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. 

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 ?

December 2019
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: