Revivalism and Modern Irish Literature: Luminous study of how Irish survived

Review: Fionntán de Brún has written an intrepid study of Irish-language literary ‘revivals’

Cuchulain drawn by JC Leyendecker for the Century magazine, 1907

Cuchulain drawn by JC Leyendecker for the Century magazine, 1907

There have been times when the debate about reviving Irish seemed more like an undignified squabble over who exactly had responsibility for the corpse. And there were people who took a professional interest in the imminent death of Irish so that they could perform miracles of apparent resuscitation in the A&E ward.

In this luminous and audacious study, Fionntán de Brún recalls how often Máirtín Ó Cadhain complained that death was synonymous with the study of Irish and of folklore. Ó Cadhain contended that “the collected forces of academia and state-sponsored heritage preservation amounted to a small triangle in Dublin city centre that one might call Príomh-Chill Éireann: An Chré Mharbh (The Chief Cemetery of Ireland: the Dead Clay)”.

Ó Cadhain attacked a twofold funding increase awarded to the Folklore Commission at a time (1949-50) when it was suggested that funding for Irish-language magazines be reduced. He believed that more money should be directed to the just-about-surviving community of the Gaeltacht; but whenever that was done, Dublin Opinion ran cartoons scoffing about grants awarded in “the land that lost the leprechaun but found the pot of gold”. There were no easy solutions.

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