Jan 18, 2016

Perhaps We Should Read on Ireland in April 2016

We were unable to choose a book for April 2016 last week. We failed to do so. As the meeting broke up I was reminded that it is the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin this year, and it might be a good time to return to Irish history,

The Easter Rising took place from April 24 to April 29th, immediately following Easter Sunday. It failed, and the leaders -- Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Plunkett, Éamonn Ceannt, Seán Mac Diarmada, snd James Connolly were executed. Others who played a lesser role in the uprising were also executed -- Ned Daly, Willie Pearse, Michael O'Hanrahan, John MacBride, Michael Mallin, Conn Colbert, Seán Heuston, Thomas Kent, Roger Casement.

This might not seem a very serious rising, lasting only a few days and involving relatively small revolutionary forces, but in its aftermath public opinion swung heavily against the British, leading to the successful uprising that occurred during World War I.

Click here for the report of our last discussion of related books.

(This is a reduced list after the discussion in June.)

Guerilla Days in Ireland: A Personal Account of the Anglo-Irish War by Tom Barry. 242 pages, 4.8 stars. This was written by one of the IRA flying squad members in the late 40's and was very influential in the liberation movements of the 1950's and 1960's. Plus it is a first person history of the conflict. Here are some reviews of the book from GoodReads. This Book was Chosen.

The Irish War of Independence by Michael Hopkinson. 274 pages, 4.5 stars (but only 4 reviews) The Irish War of Independence was a sporadic guerrilla campaign taht lasted from January 1919 until July 1921. Michael Hopkinson makes full use of the recently opened files of the Bureau of Military Archives in Dublin, which contain valuable first-hand contemporary accounts of the war, meticulously piecing together the many disparate local actions to create a coherent narrative. The first half of this from History Ireland reviews the book.
We considered a historical novel for the first time, and postponed the decision to a later meeting.
A Star Called Henry (Last Roundup) by Roddy Doyle. 400 pages, 4.0 stars. Born at the beginning of the twentieth century, Henry Smart lives through the evolution of modern Ireland, and in this extraordinary novel he brilliantly tells his story. From his own birth and childhood on the streets of Dublin to his role as soldier (and lover) in the Irish Rebellion, Henry recounts his early years of reckless heroism and adventure. At once an epic, a love story, and a portrait of Irish history, A Star Called Henry is a grand picaresque novel brimming with both poignant moments and comic ones, and told in a voice that is both quintessentially Irish and inimitably Roddy Doyle's. Doyle is a winner of the Booker Prize and perhaps the best living Irish writer. Here is The New York Times Review of the Book.  Here is a video of  Roddy Doyle on the book from the Abbey TheaterHere is the trailer for Terry Gilliam's film from the book. This review from an Irish reader: "Certainly a page turner it is a fiction from the perspective of a 'foot soldier' in Dublin IRA. It clearly shows that behind the men of action are a group from whom the soldiers will always be excluded. This group will assume power when the New Day dawns, as such groups do worldwide."

Easter, 1916
poet William Butler Yeats    Click here to hear Yeats read the poem.

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:

The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born. 

Here are a couple of versions of Raftery's Mary Hines, which may be of relevance in the discussion:

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