Irish Journal by Heinrich Böll

Irish Journal by Heinrich Böll

German Memoir

Original title –Irisches Tagebuch

Translator – Lelia Vennewitz

Source – personnel copy

The last time I saw you was down at the Greeks
There was whiskey on Sunday and tears on our cheeks
You sang me a song as pure as the breeze
On a road leading up glenaveigh
I sat for a while at the cross at finnoe
Where young lovers would meet when the flowers were in bloom
Heard the men coming home from the fair at shinrone
Their hearts in tipperary wherever they go

Take my hand, and dry your tears babe
Take my hand, forget your fears babe
There’s no pain, there’s no more sorrow
They’re all gone, gone in the years babe

Well who else but the Pogues Broad majestic shannon a song about having Ireland in your heart .

I have reviewed three  other books by the late great german writer Heinrich Boll Billards at half past nine ,The lost honour of Katharina Blum  and Safety net. I won this one a couple of German lit months ago with the copy of safety net so it seems fitting to review it for German lit month. Heinrich is a writer I have been a fan of for years in fact he was one of the writers I had in mind reviewing when I started this blog , since then I feel yes the Melville house books came out but in some ways he is fading from the limelight which is a shame he was an important voice of post war West Germany .

Once a year I have to go there to visit my parents, and my grandmother is still alive. Do you know County Galway ?

“No” murmured the priest ”



“You should go there , and don’t forget on your way back in the post of Dublin to notice what’s exported from Ireland : children and priests , nuns and biscuits, whiskey and horses, beeer and dog ..

THe point is a lot of things were leaving Ireland as Boll travel to Ireland .

Well this is a memoir piece by Boll where he recounts his visits over time in the 1950’s to Ireland. He arrives and even before he has set foot there feels the need to defend this land he has wanted to go too, the land of Joyce etc. When he hears someone dismissing it before he has seen it himself. He arrives and loves what he sees the slow languid pace of 1950’s Ireland a land run by tradition and the Church. The contrast from the war ravaged and damaged Germany that is caught up in rebuilding to the Neutral and untouched Ireland. We see the land through a man who has fallen for the place faults included .

That a church service can only begin when the priest arrives is obvious; but that a movie can only begin when all the priests, the local ones as well as those on vacation, are assembled in full strength is somewhat surprising to the foreigner used to continental customs.He can only hope the priest and his friends will soon finish their supper …

He has to wait for the priest to watch the film, I believe this my other grandparent told me of banks of priests at football matches at Manchester united in the forties.

I was reminded of my own grandparents talking of the trips to Ireland, well to the south from their home in Derry, They went to Dublin most years to the Antique fair or to Donegal to a cottage they rented for years so the world Boll talked about to me seemed like theirs. The way it seemed the south was always at that time so far behind the North but was always more relaxed as said when a  Train is late well god made time and there is plenty of it. A lot of the towns He visited Mayo Limerick and of course Dublin I went to as a kid and young adult as well (it has been a few years since I last had a visit ). We see a man in love with a place because it hasn’t caught up with the times and seemed out place but he seemed to get it, but he wasn’t blinked he did see the darker side of this land the poverty and lack of direction somewhat (This was before the Celtic tiger took off ) This is the land that the character in a book like Brooklyn were going to america to escape (and of course then remember they came from their for decades after ). I enjoyed this but do wonder if it was a little rose-tinted it was a tough place to live in the 1950’s Ireland but was still one green unspoilt country .I choose an older cover mine is the Melville cover but liked this one more.

Have you read this ?

November 2015


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