ON AN IRISH ISLAND
Published by Knopf February 13, 2012
Great Blasket Island, Ireland
“A richly detailed biographical study of a group of early-20th-century intellectuals whose shared love for a dying insular culture helped save it from extinction.
“The four traveled to the remote island at different times and for different reasons. Classicist George Thomson followed the suggestion of his friend and British Museum curator Robin Flower and went to Great Blasket Island for the ‘Gaeltacht,’ the Irish culture. Linguist Carl Marstrander, a Norwegian, sought to examine the linguistic links that bound the Vikings to the ancient Celts. The sophisticated Parisian Marie-Louise Sjoestedt sought the opportunity to study one of the most complex linguistic systems in the world.
“Although the islanders lived in ‘primitive’ conditions, all four visitors became enthralled by the rich island culture. Interwoven among these overlapping, sometimes intersecting biographies are other stories, including that of playwright John Millington Synge, who went to the island to learn spoken Irish; and those of the men and women the four scholars befriended, loved and inspired. Thanks to their influence, dialect-rich folktales and life histories that would otherwise have perished found their way into Irish literary history.
“The portraits in this book are classic Kanigel: lively, sympathetic and thoroughly engaging. Yet what makes the narrative so affecting is the loss that permeates the text. As cultures like those on Great Blasket continue to be destroyed by the march of progress, so too are our connections to a simpler, more personally fulfilling way of living. A mesmerizing interplay of lives and socio-historical contexts.”
—KIRKUS, a starred review
Erica Hinsley | 212-572-2018 | firstname.lastname@example.org