The dirty dust by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

The dirty dust by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

Irish Gaelic fiction

Original title –  Cré na Cille

Translator – Alan Titley

Source – library book

I want to read this when it came out and a chance look on my library website the other week and Iw as shocked they had a copy, this book is considered the first modernist novel written in Irish Gaelic. Máirtín Ó Cadhain was heavily involved in the republican movement in the 1930’s. He worked as a journalist wrote short stories and published this book in his lifetime since his death two more novels have been published. I will be changing my quotes here slightly and using the opening of chapters, this is because next month Yale through Margellos world republic of letters the same imprint as this book is from are publishing a second version of Cre na cille in translation, which I intend to read and at that point will compare the wording in both translations to see what is different.

Don’t know if i am in the pound grave, or the Fifteen Shilling grave? Fuck them anyway if they plonked me in the Ten Schilling plot after all the warnings I agave them. The morning I died I calls Patrick in from the kitchen, “I’m begging you Patrick, I’m begging you, put me in the pound grave, the pound grave! I know  some of us are buried in Ten Schilling grave, but all the same…”

The opening chapter The Black earth and a new arrival in the earth wonders did her husband listen to her!

Now back to the book the dirty dust is set in the graveyard of a small town of connemera. What we have is voice of all those buried there talking away as each person arrives in the new grave they are set upon as the dead try to find out what has happened between burials. This sees old feuds carrying on wounds open wider in the earth from the time the new republic was formed and who was on whom side. You get caught up in this world of voices and often forget it is the dead that are speaking.This is like being in a busy Irish pub in that cacophony of voices all talking at once.

-The sky is mine, the sea, the land…

-The hinterland is mine, what is upside down, the inside , the lower depths.You have the edges and the contingent…

-The light of the sun is mine, the shining moon, the sparkling star..

-The mysterious recesses of every cave are mine, the jagged pits of every abyss, the dark heart of every stone, the unknown guts of every earth, the hidden stem of every flower..

-Mine is the sunny south, brightness, love, the ruddy rose and the maiden’s smile…

-Mine is the dour north, darkness, misery, the shoot that gives life to the rose petal, the web of veins that drives the diseased blood of melancholy routing laughter from the cheeks to lighten the brightness of the face..

-mine is the egg, the sprout, the seed, the source …

-mine is

I choose the opening of chapter 9 The wasting earth as the detached nature of the voices is very Beckett like .

This is a hard book to describe because that is what it is the dead talking and talking in that irish way of the crack these have all kissed the blarney stone and have the gift of the gab. Cadhaim wrote the book in 1949 so the same year Beckett brought waiting for Godot out. Brian O’nolan was writing absurd piece for the papers as  Myles na gCopaleen . two of his contempary . I choose these two as they seem nearest to him this book must have been read by Beckett there is part of this that reminds me so much of his later plays the detached nature of the voices in the book is so like those plays. As for O’Nolan he seems to poke fun at the irish establishment the same way O’Nolan did in his Myles character.Why it has taken 66  years to finally reach us in English I don’t know but know we have it we see what a lost gem it is and a missing piece in many of ours Irish lit knowledge. Another gem from world Republic of letters.

Have you read this or any Gaelic novels ?

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sarah
    Feb 23, 2016 @ 09:34:31

    What a phenomenal concept for a novel! I must read this, it sounds magnificent. I’ll wait to hear your views on the other translation before I choose which one, but this sounds like a must read if ever there was one.


  2. Tony
    Feb 23, 2016 @ 10:37:02

    Definitely one I’d love to try, especially with the double-translation issue 😉


  3. Cathy746books
    Feb 23, 2016 @ 10:43:55

    I studied passages from this in Irish at school. So funny. Glad to see it’s been translated and will hopefully reach a wider audience.


  4. JacquiWine
    Feb 23, 2016 @ 13:25:01

    I have to echo Sarah’s comment on being a great idea for a novel. It sounds like a riot! I’ve been wondering if my grandfather might have read this book when it came out. He lived in Ireland all his life and was the great reader in our family, so it’s highly likely that he picked it up at some point. He died in the 1970s, so I’d like to think he’s chuntering away with the rest of them now.


  5. Scott W.
    Feb 23, 2016 @ 15:06:06

    Nice observation about the dialogue sounding “like being in a busy Irish pub in that cacophony of voices all talking at once.” I’d heard about this book for years, so when it finally received an English translation last year I rushed right out to read it. I agree about Beckett; he certainly must have been aware of it at least. I’m curious about this “second” English translation coming out from the same publisher, and am off to see what I can find out about that.


  6. Deepika Ramesh
    Feb 23, 2016 @ 18:46:03

    This sounds intriguing. Thank you for writing about it. I love the passages that you have quoted. 🙂


  7. Max Cairnduff
    Feb 24, 2016 @ 17:50:28

    I’d never even heard of it Stu. A definite find on your part.


  8. Melissa Beck
    Feb 25, 2016 @ 17:36:31

    I reviewed this book last March and really enjoyed it. The premise was just so unique. The characters were interesting as well!


  9. Trackback: Winstonsdad books of the year | Winstonsdad's Blog
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February 2016


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