The dregs of the day by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dregs of the day by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

Irish (Gaelic) fiction

Original title – Fuíoll Fuine

Translator – Alan Titley

Source – personal copy

When I read Dirty dust and the second transition Graveyard Clay of the great Irish novel  Cré na Cille  which was considered impossible to capture in English but the two translations have different approaches it was Alan Titley dirty dust I preferred of the two books I reviewed it a few years ago so when I saw that this novella was coming out I couldn’t wait this is from later in his career, in fact, the last collection he published in his lifetime. Alan Titley notes in his translation that the collection of short stories that the novella is taken from saw a change in style as they are much darker than his other work with a unifying theme of decay at its heart.  

It was a ratty voice on the other end of the telephine, her sister calliung from his house

“Aren’t you ashamed of yourself gallivanting around, and your wife just dead”

“She is dead”, N said”Yes. It was as much as he cpould think of saying. With so many civil servants listening, he couldn’t say that he had missed so much time in the office that his job was in danger. He had told her dozens of times that he had got lots of hint in the office already, but they wanted to believe he was neglecting his wife..

“Dead at last”, he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Yes, at last”, the sister said. “You’d think it wasn’t soon enough for you

That sums up his postion in the first chapter and his sisters view of him!!

What we have in the dregs of the day is the weekend after his wife has died of N we never told his full name. But we know he has a civil service job that he has spent a lot of time off to care for his wife. But he is sent out to sort out the arrangements for his wife’s funeral by his family. But N is a man that is easily distracting and what follows is a sort of odyssey around his small town which in a typical Irish way starts at the pub he hasn’t a lot of money and wants to spend as little as possible he hopes for inspiration in a glass! As he tries to avoid the sisters in law and his wife’s dead body. He needs to get the church priest a nurse and other things sorted. But he seems to be trying to bury his head in the ground and later into another woman as he has sex with her. Falling asleep in a shop getting thrown out of church all the time getting further from the task in hand. As he ways up his past and future it shows the tragedy of his life.

 When that particular fantasy had evaporated, he knew he couldn’t put the buisness of the corpse off any longer. He hadn’t contacted the little sisters yet. He thought about the nun he had spotted below at the arch just a while ago. He made his way back to see if he could get any information from her about the little sisters, or indeed about anything else. He’d give her something. He still had a few schillings left. But neither saint of sinner at the arch.He searched the neighbouring streets- but in vain.

As often in the ireland of the time the church is there in the background.

Like  Cré na Cille this has a very dark humor behind it N is a man that you feel has been under the thumb and that the loss of his wife and this chance to escape his sisters in law gives him his first breath of freedom for a while and in a very Irish way this all starts in the pub and rather like Bloom in Joyce Ulysses we see a man on a quest and also sex plays a part her like in Ulysses the death of his wife and he is in bed with another woman. He is a man on the run he knows the task at hand-sorting the burial out but every step he takes towards that effort he seems to take two back and get further away from that task. It is wonderful to work that full of life and like Titley translation of  Cré na Cille has a number of f words here and there. Joyce is here in part he was a huge fan of Modernism and Joyce this is a small odyssey for N. 

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