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Translations by Brian Friel


by Brian Friel

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Irish. Culture. Context of what language means. Review notes on Friel!
  bearlikelibrary | Sep 30, 2014 |
I'm not ordinarily a fan of plays, to be honest. I liked parts of this, but I'm not good at reading plays properly. Looking forward to discussion in class to shed some light on it. I might have a better review and possibly a different rating then. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
This play is set in Ireland, in the village of Baile Beag, County Donegal, in the early 1830s. A group of English surveyors has come to town with the goal of mapping the area and standardizing/Anglicizing the place names. The play explores the clash between Irish and English cultures and by extension traditional vs. modern lifestyles. Most of the action takes place at a hedge school run by an amiable if somewhat unorthodox/absent-minded teacher, where the students learn pretty much what they want to -- and looming in the future is a new national school with a standard curriculum.

One of the interesting things about this play is that, even though it is all written in English, you have to imagine that the Irish folks are all speaking Gaelic. This can be quite amusing during the scenes where Owen is interpreting for the English surveyors. I also liked reading the Gaelic place names, although of course they probably sound even better in a live production (I can only imagine how they sound). Another interesting aspect was how deeply some of the characters immersed themselves in older languages, such as Greek and Latin. The schoolmaster was forever sprinkling his statements with Latin and he would have his students conjugate verbs, explain etymology, and decline nouns. Fun for language buffs.

Another bit of trivia: the play's first production featured a young Liam Neeson. Would have liked to see that!

To sum up, read this if you want a little dose of Ireland and some food for thought about language and how we communicate. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jan 3, 2013 |
About the only thing I can say against this play is that I'm completely incapable of imagining it inside my head. The Celtic words are so strange that they continually drag me away from the play, as I try to figure out how they sound, and the fact that Friel uses English to represent two different languages doesn't help.

But none of this is any fault of the play, but merely a symptom of my own ignorance. In truth, the play is brilliant, addressing language as both a form of healing and as a corrupting and oppressive power. ( )
  jawalter | Nov 18, 2012 |
Its a short three act play set in Ireland in 1833. English soldiers from the Royal Engineers have set up camp near a small catholic community in order to check the maps of the area and to Anglicise the place names. All three acts take place in the local hedge school and centre on the worsening relations between the soldiers and the locals. It is however so much more than that. During its short duration the play covers issues such as : the importance of language, failure of communications, cultural differences, community, colonialism, development and change, difficulties of making a living, and terrorism. I forgot to mention love, there are even star crossed lovers to tear at the heart strings.

The writing is superb, hardly a word wasted and after its hour and a half duration the characters will live long in the memory. The 60 year old "infant prodigy" who is fluent in Gaelic, Greek and Latin but does not speak any English. Hugh the drunken master of the school who is convinced that he is going to be master of the new proper school. Sarah who has a severe speech impediment and so has no language and doesn't count for anything. George Yolland a reluctant soldier who falls in love with the countryside and wants to be accepted by the community, but of course cannot understand anything they say.

Together with the tragedy there is much wit and humour and I found myself identifying with the Yolland character and his attempts to integrate into a different culture. There are some memorable lines (the sign of a good play):

George Yolland "Even if I did speak Irish I would always be an outsider here, wouldn't I? I may learn the password but the language of the tribe will always elude me.

Hugh "English succeeds in making it sound .....plebeian

Hugh "I'm afraid we are not familiar with your literature, Lieutenant. We feel closer to the warm mediterranean. We tend to overlook your island.

Of course to really appreciate a play it needs to be seen in performance in a theatre with a live audience, so that you can be caught up in the emotions and can laugh along with the jokes. What a performance it must have been at its first presentation at the Guildhall in Derry, with Liam Neeson, Ray McAnally and Stephen Rae in the cast ( )
1 vote baswood | Feb 24, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0571117422, Paperback)

The action takes place in late August 1833 at a hedge-school in the townland of Baile Beag, an Irish-speaking community in County Donegal. In a nearby field camps a recently arrived detachment of the Royal Engineers, making the first Ordnance Survey. For the purposes of cartography, the local Gaelic place names have to be recorded and rendered into English. In examining the effects of this operation on the lives of a small group, Brian Friel skillfully reveals the far-reaching personal and cultural effects of an action which is at first sight purely administrative.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:44 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This volume of Brian Friel's plays contains Philadelphia; Here I Come!; The Freedom of the City; Living Quarters; Aristocrats; Faith Healer; and Translations.

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