Saturday, 19 October 2013

George Moore and the Revival of Irish (The Untilled Field / An t-Úr Gort)

George Moore was caught up in the enthusiasm for the revival of the Irish Language and offered to do his bit. The idea was that he would produce a collection of simple tales that could then be translated into Irish and serve as headline for writers in the native language. The originals would then be destroyed. Tadhg Ó Donnchadha and Pádraig Ó Súilleabháin did the translation and it was published as An t-Úr Gort, The Untilled Field in the original. I have never seen a copy and it seems that it plunged into the pool of indifference without a splash like an expert diver. T.W. Rolleston translated it back into Sacsbhréarla (Speech of the Saxons) and Moore declared it improved by its bath in Irish. And I’ve never seen that either.

Scholars of Joyce claim The Untilled Field as an influence on Dubliners. There’s a nice blog entry by David Wheatley on Joyce and Beckett under the influence:
My own modest claim is that the story The Wedding-Gown has elements in it which seem translated from the Gaelic tradition picked up by Moore who if he had more that one hundred conversations with stable boys, jockeys and servants about Moore Hall would surely have heard. One of them is ‘bhiseach an bháis’ or the improvement in condition or lucidity that happens just before death to enable recollection and repentence. If you have seen or read Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh the Irish Priest (Niall Tobín) at the deathbed of Lord Marchmain explains. It was the sign that Charles Ryder sought.
the divil in the room

The moiedered old woman comes to her senses and passes on the wedding gown to her niece. The garment has kept her chained to this plane but when the perfect moment has come she can let go. Fear of death in both the young woman and the old is vanquished. It’s a perfect story translated in so many ways, out of the grrreat Miiind as Yeats would say Out of the Grrreat Miiind . Indeed.

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