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Friday, May 01, 2015

The Poor Mouth(1941) by Flann O'Brien

Book Review
The Poor Mouth(1941)
 by Flann O'Brien

 My sense is that interest in Irish literature has had a resurgence because of the interest of American academics in Irish literature as being an early "post-colonial" literature and an early example of colonial type literature.  Thus, if you are looking for 18th and 19th century antecedents for the explosion of "world literature" in countries emerging from colonialism, Ireland is the right place to start.   This increase in interest comes on top of the privileged position that Ireland occupies in the modernist experience via Joyce, and the location of his work inside Ireland.

  As a major Irish author, Flann O'Brien is a weak third behind Joyce and Samuel Beckett in terms of recognition and continued readership.  The Poor Mouth was audaciously written in Gaelic- which I'm pretty sure had never been done by a modernist before 1941.    Even though I don't read Gaelic I would have liked to see the text in Gaelic, perhaps in a dual language edition, but I was stuck with a shabby American paperback edition by Seaver Books.

  I found myself wondering how certain words were actually translated from gaelic- how rarely does one even see gaelic text in print, so from that perspective The Poor Mouth was a missed opportunity.


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