Monday, 19 April 2010

An Druma Mór The Big Drum

The Big Drum launch at Glucksman Ireland House.

Dr Art Hughes is one of the world’s leading Gaelic scholars and he is a visiting Fulbright Professor at Glucksman Ireland House, New York University for the academic year 2009/10. Part of Dr Hughes’ remit was to finish off four books during his term at NYU, plus undertake some teaching. With the year now drawing to its close, he has succeeded in doing what he said he would do during the term of his Fulbright Professorship in the Big Apple.

On Friday 23rd April at Ireland House he launched his 15th book: a literary translation entitled The Big Drum. This novel was written in Irish by Seosamh Mac Grianna as An Druma Mór and it is widely recognized as one of the finest ever written in the Irish language. The core of the novel concerns a feud between two marching bands in a little seaside hamlet Ros Cuain (or Rannafast) in County Donegal in the North-West of Ireland in the years 1912 to 1922. This townland was part of the Gaeltacht or ‘Irish-speaking area of Tyrconnell (Donegal)’.

Seosamh Mac Grianna (1900-90), a brilliant and artistic young writer, completed the book in 1930 and it was due to be published in 1935 but the Irish Government decided, at the eleventh hour, to ban the book because of fears that some local characters who featured in the book (albeit under pseudonyms) may have taken court action for libel. Banning the book was a devastating blow for the young author who abandoned his writing career after this unwarranted censorship. Mac Grianna was to spend the next 30 years of his life in a lost wilderness and the last 30 in a mental institution!

For the first time, an English translation of this important Gaelic novel has been prepared by Professor Hughes. Not only does Hughes provide an excellent translation with explanatory end notes, but he also provides a 12,000 word essay on the author’s background and the reader would be advised to read this appended essay (page 119 ff.) before beginning the novel proper.

The novel while seemingly ignoring such major events as the First World War (1914-18) and, to a degree the Irish Easter Rising of 1916, can also be viewed as an examination of the need for feuding in the human race as a whole, where this small local skirmish can be seen as a parody for wider warfare and the inherent struggle of groups or factions of people to control and subjugate each other. This novel is a hidden gem which has now been put on wider public display.

Professor Hughes must be congratulated for bringing the work of Seosamh Mac Grianna to an international audience. In addition to his skills as a literary scholar, Art Hughes has also painted the cover.

The book details are as follows:

The Big Drum Seosamh Mac Grianna, translated A.J. Hughes (Ben Madigan Press 2010).

It is available to an American readership via the website http://www.litriocht.com/

Go the following page to order a copy: http://www.litriocht.com/shop/index.php

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  5. 'This townland was part of the Gaeltacht or ‘Irish-'
    speaking area of Tyrconnell (Donegal)’'.

    I think the word you required is........'is' not 'was'

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