Rosenstock leads the way
Pól Ó Muirí
One of the more traditional aspects of the annual “worth of Irish debate” during Seachtain na Gaeilge is the inaccurate impression that Irish speakers are in someway obscurantist by the very fact that they speak Irish. As one letter writer to The Irish Times wrote last week, Irish speakers often also speak another language (in addition to English) and have a great interest in languages in general.
In my experience, Irish speakers are usually very openminded when it comes to learning (and respecting) other languages. Many of the Irish speakers I know also speak French, German, Italian and quite a few know Welsh and Scots Gaelic – languages which offer other views of what it means to be British.
I offer one little illustration of how Irish speakers’ interest in languages can enrich. Gabriel Rosenstock is well known as a poet and translator and contributes to this paper’s Irish-language columns. Recently, I wrote a little review of one of the collections he and Hans-Christian Oeser translated – Sphärenmusik/Music of the Spheres/Ceol na Sféar (Coiscéim) by the German poet, Matthias Politycki.
Reading Friday’s The Independent, I noticed that one Matthias Politycki has a book – Next World Novella – on the long list for that newspaper’s prestigious Foreign Fiction Prize. I would not have known about Politycki had it not been for Rosenstock and I suspect that that is true of many others. Now, however, we see Politycki being feted in England which will, no doubt, raise his profile – and more power to his elbow!
Still, his work is available in Ireland due to an Irish-language publishing house; a positive example of Irish speakers keeping an eye out for modern literature in languages other than English.