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The Aran Islands

J. M. Synge

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .men were in the kitchen mending nets, and the bottle of poteen was drawn from its hiding-place.

One cannot think of these people drinking wine on the summit of this crumbling precipice, but their grey poteen, which brings a shock of joy to the blood, seems predestined to keep sanity in men who live forgotten in these worlds of mist.

I sat in the kitchen part of the evening to feel the gaiety that was rising, and when I came into my own room after dark, one of the sons came in every time the bottle made its round, to pour me out my share.

It has cleared, and the sun is shining with a luminous warmth that makes the whole island glisten with the splendor of a gem, and fills the sea and sky with a radiance of blue light.

I have come out to lie on the rocks where I have the black edge of the north island in front of me, Galway Bay, too blue almost to look at, on my right, the Atlantic on my left, a perpendicular cliff unde. . . Read More

Community Reviews

A delightful account of Synge's stay on the islands as he endeavored to learn Gaelic and the ways of the people. No wonder his plays are so real!

Synge wrote this in pieces, but I think it works that way...very beautiful snapshots of the everyday and the sublime. Which is what life must constantly be like on these islands. Not sure if it is still the same there, there was a storm when I was supposed to go, so maybe I wont ever find out!

He...more

It must be the 80% Irish in me rising to the top, for I've never had a book make me homesick for a place I've never been...more

A lovely book that is incredibly evocative of a way of life that has long since passed away through its stories and reflections of the fishermen and women who lived on the Aran islands. Synge went there to learn Irish and return to his gaelic roots. He seems to have been one of a long parade of a...more

Delightful. I highly recommend this audiobook narrated by Donal Donnelly if you want immersion into the most Irish of Ireland, the Aran Islands. The three islands (Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Óirr) are located in Galway Bay. This is a book relating the author's experiences, a famed playwright,...more

Synge's travelogue of the Aran Islands is a mostly a curiosity. Drawn from multiple visits, the scenes and stories recounted are fascinating, patronizing, and boring by turns. Synge's prose is always clear an precise, but the book is weighted down by his often condescending attitude toward his su...more

If you go to the Aran Islands today, you find that a few thousand people live there, mostly tending B&Bs or tourist shops. The only remnant of the old Ireland is the hundreds of miles of stone walls that still divide the land into tiny plots.

Synge's diary is hardly a masterwork of ethnography...more

I first read The Aran Islands when I spent the first semester of my senior year of university in Ireland. I went over in August but the Irish term doesn't begin until September, so for the first month we were there, University College Cork organized a special program for the foreign students. The...more

The Aran Islands by J.M Synge is a remarkable and insightful read of life on the Aran Islands From 1898 to 1903.

Having just returned from an amazing 2 day trip to the Islands I was eager to read this remarkable little book that had been recommended to me by one of the Islanders. .

Synge, in his r...more

William Butler Yeats encourage Synge to go to the Aran Islands, to listen to the voices, hear the stories, live among the people. And so he did. That there is a patronising tone to his recollection is perhaps understandable given the rigid social stratification in the British Isles at the time: a...more

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