My poor Irish teacher…

I don’t think he expected to get student like me. An excerpt from one of my homework assignments. In the assignment, I was only supposed to fill in the blanks with the appropriate verbs. The translation and critique are my own lovely additions:

Rugadh mé sa bhliain 1882 i mBaile Átha Cliath. D’fhág mé an tír i 1902, agus chaith mé tréimhse in Trieste, i bPáras agus in Zürich. Scríobh mé filíocht, drama agus cúpla leabhar. Chaith mé 17 mbliana ag scríobh Finnegan’s Wake. Foilsíodh Ulysses sa bhliain 1922. Cuireadh cosc air i Meiriceá agus sa Bhreatain ar dtús ach níor cuireadh cosc in Éirinn air. Ba mhaith liom leagan Gaeilge a fheiceáil lá éigin.

Translation:

I was born in the year 1882 in Dublin. I left the country in 1902 and spent some time in Trieste, in Paris and in Zürich. I wrote poetry, plays and a few books. I spent 17 years writing Finnegan’s Wake. Ulysses was published in the year 1922. It was banned in America and in Britain at first, but it was not banned in Ireland. I would like to see a Gaelic version someday.

As an editorial note, I think Joyce would hang himself before saying that he would like to see any of his books in gaelic. He pretty firmly set himself against Yeats and the Gaelic League’s agendas of a national romanticism based in language and folklore. His works (especially Finneagan’s Wake) specifically set out to deterritorialize language and shared symbolic structures of meaning to the point of ridicule. Understanding Finneagan’s Wake so depends on understanding the multiplicity of contexts that Joyce was referring to that it becomes deeply coded and ultimately opaque to anyone except Joyce himself. In this way, Joyce is echoing the deeply coded poetry of the ancient Fílí (the Irish poet-bard class that existed before the Flight of the Earls), but in a specific context that might be called “post-irish”, or at least, that departs from the language-dependant attempt to create an overarching narrative of national identity. The fact that Joyce’s works have now entered that national canon and are used to deploy narratives of Irish nationalism is a deep irony, and one that I have no doubt is making him roll over in his revolutionary grave.

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