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The Dirty Dust: Cré na Cille (The…
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The Dirty Dust: Cré na Cille (The Margellos World Republic of…

by Máirtín Ó Cadhain

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Another time, another place.

The Dirty Dust is eavesdropping at a party in the early 1940s in western Ireland. The party goes on forever, with different guests striking up conversations here and there. There is no coherence, no drift, and no point. They are all dead, and this is their cemetery. It is fantastically busy underground, at least as far as conversation. They relive old battles, reopen old wounds and perpetuate old wives tales, grudges and rumors. To be a fly on this wall makes your head spin.

There is no narrative (except for a short, generic introduction to each chapter); it’s entirely dialogue, though mostly monologue. The speakers are not identified unless you infer from the response to an accusation or a question. They are fiery, hard cursing, bitter and vengeful. They are in short a small Irish community where everyone was in everyone else’s business all the time.

There’s a lot of bitterness at being buried in the half guinea or the 15 shilling section rather than the one pound section, except none of them is certain that’s true, being underground and all. When someone new joins them, they ask about where they ended up and who came to the funeral. And then criticize them. The newly arrived feed the fires with the latest from aboveground.

There was no radio, television, telephone, texting or internet in western Ireland in the 1940s. There was no disengagement. A big city cemetery in 2015 would be, shall we say, much quieter. No one would know anyone buried there. In this cemetery, it’s as if nothing had ever stopped, but now the gloves come off, as there’s no longer any need for politeness.

There are running jokes, and everyone is a caricature. The best line in the book: ”May I not leave this spot if I am telling you a word of a lie.” So good O Cadhain used it twice.

The Dirty Dust is an entire soap opera in one condensed, closepacked package.

David Wineberg ( )
  DavidWineberg | Mar 15, 2015 |
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Máirtín Ó Cadhainprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Titley, AlanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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