Constanza del Río-Álvaro
University of Zaragoza, Spain | Published: 15 March, 2013 | Views:
ISSUE 8 | Pages: 150-176 | PDF | DOAJ |

Creative Commons 4.0 2013 by Constanza del Río-Álvaro | This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged for access.


Last year, in my first introduction as editor of the section “Irish Studies in Spain”, I pointed out the condition of “peripheral countries” that Spain and Ireland shared, something that, on the other hand, seemed to reinforce their historically strong bonds. One year later, the situation is not very different and it has even worsened, at least in Spain. Our country is going through one of the worst crises we can remember, affecting not only the economy and employment but also moral and institutional values. But perhaps it is in hard times when we need the existence of meeting points (either physical or metaphorical) to enlarge our mental horizons and to share more gratifying experiences. Therefore it is a pleasure for me to bring here some of the 2012 highlights of Irish studies in Spain. In doing so, I will focus, mainly but not exclusively, on reviews and publications; and some brief attention will also be paid to the most relevant events or links that have contributed to reinforcing the good relationship and the mutual understanding of both countries.

The reviews in the section will be grouped following the arrangement proposed last year: a) works in Spanish; b) translations into Spanish; and c) literary criticism, history, etc. written in English though mostly authored by Spanish scholars.

Just after a brief glimpse at the 2012 crop we realize that this has been a very fertile year in translations though a bit scarce in works in Spanish and scholarly publications. Regarding Spanish originals dealing with Irish matters, to our knowledge only one novel is worth mentioning: Las horas oscuras (Juan Francisco Ferrándiz, Madrid: Grijalbo, 2012). This is a mixture of historical novel and thriller (a common formula in best sellers) located in the apocalyptic context of the year 1000 in an Ireland where the attempt to reconstruct monastic culture allies with murders and curses to create a mysterious and magic Ireland.

With regards to translations, we must celebrate their diversity, ranging from stories to essays, biography, novel, graphic novel or poetry. It is remarkable that three volumes are devoted to great Irish writers, such as Yeats, Wilde and Beckett, providing in every case key texts to gain insight into their works and/or their human profile. According to the reviewer of Yeats’s Mitologías (Barcelona: Acantilado, 2012), Jose Miguel Alonso Giráldez, this is not the first translation into Spanish but it is worth underlining the great qualification of the translators’ careful selection and edition of the contents, among which  El crepúsculo celta stands out. No doubtMitologías is essential reading to understand the complex universe of W.B. Yeats and the mixture of traditions that nourish it.

Something similar can be applied to Oscar Wilde: El secreto de la vida. Ensayos (Barcelona: Lumen, 2012), a collection of texts by Oscar Wilde translated by Miguel Temprano. In his review, Juan Ignacio Oliva remarks the introduction by Andreu Jaume and the chronological order of the essays, which include De Profundis and two enlightening essays on the Picture of Dorian Gray, among others. Oliva values this volume as a seminal book in order to know the real Wilde, both as an artist and as a human being, with special attention to his thought, his ideology and his evolution towards the angry and rebel man he became. Wilde’s extravagant looks and sharp sayings have often concealed a tormented and multifaceted personality, far disparate from his provoking image.

In the third review, José Francisco Fernández proclaims that “it is a matter of great pleasure to announce that a fine and comprehensive chronicle of Beckett’s passing through the world is now available for the general public in Spanish”. He also explains that Samuel Beckett. El último modernista was first a project by “La otra orilla” but unfortunately this publishing house closed down and could not release the book. The reviewer praises the courageous young editor Carlos Rod, who offered to lead the project with his own independent print, “La uña rota”, and took on the demanding task of compiling the 753 endnotes of the book. The result is a superb edition, written in an excellent Spanish. José Francisco Fernández describes Anthony Cronin’s book as an alternative biography, more an author’s well informed interpretation of the life of an influential figure in world literature than a neutral, exact, fixed photograph of Beckett.

As far as the novel is concerned, Banville’s Ancient Light (Antigua luz) has been one the highlights of 2012, translated into Spanish by Damià Alou and published by Alfaguara. Here Banville rescues characters and events from previous novels, creating an astonishing melting pot where past and present merge and where the reliability of memory is seriously interrogated. When I read the novel I was amazed by the richness and the beauty of its language, which posed a real challenge for the translator. The reviewer, Violeta Delgado, totally approves of the translation, which has managed to keep the magic of the original.

And happily again we come across the translation of another graphic novel, Dotter of her father´s eyes (La niña de sus ojos, Barcelona: La Cúpula, 2012), translated by Lorenzo F. Díaz and reviewed by Andrés Romero Jódar. In issue number 7 of Estudios Irlandeses, Romero Jódar also reviewed Dublinés, by Alfonso Zapico, a (bio)graphic novel which has been awarded the National Prize for Comics. In my last year’s introduction I welcomed the graphic novel as an emergent genre, with increasing relevance and interest.  The most interesting aspect of the book reviewed here is the parallelism it establishes between the co-author’s life, Mary Talbot, and that of Joyce’s daughter Lucía. The reviewer makes it clear that Joyce’s image in the book appears distorted, he being a devoted father in real life whereas here he is presented as a domineering, and egocentric father. We should wonder why Joyce has turned out to be so attractive for the authors of this new genre!.

Finally, Inés Praga reviews the bilingual edition of Human Chain (Cadena Humana, Madrid: Visor, 2012), translated by Pura López Colomé. After a detailed analysis of the difficulties of the original, she concludes that the translation has not been able to reproduce either the spirit or the letter of it. She also regrets the traditional lack of attention to translation in Spain, which makes it impossible for Spanish-speaking readers to enjoy the amazing quality and beauty of Heaney’s (and other authors’) poetry.

The section of criticism by Spanish scholars is represented by a posthumous book by Anne MacCarthy, a great Irish Studies scholar whose loss has been deeply mourned in the academic community. The volume entitled Definitions of Irishness in the ‘Library of Ireland’ Literary Anthologies (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2012) studies a series of anthologies that were included in the “Library of Ireland”, a project envisaged by the Young Islanders Thomas Davis (1814-1845) and Gavan Duffy (1816-1903) with the intention of forging a new identity for the Irish and aiding in the achieving of political independence.  Anne MacCarthy focuses her book on the study of the anthologies and their political and cultural role, and provides insightful reflections on crucial aspects related to the selection, compilation, and objectives of literary anthologies. Similarly, she pays especial attention to the editors’ respective definition of Irishness. Margarita Estévez Saá concludes that the purpose of the book, stated in the “Preface” – to be a stimulus for literary and historical scholars “to give more attention to this series of books which, until now, have been paid scant attention”–, has been successfully accomplished by the author.

Apart from the works reviewed, we would like to mention here, though briefly, other publications of interest for Irish Studies in Spain:

 Estéticas de la destrucción: el teatro irlandés en la era del Celtic Tiger (Ed. y Trad. Diana I. Luque. Madrid: Fundamentos, 2012). The book contains  the translation of  La reina de la belleza de Leenane  by  Martin McDonagh and Mujer y Espantapájaros by Marina Carr. These two plays are preceded by an excellent and well informed introduction, providing the right context for each play within the different Irish dramatic traditions and each author’s literary evolution.

− Las fuentes del afecto. Cuentos dublineses (Maeve Brennan, Barcelona: Alfabaia, 2012). This is a translation of Springs of Affection: Stories, a collection of short stories previously published in The New Yorker and Harper’s Bazaar. All the stories are located in Dublin, though the city is not the real protagonist since what we meet here are mainly intimate sketches. The stories share characters and this gives the collection a degree of continuity and coherence approximating the novel.

− William Trevor’s latest collection of short stories, Cheating at Canasta (2007) has been translated as Una relación perfecta (Salamandra, 2012). The original version was already reviewed in Issue 3 of Estudios Irlandeses.

−   Lord Dunsany’s fantasy novel  La hija del rey del país de los elfos (trad. Marian Womack, Barcelona: Alfabia, 2012) and Brendan Behan’s  Mi isla: un cuaderno irlandés, trans. by Ramón Vilá Veréis, with illustrations  by Paul Hogarth, Barcelona: Marbot, 2012.

As said above, in times of crisis meeting points prove more essential than ever. So let me mention very briefly the extraordinary success of the 11th Conference of the Spanish Association for Irish Studies (AEDEI) hosted at the University of Huelva in May 2012. There we enjoyed the best hospitality and organization in the world, as well as a programme of brilliant keynote speakers, first quality papers and a great national and international attendance. Definitely, life is easier with such pleasant and motivating gatherings. And should you miss any kind of connection with Ireland − particularly social or cultural events in Spain throughout the year − we strongly recommend to regularly visit the Embassy of Ireland website,, and its link to “Irish Cultural Events in Spain”, which publicizes a wide range of cultural activities.

The year 2013 − in spite of the crisis and the severe cuttings everywhere − offers a special invitation to go to Ireland in the “Gathering Ireland” project. Its aim is to invite Irish Diasporas from around the world to support Ireland in 2013, but it also includes “very many Spaniards who have an affinity with Ireland − either because they have studied or lived in Ireland in the past, through an interest in Irish music and culture, or through the dynamic business connections between Ireland and Spain”. In any case, whether you are going to Ireland or not this year, you must know that Irish president Michael D. Higgins has practiced what he preaches, attending  a 3-week Spanish course in the International University Menéndez Pelayo (UIMP, Santander) last August, sharing desk, teachers and timetable (5 hours a day!) with the rest of the students. An example that our Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy should follow in order to improve his English in a − longer, if possible − stay in Ireland.

The prospects for Spain in 2013 are not good at all, but when this issue of Estudios Irlandeses appears the whole country will be greened to celebrate St Patrick’s Day: children at schools, Irish parties in pubs, music and parades in the streets…. We all are Irish these days. And afterwards, and throughout the whole year, we will not stop exploring the new ways that lead to Ireland, discovering her new horizons and sharing her new problems and achievements. Needless to say I look forward to your contributions in 2014. And thanks most sincerely for the work of the reviewers who have made possible − and interesting, I think − this section.