICIM, Irish language immersion courses on Inis Oirr

Few can argue with the fact that Ireland has contributed a wildly disproportionate number of towering literary works to the English language canon. Our writers have included James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift, Sean O’Casey, C.S. Lewis, WB Yeats, Molly Keane, JM Synge, Elizabeth Bowen and Flann O’Brien,– to name but a few. And this is before considering contemporary writers such as William Trevor, Brian Friel, Roddy Doyle, John Banville, Joseph O’Connor, Kevin Barry. How come a small island of around four million people has produced scribes who wield the English language (and therefore, a non-native tongue) with such aplomb?

It is often proposed that the Irish are simply far more playful and experimental with the English language than other Anglophone peoples. And the reason is because in Ireland, the Irish language remains a palimpsest underscoring the use of English in Ireland (a branch of the Anglophone tree known as Hiberno-English).

As an Irish writer who also speaks Hungarian and French, I would have to agree that multi-lingualism, or at least the existence of another language in proximity to the vernacular will have an impact, and usually that impact will be positive, playful and fruitful. Every language I have learned has taught me to regard another aspect of English in a fresh way.

Some years ago, I had the honour of being Artist in Residence on Inis Oirr, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Irish is the first language on the island. Like all Irish people, I studied Irish for thirteen years as a schoolgirl. However, coming from the East of Ireland, my home language was English and since leaving school, I’ve had little opportunity to practice the ancient tongue. However, my time on Inis Oirr allowed the re-awakening of my dormant Irish and I was surprised at how quickly it came back – and I was struck at how it began to colour my writings, as they became more lyrical, poetic and playful.

There, I had the fortune to meet Brid Ni Chualain, a native Irish speaker from the island. Brid is also a writer. Her love of the native language coupled with her easy-going, friendly approach to language tutoring has meant she’s gained quite a following as an Irish language tutor and now runs FEICIM, immersion courses on Inis Oirr for beginners through to advanced. Moreover, she’s willing to do skype lessons, so I might be taking her up on that score.  You don’t have to learn Irish to be a great English language writer – but it does appear to help ; )


Them Writin’ Irish!

Image

You don’t have to be Irish to be a great writer, but it helps. An oft debated point is the essential ingredient that has given the Irish the edge re the written word ever since the Book of Kells. There are many takes on the matter. Some say it’s because although most Irish writers write in English, they use the syntax, structure and playfulness of the Irish language which gives a mastery and an unusual manner of wielding English that results in, well, pure poetry.

Others suggest it is our tradition of story telling, living on in our sizzling and stinging pub banter. Some put it down to our sad history, allowing for a depth and pain to infuse our written word.

However, I’m with the crowd that says its simply because we’re a race of geniuses. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís…

Famous Irish writers: Sebastian Barry, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen, John Banville, Brendan Behan, Dion Boucicault, Roddy Doyle, Emma Donoghue, Maria Edgeworth, Brian Friel, Oliver Goldsmith, Neil Jordan, John B. Keane, Colum McCann, John McGahern, Iris Murdoch, C.S. Lewis, Edna O’Brien, Jennifer Johnston, Iris Murdoch, James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, Molly Keane, Hugh Leonard, Martin McDonagh, Frank McGuinness, Sean O’Casey, Joseph O’Connor, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge, Colm Toibin, Oscar Wilde, WB Yates, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift… to name but a few.


You Don’t Have to be Irish…

A picture from Ireland - Lismore Castle, Co Waterford. My grandmother's hometown.

You don’t have to be Irish to be a great writer, but it helps. An oft debated point is the essential ingredient that has given the Irish the edge re the written word ever since the Book of Kells. There are many takes on the matter. Some say it’s because although most Irish writers write in English, they use the syntax, structure and playfulness of the Irish language which gives a mastery and an unusual manner of wielding English that results in, well, pure poetry. Others suggest it is our tradition of story telling, living on in sizzling and stinging pub banter. Some put it down to our sad history, allowing for a depth and pain to infuse our written word. However, I’m with the crowd that says its simply because we’re a race of freaking geniuses. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís…

Famous Irish writers: Sebastian Barry, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen, John Banville, Brendan Behan, Dion Boucicault, Roddy Doyle, Emma Donoghue, Maria Edgeworth, Brian Friel, Oliver Goldsmith, Neil Jordan, John B. Keane, Colum McCann, John McGahern, Iris Murdoch, C.S. Lewis, Edna O’Brien, Jennifer Johnston, James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, Molly Keane, Hugh Leonard, Martin McDonagh, Frank McGuinness, Sean O’Casey, Joseph O’Connor, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge, Colm Toibin, Oscar Wilde, WB Yates, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift… to name but a few.