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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

Playwright JM Synge was one of the key figures in the Gaelic Revival. He was a mainstay at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in the early years of the 20th Century, and hugely controversial. His Playboy of the Western World provoked rioting and the police had to be called to break up the ensuing disorder.

My sister just returned from the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland. I was captivated by her travels and beautiful pictures. I had to learn more. I immediately went to the library and borrowed this book, first published in 1907.

I was soon time traveling, transported somewhere else. The stor

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 anth

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 subje

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. ("The

I'm reading a 1911 edition of this that I got from the UW library. The pages are soft and delicate and the prose is simple and beautiful. Anyone who thinks fairies are pretty little women with tinkerbell wings will think twice before inviting one into their home!
I picked this up as part of my resea

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