To fluent Irish speakers, the novelist Máirtín Ó Cadhain needs no introduction.
His novel Cré na Cille (or The Dirty Dust) has long been hailed as a modern masterpiece, but his achievement waited for a long time to receive a truly fine English translation from a gifted translator.
The novelist and playwright Alan Titley is widely credited for producing that fine translation and for capturing the original book's unique satire and wry comedy. But now in "The Dregs of the Day," he turns his attention to Ó Cadhain's final published work.
A novella that follows an irascible widower as he attempts to plan his wife's funeral arrangements, his efforts are quickly complicated by some simple but insuperable facts – he has no money, no plan, and no whiskey.
In this way the book slowly turns into a mediation on regret, paths not taken, words unspoken, and avoidances that altered the course of his life.
"The Dregs of the Day" is also about the horror of grief, which can follow you around like a personal cloud that no one else can see or take note of. There is no subject more multifaceted or more common than the experience of loss, and Ó Cadhain is one of the most forensic writers on the subject that Ireland has ever produced.
Tragedy and comedy are brothers and few nations and national languages know that the way Ó Cadhain and Irish know it. Nothing is funnier than unhappiness wrote Samuel Beckett, and this book ruefully funny book will bring Ó Cadhain's final work to the English-speaking world in a translation that is truly worthy of his gifts.
Yale University Press, $13.00.
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