TRANSLATIONS FROM IRISH

Translations from Irish
Islandman
Dúil
Adharca broic11
Brightcity
Anbealachunabhaile
In this article, Transcript looks briefly at the history of translating 20th century Irish literature into English.
Translations of 20th century Irish literature have been appearing for many decades. An early example is Tomás Ó Criomhthainn's An tOileánach (1929) translated by Robin Flower in 1937 (The Islandman, Oxford University Press).

Mid-century, a small number of writers wrote both in Irish and in English. Two Aranmen illustrate this point. One, Liam Ó Flaithearta, author of Famine and Skellert , for example, wrote a collection of short stories Dúil (Sáirséal agus Dill 1953) in his native Irish, as well as some verse. His fellow islander Breandán Ó hEithir, while prefering Irish (An Nollaig Thiar, Poolbeg, 1989; Lig Sinn i gCathú, Sáirséal, Ó Marcaigh, 1976) wrote a history of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in English entitled Over the Bar. Similarly Myles na gCopaleen (Brian Ó Nualláin, Flann O'Brien) wrote An Béal Bocht in Irish (An Preas Náisiúnta, 1941) and novels such as The Third Policeman and The Hard Life in English.

With the outbreak of the troubles in the north of Ireland in the late sixties, attitudes towards English hardened within Gaelic circles. The Irish language became, once again, synonymous with a specific creed and doctrine - catholicism and nationalism. Translation of Irish language literature into English was, during the 70s, uncommon, and seen by some as an act of betrayal. The career of Michael Hartnett illustrates the principles seen to be involved in choosing one idiom above another. In 1975 he wrote his A Farewell to English and in 1978 his first collection in Irish Adharca Broic (Gallery Books, 1978).

With the advent of the eighties, however, translation, both of prose and of poetry found new favour. Works which may be cited in this context are The Road to Bright City Máirtín Ó Cadhain, translated by Eoghan Ó Tuairisc (Poolbeg, 1981), Máirtín Ó Direáin Selected Poems, Tacar Dánta, translated by Mac Síomóin and Sealy (Goldsmith, 1984), and The Bright Wave/An Tonn Gheal, edited by Dermot Bolger (Raven Arts Press, 1986).

The 1990s saw this trend continue. We note The Astrakhan Cloak by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, translated by Paul Muldoon (The Gallery Press, 1992), An Bealach 'na Bhaile/Homecoming Cathal Ó Searcaigh, (Cló Iar-Chonnachta, 1993), Modern Irish Poetry, An Anthology edited by Patrick Crotty, (Blackstaff, 1995) which includes translations from the Irish, and Death in the Land of Youth Seán Ó Tuama, with translations or versions by Denman and Ó Tuama (Cork University Press, 1997).


Read more in Transcript's feature on Dual Idioms.














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