Performing Irishness

Irish Drama on the Galician Stage

by Elisa Serra Porteiro (Author)
Monographs XII, 240 Pages

Table Of Content

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Figure 1. Cover page of Dous folc-dramas de W.B. Yeats (Nós, 1935).

Figure 2. Original script of O casamento do latoneiro (1960), belonging to María Victoria Villaverde, with manuscript performance notes and stage directions.

Figure 3. Original script of O casamento do latoneiro (1960), with manuscript notes.

Figure 4. Roda Viva. Programme (Ditea, 1979).

Figure 5. Roda Viva. Programme (Ditea, 1979).

Figure 6. O país da saudade. Programme (Ditea, 1977).

Figure 7. O país da saudade. Programme (Ditea, 1977).

Figure 8. Cabalgada cara ó mar. Programme (Ditea, 1972).

Figure 9. Cabalgada cara ó mar. Programme (Ditea, 1972).

Figure 10. Rosas vermellas pra mín. Programme (Ditea, 1976).

Figure 11. Rosas vermellas pra mín. Programme (Ditea, 1976).

Figure 12. Production poster of O mozo que chegou de lonxe (CDG, 1988), Marcelino de Santiago ‘Kukas’.

Figure 13. Cover of rehearsal script of O mozo que chegou de lonxe (CDG, 1988) belonging to actor Xosé Manuel Olveira ‘Pico’, currently in the Ditea archives in Santiago de Compostela.

Figure 14. Rehearsal script of O mozo que chegou de lonxe (CDG, 1988) belonging to actress María Bouzas, with manuscript changes to the title originally chosen by Alberto Avendaño.

Figure 15. Xosé Manuel Olveira writes on behalf of his character on the programme for O mozo que chegou de lonxe (CDG, 1988).

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Figure 16. María Bouzas, as her character on the programme for O mozo que chegou de lonxe (CDG, 1988).

Figure 17. Production poster. Como en Irlanda (CDG, 1996).

Figure 18. Production poster. A raíña da beleza de Leenane (Teatro do Atlántico, 2006).

Figure 19. Production poster of Un cranio furado (Producións Excéntricas, 2010), designed by Pancho La Peña.

Figure 20. Production poster of Oeste solitario (Producións Excéntricas, 2011), designed by Pancho La Peña.

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The research process leading to this book was completed thanks to scholarships from the Irish Research Council of Ireland and the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, University College Cork; and its publication is funded by the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences and by the National University of Ireland.

I am indebted to Dr Helena Buffery, for her dedication, vision and encouragement. She has been instrumental in bringing this project to life and for that, I thank her wholeheartedly. Every person in the Department of SPLAS has offered helpful advice, practical help and kind words at some point during the project and I am truly grateful for that. I would like to thank very specially Eugenia Bolado, Stephen Boyd, Dr Carlos Garrido and the extraordinary Professor Nuala Finnegan. A special mention goes to Dr Donna Alexander, Dr Cara Levey, Laura Linares and Dr Martín Veiga, for their friendship and generosity.

The insightful comments of Professor María Delgado, Dr Manuela Palacios, Dr Manuel Vieites and Dr Antonio Raúl de Toro Santos have been in my mind and I hope to have done them justice. My gratitude is also to library staff in the Biblioteca de Filoloxía (UDC, A Coruña), the Boole Library, and to Frédéric Antoine (Alliance Française, Dublin), for their readiness to assist with documentary issues.

Many of the materials that I used for my research had to be sourced from private archives or personal collections. I owe a great deal to Alberto Álvarez (Ditea); Rubén González (Producións Excéntricas); translators Alberto Avendaño and Manuel Bermúdez Blanco; scholars Carmen Mejía, Inma López Silva, Iolanda Ogando, Noemí Pazó and Silvia Vázquez Fernández; actresses María Barcala and María Bouzas; directors Quico Cadaval and Xúlio Lago; and all of the practitioners whose willingness to lend their work to scrutiny has made this project possible. In particular, the collaboration of Avelino González has been absolutely vital and I could never thank him enough.

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I would like to express my gratitude to my family and friends, for both their moral and – not least! – practical support: Kathryn Hargrave, for being there hail, rain or shine; my Irish family, the Harringtons; my husband, Ger; and my mother, María Jesús Porteiro. A special thought goes to my mother-in-law, Martina Harrington, a true inspiration, and to my sons.

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‘Cando un galego asoma a cabeza para buscar un país no horizonte internacional o primeiro que ve é Irlanda. […] Irlanda é para Galicia […] unha versión aceptable do porvir.’

When a Galician pops his head out looking for a country on the international horizon, Ireland is the first thing he sees. Ireland is for Galicia an acceptable version of the hereafter.

Camilo Franco (2016)

‘We love Ireland’. Author Camilo Franco chose that title for his review of Martin McDonagh’s O tolleito de Innishman (The Cripple of Innishman), staged by Contraproducións in 2016, where he reflected – casually yet purposefully – on the cultural and theatrical relationship with Ireland. He did not hesitate to declare Irish drama ‘un teatro de galegos sen galegos.’ [Galician people’s theatre without the Galician people] (Franco 2016). How did Ireland come to occupy such prominent place in the Galician collective psyche and, specifically, in Galician theatre practice? With the aim of shedding light on dramaturgical understandings and representations of Irishness, this book presents a detailed cultural history of the translation, adaptation and reception of Irish theatre in Galicia that enters into dialogue with a range of different fields: the translation and reception of Irish culture; theatre and performance history; the translation of literature in minority contexts; and approaches to translation for the stage.

The belief in a mythical connection between Ireland and Galicia was forged during the Rexurdimento, the nineteenth-century literary revival not dissimilar to other literary movements rooted in the Romantic reconsideration of national identities. In his 1838 history of Galicia, José Verea y Aguiar attributed the greatness of the nation to its Celtic ancestry (Verea 2001). Celticism seduced poets like Eduardo Pondal, and other ←1 | 2→historians, such as Manuel Murguía and Benito Vicetto, also ‘under the spell of Romanticism’ (Vázquez Fernández 36).1

The incipient Galician nationalist movement set its sights in Ireland, among the Celtic nations. The basis for ethnic identification was found in the Leabhar Gabhala, the Irish Book of Invasions, that tells how Ith, son of chieftain Breoghán, saw a land across the sea from his father’s tower and decided to set sail towards that place, which turned out to be Ireland.2 For early twentieth-century Galician ideologues in pursuit of linguistic and cultural legitimisation, Breoghán’s tower was identified as the Torre de Hércules lighthouse in A Coruña and Galician natives as the founders of Ireland, the admired nation. The ethnic linkage to Ireland was also used to mark the distance between Galicia – an Atlantic nation – and the Mediterranean hub, associated to Iberian and Graeco-Roman heritage. While this use of pseudo-historical sources contributed to the validation of the common origin hypothesis, political identification was the critical issue and the development of these views ran parallel to the build-up towards Irish independence. The establishment of the Irish Free State was presented as a matter of historical justice by the Galician nationalists, thus legitimising their own pursuit of increased autonomy for Galicia.3

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The myth of the Celtic origins permeated all socio-cultural strata, becoming a deeply rooted foundational narrative and, although current historians and archaeologists are more reluctant to talk about ‘Celtic civilisation’ in pre-Roman Galicia, it continues to be present as a social narrative and, in many ways, to determine the position occupied by Galicia within the pan-European cultural network.4 Whether there is a historical basis to the connection between Galicia and Ireland or not, the strong presence of this kinship in the popular imaginary grants it a determinant function in the mediation of Irish cultural products in the Galician context.

Dramaturgical imports from the Irish context are not alien to that influence and, indeed, from the first translations in the 1920s and 1930s to the most recent examples – as Camilo Franco’s review illustrates – the identification with Ireland has featured prominently in the incorporations. To date, with the exception of the translations of Yeats examined by Vázquez Fernández (2013) and Vieites’s invaluable contributions to the study of folk-drama (2002, 2002b, 2003, 2013), the corpus of Irish drama in the Galician language has not been closely analysed from translational or dramaturgical perspectives. Moving beyond the predominantly literary historical or philological focus of previous studies, my own approach attends also to the performative dimension in the cultural adaptation and reception, giving full account of the different agents involved in theatre translation as a rich and complex process of multivalent cultural mediation. It was a priority to capture – insofar as possible – the creative pathways that led to the performances, to uncover exchange networks and to give a voice to the practitioners involved in the productions through interviews and personal communication with directors, translators and other stakeholders (Cadaval & González; Barcala & Lago; Avendaño). The benefit of ←3 | 4→first-hand contact with those practitioners was manifold: the recovery of invaluable documentation related to performances, the access to unpublished scripts and interim versions and the insight into decision-making throughout the production process, among others. Crucially, the incorporation of multiple sources and voices has allowed for an interdisciplinary consideration of the range of factors that have shaped the incorporation of Irish texts and the constructedness of Irishness in Galicia.

My research has focused on dramatic works, either Irish or explicitly Irish-themed, translated into Galician language for the stage. Indeed, performance intentionality was a primary criterion in the delimitation of the corpus, whereas the translation of dramatic texts for publication is not given here a central position. One of the aims of this study is to highlight the remarkable gap between theatrical and editorial activity when it comes to texts from the Irish dramaturgical tradition, which is far more representative (and represented) on the stage than it is in the publishing realm.5 The inclusion of one text that has not been performed, Antón Villar Ponte’s Cathleen ni Houlihan (1921), responds to this translation’s inaugural value as well as to the translator’s clear intent to transform theatre practice in Galicia. In that and other cases, paratextual materials have provided inestimable information on aspects such as production choices, interpretation of the texts and their authors’ position in the Galician theatre system. In that regard, concepts such as ‘Galician theatre’ and ‘Irish theatre’ require nuanced explanation, given the history of colonisation in both the source and target contexts, and the resulting sociolinguistic situations. Even though any attempt to outline these fields resorts inevitably to complex culture and time-bound considerations, it is nevertheless necessary to draw a boundary from a pragmatic point of view. A priori, the decision to limit the study to translations into the Galician language is justified by the prevalent application of the linguistic criterion (‘criterio filolóxico’), ‘the practice in Galician literary historiography of defining Galician national literature as ←4 | 5→written exclusively in Galician’ (Miguélez 2013: 225). Furthermore, there are no documented productions of Irish drama in the Spanish language in the Galician cultural context, which is illustrative of the role attributed to Ireland in Galicia.6 Since this is a target culture-oriented scrutiny of the presence of ‘Irishness’ on the Galician stage, it is the perception and framing of a text as ‘Irish’ that determined its inclusion and, in turn, the exclusion of dramatists such as Oscar Wilde or Samuel Beckett. Conversely, there is the borderline case of British-born Martin McDonagh, whose adscription to Irish drama has been the subject of much academic and popular debate (Lonergan 2009; McKinty 2009; O’Neill 2003), yet his plays have been approached and presented in Galicia as unmistakably Irish.

The incorporations are analysed from the perspective of cultural approaches that describe translation as a phenomenon of the target context, influenced by Lefevere (1992) and Bassnett (1985, 1998, 2002), with special attention to translation for the stage, and drawing on the theoretical framework of Descriptive Translation Studies (Toury 1995). Fundamentally, I have considered three main areas that look at the specificity of translating dramatic texts, and especially the recent functional approaches of Ezpeleta (2007); approaches that consider the reception and stage conditions in target context, such as Anderman (2006), Espasa (2001) and, above all, Aaltonen (2000), for their attention to the processual, performative character of theatre translation. The focus of the latter authors on contexts of current minorisation and/or of a history as stateless cultures (Catalonia in the case of Espasa, Finland in Aaltonen), as well as their consideration of on-stage activity have provided an invaluable framework to my own work on theatre translation in the minorised Galician context.

Explorations of translation phenomena in Ireland (Cronin 1996; Tymoczko 2003) and in Galicia (Cruces 1993; Fernández Rodríguez 1995; González-Millán 1995; Pazó 2002, 2007) have also been a guide when examining the way in which the Ireland-Galician connection has been ←5 | 6→negotiated in translation. Previous diachronic studies on the translation of dramatic texts into the Galician language are almost limited to the work of Noemí Pazó (2002, 2007), who provided an invaluable map of the position of translation in the Galician theatre context, albeit without extensive consideration of textual and performance aspects.

The sociolinguistic map of the Galician target context has required nuanced application of perspectives on the systemic position of translation. Concepts such as ‘domestication’ and ‘foreignisation’, as described by Venuti (1995), must be reconsidered in light of the dynamics of translation of Irish drama in Galicia, where the historical perception of Ireland and its political role has redrawn the line between the other and the self ‘because Ireland was not thought of as “foreign” but as part of the self’ (Vázquez Fernández 2012: 253), as the examples presented here will further corroborate.

Determining the factors that govern the incorporation, reshaping and reception of twentieth-century Irish plays in Galicia requires careful comparative attention to the specificities of the literary, theatrical and cultural source and target context. This facet of the study was informed in every case by a review of scholarly publications on the plays and dramatists, both biographical and interpretative, and fundamentally, by Galician cultural and theatre historiography. The present analysis is also indebted to preceding research insights into historical aspects on theatre activity in the Galician language in relation to key periods and/or practitioners, such as theatre during the dictatorship period (Axeitos 1999; Becerra 2007; Pascual 2007), and activity in the diaspora (Pérez Rodríguez 1991, 2001). Monographic studies about specific companies or agents have been found especially enlightening for the historical positioning of their activity. Examples of these include Mejía’s edited volume on the activities of Ramón de Valenzuela and María Victoria Villaverde (2011) and Rodríguez Villar’s history of Ditea (2005). These insights were underpinned by the wider historical scope of the works of Vieites (2005a) and Tato Fontaíña (1999), among others (Lourenzo and Pillado 1979; Rabunhal 1994). The periodisation followed in this thesis is based on historical and theatrical factors, and informed by previous delimitations with regards to the development of Galician stage activity during the twentieth century (Vieites 2005b; Pazó 2005); and the plays analysed in each chapter have been contextualised in accordance to ←6 | 7→the five periods identified. While they represent differentiated moments, both historically and theatrically, for the Galician stage, they must not be understood as sealed compartments.

Chapter 1 analyses the two translations that inaugurate the corpus of Irish drama in Galician language in the early decades of the twentieth century, a time when efforts towards the (re)construction of Galician national identity were gaining momentum. In the pre-Civil War period, the rehabilitation of the language and the formulation of a national theatre system were key items on a cultural agenda where Ireland played a prominent role. Cathleen ni Houlihan, a version of Yeats’s play by Antón Villar Ponte, appeared in the Revista Nós in 1921. Little over a decade later, in 1935, the Editorial Nós published Dous folc-dramas de W.B.Yeats, which included Catuxa de Houlihan and O país da saudade, a translation of The Land of Heart’s Desire. On this occasion, Antón Villar Ponte, his brother Ramón and Plácido Castro were identified as joint translators of the two plays. In Galicia, the incorporation of cultural products from the Irish context has been marked, on the one hand, by the perception of Ireland as a sister nation and, on the other, by the historically minorised status of Galician culture, two interconnected elements that can be linked to these two plays. Villar Ponte’s use of Marià Manent’s Catalan translation as a source text, for a long time occluded by the references to directness in the paratexts, demands consideration of the exchange networks between the different national identities in Iberia at the time and how Irish culture was mediated in these cases.

Chapter 2 examines the first staging of an Irish play in the Galician language: John Millington Synge’s O casamento do latoneiro (A Tinker’s Wedding) by the Escola de Teatro Lucense in Buenos Aires in 1960. The fact that this first performance – one of the first translated plays to be staged in Galician – occurs in Argentina illustrates the displacement of cultural activism to the Americas brought about by the Spanish Civil War and the establishment of Franco’s regime. O casamento do latoneiro is the result of the overlap between the cultural and political commitment of the exiles and a pre-existing Galician emigrant asociacionismo in the Argentine capital. Indeed, the choice of play and the approach to performance can be seen as a dialogue between these two sectors of the Galician diaspora, and ←7 | 8→interpreted also in terms of a continuum between the two ‘Galician stages’, in the homeland and overseas. In turn, my constatation of the mediated character of the translation, which used a Spanish-language version of the play published in Buenos Aires in 1959, prompts reflection of the positioning of cultural activity through the medium of Galician in yet another context where Spanish was the dominant language.

Chapter 3 considers the 1970s, as both the period of political transition to democracy and the dawn of professional Galician-language theatre activity. The focus is on an amateur company, Ditea, that epitomises the transitional character of the times and the four Irish plays in their repertoire. Staged between 1972 and 1979, these include texts by three universal Irish dramatists: J. M. Synge, W. B. Yeats and Sean O’Casey. The productions are linked not only to milestones in the internal history of the company but also to the evolution of the theatrical map in Galicia, set within the broader Iberian context at the time and the position of political (or politicised) theatre. The changing attitude of Ditea to the use of Galician language coincides with their decision to perform Irish plays and, therefore, needs to be discussed as a prolongation of the political significance placed on Ireland by the early twentieth-century nationalist movement,7 particularly relevant if we also take into account the company’s prior relationship with the local Francoist administration.

Chapter 4 discusses the role of the Centro Dramático Galego (CDG) in the incorporation of Irish works into the Galician language repertoire, in particular O mozo que chegou de lonxe (1988), an adaptation of The Playboy of the Western World; and Xinetes para o mar, a staging of Riders to the Sea, in Como en Irlanda (1996). Based on plays by the same author, J. M. Synge, these productions reflect the evolving agenda of this public institution and the consolidation of professional theatre practice in Galicia. The readings of Synge’s work found here respond to target-culture expectations and, even though different strategies are in evidence in terms of their respective translation, production and framing, both show a naturalising tendency. Whereas in O mozo que chegou de lonxe the action is transposed to Galicia, Como en Irlanda appropriates Irish drama through a sense of kinship not ←8 | 9→only reminiscent of early twentieth-century ideas but explicitly linked to that seminal period in the construction of Galician national identity. The canonising function of the CDG and its responsibility towards the normalisation of Galician language will be identified as two significant elements at play in the adaptations, which can be traced in the paratextual materials that accompany the published texts. In this period, we encounter quasi simultaneous performance and publication processes, a significant event considering the minorised status of Galician culture.

Finally, Chapter 5 considers recent adaptations of contemporary playwrights Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson in a context of theatre practice where professional activity is well established, yet contending with the challenges associated with minorisation and the economic downturn. The work of two companies, Teatro do Atlántico and Producións Excéntricas, between 2005 and 2012, illustrates the continuing influence of earlier constructions of Irishness on the contemporary Galician stage. Avelino González, the main instigator of these incorporations in his role as translator, collaborated with two professional companies to bring the three plays that constitute McDonagh’s Leenane Trilogy to the Galician stage: A raíña da beleza de Leenane (Teatro do Atlántico, 2006), Un cranio furado and Oeste solitario (Producións Excéntricas, 2010 and 2011). González also influenced the choice of O encoro (The Weir), by McPherson, for the 2004 season of Teatro do Atlántico. These productions showed a degree of synchrony with repertoire tendencies in the source system that was not present in previous periods, as the texts were drawn from the contemporary ‘theatre catalogue’ and not from the canon of dramatic literature. While the plays are framed as unequivocally Irish and certain onstage signs highlight the Irish setting, Galician audiences were presented with a West of Ireland that complied with target system expectations: kinship, identification and clichéd imagery all contribute to boost familiarity with the onstage universe. Drawing primarily on examples from McDonagh’s plays, I will reveal how the acceptability of these texts is enhanced in the Galician versions through certain translation choices and performance approaches, a process aided also by the deproblematisation of their author.

The diachronic structure also highlights the pervasiveness of certain approaches and understandings in conceptualisations of Ireland in the ←9 | 10→Galician cultural production against the changing context of practice. From the first translations in the early twentieth century to the most recent incorporations, the presence of rurality, approaches to representation and realism, and the identification with the source culture are contour lines in the map of Irish drama in Galicia and, to a great extent, of stage activity in the Galician language. At the hands of translators and practitioners, Irish drama has also opened innovative pathways in approaches to realism, self-representation and the (re)creation of contemporary human experience for the Galician stage. This cultural history aims to uncover the quintessential multilayered character of the translation and adaptation of theatre texts, drawing attention to the complex and sometimes veiled motivations behind the choices, from the language to the performance to the afterlives.


1 Eduardo Pondal (1835–1917) was one of the most influential poets of the Rexurdimento, often referred to with the appelative ‘O Bardo’, which links in with the Celtic mythological character of his production. The lyrics of the Galician anthem are taken from his poem ‘Os pinos’.

Manuel Murguía (1833–1923) was a key contributor to the consolidation of the Celtic myth of origin in Galician historiography, one of the ideological pillars of Galician nationalism. He co-authored a Historia de Galicia with Vicetto (1824–1878). For more on the place of Celticism in their work and its influence on Galician nationalist ideology, see Máiz (1984) and Renales (1989).

2 Breoghán, son of Brath and descendant of Noah, was a powerful chief and founder of the city of Brigantia. After Ith was killed by the Tuaha de Danann in Ireland, his son Milidh decided to conquer the island to avenge him. The position of the Leabhar Gabhala in Galician cultural production, with a special focus on the Xeración Nós period, is explored in Álvarez Lugrís (2005); Álvarez Lugrís and Moscoso Mato (2005); De Toro Santos (2007); and McKevitt (2001).

3 For a detailed historiographical account of the evolution of nationalist ideas in Galicia, see Beramendi and Núñez Seixas (1996).

4 One of the contradictions inherent in the concept of ‘Celtic nation’ or ‘Celtic civilisation’ is that the term ‘Celt’ refers to a linguistic family and not to a specific people or ethnic group and, therefore, it is dissociated from elements of material culture, such as artefacts and architectural structures upon which the argument for Galicia’s Celtic past was based (Calo et al. 2005: 33–34). Moreover, the Galician language is a fundamental pillar of national identity, and it most certainly is not a language from the Celtic family. Núñez Seixas (2001) presents the role of Breoghán and other myths in the construction of Galician nationalist ideology.

5 The number of published Irish dramatic works in translation that meet the ‘Irish theme’ criterion is very reduced, namely W. B. Yeats, A ola de caldo. O gato e a lúa, trans. by Manuel F. Vieites (Oleiros, A Coruña: Elsinor Teatro, 1996) and a translation of Synge’s The Tinker’s Wedding by Celestino Ledo, ‘A boda do latoneiro’, Don Saturio. Boletín Informativo do Teatro Galego 5 (1982), 6–16.

6 I have found only one exception to this: a Spanish-language version of Synge’s The Shadow of the Glen by the Escola de Teatro Lucense in Buenos Aires in 1960, which must be considered in a liminal context of exile, where the dominant language was Spanish. The application of the philological criterion in the Argentinean diaspora is given nuanced consideration in Chapter 2.

7 I will employ the term ‘nationalist’ to refer to peripheric nationalist movements in the Spanish State and never in relation to the insurgent, fascist ‘bando nacional’ in the Civil War, for which I will use ‘National’.

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Seizing Yeats: Irish folk-drama in the emergence of Galician theatrical identity

The Revista Nós, one of the emblematic periodicals of the Galeguismo, included in its eighth issue a version W. B. Yeats’s Cathleen ni Houlihan in 1921. Signed by Antón Villar Ponte, founding father of the movement for the rehabilitation of the language, this was the first Irish dramatic text published in the Galician language. In 1935, the Editorial Nós published Dous folc-dramas de W.B. Yeats, which included both the earlier play, under the ‘galicianised’ title Catuxa de Houlihan, and O país da saudade, a translation of The Land of Heart’s Desire. On this occasion, Antón Villar Ponte, his brother Ramón, and Plácido Castro appear as joint translators of the two plays. Those incorporations epitomise two interconnected elements historically attached to cultural products from the Irish context in Galicia, namely the perception of Ireland as a kindred nation on the one hand and, on the other, the need to redress the minority status of Galician culture.

The agents, the framing of the texts and the translation approach directly link in to an agenda of cultural and political legitimisation where Ireland and Irish drama were given a prominent role. However, these plays were not merely handpicked as part of a political strategy in the formulation of a national theatre. This chapter will examine how dramaturgical needs were also a key consideration in the incorporation of those two Yeats’s folk-dramas to the Galician system, a process that was also impacted by certain circumstantial factors, such as the historical context and availability of the texts. The approach to translation will be analysed in light of the dual function of the plays in the target culture, namely the legitimation of Galician as a language of cultural production and the evolution of stage practice.

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Theatre practice and Galeguismo in the incorporation of Irish drama

The introduction of Yeats’s drama to the Galician context coincided with the intensification of debates over the desired shape of Galician theatre and, in particular, about the role of the Galician language in dramatic writing. The agents of the incorporations unequivocally positioned themselves as cultural and political activists in that landmark period, which despite their scant performance history,1 has lent the plays a foundational character and their influence on the mediation of Irish drama in the Galician context extends beyond their time. In 1916, Antón Villar Ponte (1881–1936) led, together with his brother Ramón (1880–1953), a campaign that culminated with the establishment of the first organs of Galician nationalism, the Irmandades de Amigos da Fala. The Villar Ponte brothers founded in A Coruña the Liga de Amigos del Idioma Gallego [League of Friends of the Galician Language], a name with clear echoes of the Irish Gaelic League.2 Other Irmandades da Fala in several Galician cities followed shortly and, despite internal ideological divergences, the cohesive element at the core of their programme was the rehabilitation of the Galician language, upheld as proof of the Galician ‘differential fact’. The essence of the nation was supposedly contained in the ‘fala’ (spoken ←12 | 13→language), under the custody of the people during the Séculos Escuros, hence the emphasis on the popular and the traditional. Theatre was part of the Irmandades’ plan for national (re)construction and, in 1919, the Conservatorio Nacional de Arte Galega was established in A Coruña. Its ‘cuadro de declamación’, under the direction of professional actor Fernando Osorio, led an attempt to provide training and opportunities for theatre practice through the medium of Galician language.3

Over the years, Antón Villar Ponte’s numerous contributions to the press evidence a keen interest in theatre, both as an invaluable vehicle for the dissemination of nationalist ideas and as a necessary artistic form. He believed a suitable form of theatrical expression for the Galician nation could find appropriate models within Spain, in the drama of other minorised cultures such as Catalonia or Valencia, and in the wider European context.4 Villar Ponte also wrote several plays, which Carvalho Calero abruptly dismissed because ‘aínda que cultivóu teimosamente a literatura teatral, non tiña visión dramática’ [even though he stubbornly cultivated dramatic literature, he had no dramatic vision] (610).5 The literary scholar attributes to Villar Ponte’s journalistic and dramatic works an orientation towards ←13 | 14→social efficiency rather than aesthetic achievement. However, his work does reveal a desire to achieve dramaturgical and aesthetic viability beyond the utilitarian approach. Furthermore, his observations on dramatic forms and his insistence on the need to encourage performance activity show that he perceived theatre not only as a literary or propagandistic exercise but as a live, dynamic practice that required audience engagement.6 His awareness of theatrical models beyond the Galician context demonstrates a will to overcome the constraints of costumbrismo and nineteenth-century folclorismo. This materialised in plays such as Almas mortas, a dramatised version of Nikolai Gogol’s novel, and in his interest in folk-drama, first through translations, then with his own original works Os evanxeos da risa absoluta (1934) and Nouturnio de medo e morte (1935).7

Although much younger than the Villar Ponte brothers, Plácido Ramón Castro del Río (1902–1967) belonged to the same ideological orbit. Castro’s profile was quite unique: originally from Corcubión, a very small coastal town in A Coruña, he attended boarding school in Scotland from the age of 6 and went on to complete his education in Glasgow. Then, from London, he started collaborating with several Galician newspapers in 1927. A founding member of the Partido Galeguista in 1931, Castro became later its secretary for international relations and participated in the Galeusca assemblies.8 Castro’s approach to Galician nationalism was marked by his internationalist and pacifist ideals (Ríos 107–116), and his interest in international politics transpires in numerous articles that show an analytical and critical perspective, beyond the postulates of other fellow nationalists.9 Castro documented his travels through Ireland in 1928 in a ←14 | 15→series of contributions to the Vigo-based newspaper El Pueblo Gallego; amongst them are three articles on his visit to the Blasket Islands, published under the epigraph ‘Un gallego en Irlanda’.10 His first-hand experience of the British and Irish cultural contexts marks both his journalistic contributions and his facet of translator of English-language literature into Galician, of which the collaboration with the Villar Ponte brothers is an early example.11 Having spent much of his life outside Galicia, Plácido Castro was better equipped than most of his contemporaries to embody the ideal of internationalism and Atlanticism pursued by the Grupo Nós, not least thanks to his command of the English language. As Xulio Ríos explains, in terms that echo the early-twentieth-century nationalist narrative of oppression and freedom, Ireland was a crucial referent for the galeguistas, even though their ‘deep admiration’ of the ‘irmá celta asoballada e logo emancipada’ [first oppressed, then emancipated Celtic sister] was rarely based on first-hand knowledge (Ríos 2011: 7). After his arrest, internal exile and exclusion from professional activity at the end of the Spanish Civil War, Plácido Castro ceased his party involvement during Franco’s dictatorship but never gave up on his commitment to cultural production in the Galician language.

The interest that Ireland, its politics and culture arose at the time, both in nationalist circles and in the individual agents of the incorporations ←15 | 16→underpins the translations of Yeats’s drama to the Galician language, their framing in the Galician cultural context and the ways in which the translations were approached. As pointed out by Silvia Vázquez Fernández, Yeats’s works are linked to the ideals of Celticism and Atlanticism cultivated by the galeguista movement to justify claims for national and cultural recognition, in their aim to revert the effects of the long-lasting subordination of the region and marginalisation of the Galician language. The Galeguistas strove to establish affinities with the other so-called Celtic nations of Northern Europe, particularly Ireland, in order to include Galicia within the Celtic mythological tradition and, by extension, within a new Atlantic civilisation opposed to the Mediterranean one which they associated with Spain (3). Likewise, these early translations largely owe their enduring paradigmatic status to the central role in the drive towards Galician cultural regeneration played by the agents involved in the incorporation process – Antón and Ramón Villar Ponte, and Plácido Castro. Yeats and his contemporary Synge will continue to be associated with early twentieth-century activism and especially with Antón Villar Ponte in later production history. However, Vázquez Fernández’s description of the translation and appropriation of Yeats in connection with Galician nationalist ideology between 1920 and 1935 as ‘manipulative and subversive’ should be nuanced, as there is no clear evidence that translation activity was part of ‘a meticulously planned strategy’ (252). The existence of different active groups within the Galeguismo, the multiple stakeholders who moved between ideological positions,12 as well as the marked cross-collaboration, make it unlikely that theatre translation was subjected to thorough planning above and beyond circumstantial factors, such as the availability of texts, or specific ←16 | 17→functions, such as the commemorative aim that we will see in relation to the publication of Cathleen ni Houlihan in the Revista Nós.

In the early twentieth century, the galeguista movement was quick to identify the propagandistic possibilities of theatre and its potential for the recovery of the language. Yet the translations of Yeats’s folk-dramas were not a purely propagandistic exercise carried out by political strategists. The degree of attention that Antón Villar Ponte paid to stage practice, not only as a cultural instrument but also as an artistic manifestation, his dedication to cultural pursuits, his literary vocation, together with Plácido Castro’s first-hand cultural knowledge and exceptional linguistic profile were all factors in the incorporation process, from the selection of texts to the final lexical choices. In the conformation of a framework of theatre practice in Galician, the value of imports from the Irish system – more consolidated, both internally and internationally – is indissolubly linked to the role of Ireland as political inspiration in the burgeoning Galician nationalist agenda of cultural legitimation. Nevertheless, the early translations of Irish drama in Galicia deserve to be considered in the light of the theatrical needs they came to fill.

Whereas the paratexts around Cathleen ni Houlihan (1921) lend it a markedly commemorative and ideological political character, the texts that frame O País da Saudade point towards the goal of shaping stage activity, admittedly imbricated in cultural production with an ideological rationale. The first text, both in its 1921 and 1935 versions, is defined by its status as a secondary translation from the Catalan, while all seems to indicate that the translation of the second play rested mainly on Plácido Castro’s abilities as a translator, especially of poetry. The years prior to the 1935 publication of Dous folc-dramas de W.B. Yeats saw debates around the future evolution of Galician theatre develop in the press. These considered many fundamental questions and shortfalls to be addressed, such as whether it was more important to dedicate activity to translation of foreign drama or to the creation of original works; or whether theatre should primarily be used for ideological dissemination or for entertainment. The abundant references to theatre as propaganda from the period, rather than question the appropriateness of giving drama an ideological or educational purpose, mainly focus on the suitability of the plays’ content or form. This points to ←17 | 18→an aim to construct an operative system of stage practice that was not just politically effective but also aesthetically accomplished. As expressed by Federico Zamora, member of the Irmandades and, in 1923, one of the signatories of the first Galeusca pact (1923): ‘Era necesario recadar un medio de propaganda que ademais de ser froitífera […] entrase nos sentimentos do pobo sin verbas estridentes e sobor todo sin loita alguna […] para esto non tiñamos a mau medio máis rápido nin máis seguro que o Teatro’ [It was necessary to find a means of propaganda that, besides being fruitful […] could sink in the feeling of the people without strident words and above all without any fight whatsoever […] For this we did not have at hand a faster nor safer means than Theatre.] (Zamora 1924).

From 1915 onwards, theatrical activity in Galician expanded considerably thanks to the consolidation of the coros, amateur musical and folkloric groups, which began to diversify their offering with dramatic productions. Manuel F. Vieites refers to the role of the coros in broadening the context of use of the Galician language, providing an alternative to productions in Spanish and fostering an audience for a regional theatre. He also points out their limitations, namely the lack of potential for qualitative evolution and an excessive reliance on ruralist themes (2005a: 63–64). In another insightful historiographical study, Laura Tato objects to the social role of ruralist plays in a way reminiscent of the condemnation of the ‘stage Irish’: ‘[…] o teatro galego se utiliza para perpetuar a colonización cultural e lingüística debido a que os dramaturgos explotan os tópicos sobre nós, ou a vulgaridade e a brutalidade, para provocaren o riso’ (1999: 136). [Galician theatre was used to perpetuate cultural and linguistic colonisation because dramatists were exploiting clichés about us, or vulgarity and brutality, in order to provoke laughter.] Although the ruralist thematic line was not consistently regarded in a negative light in critiques contemporary to the coros, the influential galeguista Vicente Risco, in the only explicit reference to theatre works that appeared alongside Villar Ponte’s translation of Cathleen ni Houlihan, identified the comedic use of elements of ethnicity as one of the similarities between the Galician and the Irish people: ‘ós irlandeses com’a nós, sácanos nas comedias pra faguer rir á xente, e vense coma nós aldraxados e tidos por xente inferior’ [The Irish like us are brought forth in comedies to make people laugh, and they are like us slurred and considered lesser people’] (Risco 1921: 20).

←18 |

The coros’ repertoire choices were part of debates around the evolution of Galician theatre in the press, which appear to intensify throughout the 1920s, in parallel with the consolidation of these societies. Villar Ponte, who could be described as a critical admirer of the coros, acknowledged the significant role they could play in the establishment of a Galician national theatre with a corpus comprising both original pieces and translated works, two areas of activity he was pursuing himself. On the other hand, he voiced his disapproval of certain aspects of their approach and urged them to place more emphasis on theatrical activities, as opposed to using them as fillers. In ‘Caravel andaluz e chourima galega’ – one of the few articles on this subject that he published originally in Galician – Villar Ponte praised the fruitful efforts of the coros: ‘Teño fonda estimanza para tódo-os coros galegos. Coido que estes coros fixeron moito por espertaren o sentimento enxebre dos homes das nosas cibdades’ (1929: 1) [I have fond appreciation for all Galician coros. I believe those coros have done much towards awakening the enxebre feeling among the men in our cities]. In the same breath, he strongly criticised the participation of ‘Toxos e Frores’ in a bullfighting festival, which he viewed as an inappropriate merger with foreign (i.e. Spanish) cultural manifestations: ‘O vermello caravel andaluz e a marela chourima das montanas da nosa terra non casan ben, abofé. […] Por estes camiños ven o ridicolo para Galicia e para os coros galegos’ (1) [The red Andalusian carnation and the yellow gorse flower from the mountains of our land do not marry well, indeed. [..] Down this route comes ridicule for Galicia and for Galician coros.]

In the 1935 edition of Yeats’s plays, a dedication signed by ‘Os Tradutores’ states that the translations were aimed at the coros and that, in the translators’ minds, they were suitable materials for their repertoire. The attention that Villar Ponte pays to the coros’ activities suggests that, despite his critical perspective, he regards them as pivotal to the future of theatre practice in Galicia, which he envisages going in the direction of Irish folk-drama, providing support on the part of practitioners grew:

Villar Ponte identified both the lack of original texts and the absence of a solid group of performers as being the main hurdles that could only be overcome with the creation of a national theatre ensemble, able to compete for venues and audiences with Spanish-language creations:

Para saber, por lo tanto, si en Galicia existe o no capacidad suficiente para alumbrar un teatro propio, original y fuerte, precisaríase la existencia de una compañía de comediantes con actuación periódica. Mientras no contemos con esto, hablar de aptitud positiva o negativa de los escritores de nuestra raza para la literatura escénica resultará algo aventurado. Máximo cuando vemos que hay literatos Gallegos – unos modelo de habilidad, como Linares Rivas y otros geniales, como el gran Don Ramón del Valle Inclán – que en los escenarios donde se hace teatro castellano logran imponerse.14

[In order to know, therefore, whether there is in Galicia enough capability to give birth to a theatre of our own, original and strong, it would be necessary the existence of an actors ensemble with regular performances. For as long as we do not have that, speaking of the positive or negative aptitude of writers of our race for stage literature will be somewhat speculative. All the more since we see that there are Galician quills – some a model of ability, such as Linares Rivas, and others geniuses, such as the great Ramón del Valle Inclán – who manage to excel on stages where Castilian theatre is made.]

Villar Ponte’s awareness of the ongoing debate about the desired shape of Galician theatre is expressed in his recognition that it is both ‘an old and ever new topic’ [‘un tema viejo y siempre nuevo’] (1926: 1). In his view, the diglossic sociolinguistic situation may be ultimately at the root of the problem, as playwrights favoured the language of prestige in their creative efforts: ‘¿Es que las inteligencias exquisitas capaces de crearlo y encaminarlo prefirieron el castellano para hacer obra teatral más duradera de la que podía resultar del empleo del gallego?’ [Is it because the exquisite intellects capable of creating and channelling it preferred Castilian ←20 | 21→in order to create a more lasting theatrical oeuvre than what could be achieved through the use of Galician?] (1924). Antón Villar Ponte and Plácido Castro themselves, like many of their contemporaries, published most of their press contributions through the medium of Spanish, even those containing the most urgent statements in defence of the Galician language, a manifestation of ingrained diglossia. In this context, theatre had the dual function of positioning Galician as a language of cultural production and consolidating of national identity. It had the potential to reach the majority of the population in their own language and also to contribute to the acceptance of Galician among the predominantly middle and upper-class theatregoers.

The necessity of replacing the scarce and inadequate repertoire with translations of quality dramatic works is discussed by another active contributor to the debate, Evaristo Correa Calderón in two articles, tellingly entitled ‘El teatro gallego, como propaganda’, where he insisted on the value of theatre as a means to promote popular culture and to encourage a positive attitude towards the language: ‘Para los fines de formar una patria, de crear una viva simpatía hacia el idioma nativo, pocos medios tan convenientes como el llevar a escena costumbres e ideas raciales’ [In order to shape a homeland, to create a vivid sympathy toward the vernacular language, few medium would be as appropriate as taking to the stage racial customs and ideas].15 However, in his opinion, Galician theatre neglected the need to be entertaining, too readily adopting a dogmatic approach:

Pero en Galicia, hemos querido caminar un poco de prisa, siguiendo, desde un comienzo, el camino dogmático. […]

Hubiéramos logrado, quizá, un mayor contingente de simpatías para nuestra habla, si en lugar de enfocar el problema de un modo inmediato hacia las ideas, lo hubiésemos insinuado en el goce pasajero del teatro.16

←21 | 22→

[But in Galicia, we have wanted to walk a little too fast, following from the start the dogmatic route (…) We would perhaps have achieved a larger contingent of sympathisers for our language if instead of focusing immediately on the matter of ideas we had rather insinuated it through the fleeting joy of theatre.]

Correa Calderón advocated the translation of foreign works to supplement the corpus and argues that, contrary to potential opposition, it was not a paradoxical move: ‘[…] sabíamos que laborábamos más hondamente poniendo en lengua gallega una obra extranjera, ya que el idioma por sí solo motivaba una expansión patriótica, que escribiendo expresamente una comedia mala’ [(…) we knew that we would labour more deeply by rendering foreign works in the Galician language, since the language by itself would not move to patriotic expansion, than by expressly writing a play that was bad.].17 Correa mentioned Antón Villar Ponte’s sympathy towards this project, also supported by galeguista author Rafael Dieste:

Sentímonos d’acordo con Correa Calderón. Antrementres non haxa un teatro galego que pol-o menos non nos desprestixie, é mellor, moito mellor, que se traduzan ó galego e se poñan en escea as obras estranxeiras que o merezan e mellor interpreten o noso esprito. […] Xa sabesmos que nos han de chamar ‘desleigados i-alleeiros’ todol-os que remexendo no esprito popular non souberon lurpar mais que o prebeyo. Por iso o pobo non remata de lle eisaltar ise arte que non-o dinifica.

[We are in agreement with Correa Calderón. For as long as there is not a Galician theatre that at the very least will not disgrace us, it is better, much better, to get translated into Galician those foreign plays that are deserving and that best interpret our spirit. (…) We already know that awe will go on to be labelled ‘renegades and foreign partisans’ by all those who, when stirring the popular spirit, could only pilfer the plebeian. For that reason the people do not exalt that art, which does not dignify them.] (Dieste 1926)

The fragment highlights Dieste’s preoccupation with stage activity as a path to cultural regeneration and the expression of Galician national identity, a sentiment shared by Villar Ponte and other contemporary galeguistas. To achieve this goal, representations that perpetuated prejudices had to be replaced with a theatre that dignified popular culture and appealed to a broader public. It is in the historical context ←22 | 23→of the development of Galician nationalism that Yeats’s folk-dramas are introduced, framed by the political movement and prompted by the theatrical needs identified by cultural activists, who saw in the Irish Dramatic Movement, the Abbey Theatre and the sub-genre of folk-drama the success stories upon which to model Galician theatre at this crucial moment.

Commemoration and mediation: Cathleen ni Houlihan in the Revista Nós

Villa Ponte’s Galician version of Cathleen ni Houlihan first appeared in the Revista Nós on the 5 December 1921, coinciding almost to the day with a very significant event for the Galician nationalists’ own political aspirations: the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that put an end to the Irish War of Independence on 6 December. The editors chose to pay tribute to Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, who had died on hunger strike the previous year. A central figure in the Irish independence process, MacSwiney’s passive resistance gave the Irish struggle international visibility and earned widespread criticism for the British authorities (MacSwiney 2005: vii). However, the absence of any reference to the mayor’s anti-Treaty stance indicates a deproblematisation of the Irish political landscape. The inclusion of such nuances would have tainted the poeticised portrayal of MacSwiney and compromised the aspirational value of the Irish struggles in Galicia. That eighth issue of the leading galeguista journal sought a lyrical exaltation of MacSwiney’s ‘sacrifice’ (Otero Pedrayo 17) and of the Irish cause, supported by references to common Celtic kinship and reminders of the Irish-Galician parallel, emphasised in the full-page opening dedication. The passage draws attention to several aspects that were susceptible to being utilised in the legitimisation of the Galician cause, such as a racial connection between the two nations that goes beyond any circumstantial similarities. MacSwiney is described as a ‘hero-martyr’ and those fallen in the fight for independence are the ‘new saints’, placing their actions under the auspices of a supreme, spiritual power. The use of religious language and imagery reflects the underlying Catholic ethos shared by a large sector of Galician nationalism, and contributes to the idealisation of Ireland and ←23 | 24→to the legitimisation of the Irish ‘sacred’ cause, which is presented as a ‘sacred cause’ and redemption from historical injustice rather than a current political issue. This exaltation pursued a degree of identification between Irish Republicanism and Galician nationalist claims on the part of the readership:

En lembranza de Terencio Mac Swiney

o héroe-mártir que pasmou ó mundo

e de todol-os outros irmaus nosos de raza

que deron a vida pol-a sagrada causa d’Ir-

landa […]

Porque d’iles e da sua Pátrea dixo o noso poeta:

‘Tén unha nova estrela o noso céo

E tén uns novos santos noso altar.’ (Nós 8, 1)18

[In memory of Terence MacSwiney,/Hero-martyr that astonished the world/And of all our other brothers in race/ That gave their lives for the sacred cause of Ireland/[…]Because of them and their Motherland our poet said/ ‘There is a new star in our sky/And there are new saints in our altar.]

Cathleen ni Houlihan was chosen at that particular moment primarily for its allegorical value and to reinforce the cultural dimension underpinning the ideological content of the issue, set within the context of the broader philosophy of the Revista Nós, which identified with nationalist ideological positions.19 In contrast with the 1935 edition of the play, there are no references here to its potential for performanc, nor to the necessity of cultivating the dramatic genre in Galician language or specifically to Irish drama, in spite of MacSwiney’s own involvement in theatre. The ←24 | 25→play appeared accompanied by a photograph of MacSwiney and other related content, such as a letter attributed to his sister Anne MacSwiney, an article on the political role of Ireland and a poem dedicated to the Irish nation.20 The introductory lines to Anne MacSwiney’s account of her brother Terence’s early years specify that it was provided directly by the Lord Mayor’s sister: ‘Mandadas espresamente pra ‘Nós’, por Miss Annie MacSwiney, irmá do grorioso irlandés.’ [Sent expressly to ‘Nós’ by Miss Annie MacSwiney, sister of the glorious Irishman.’] (Nós 8, 3). The contact with Anne MacSwiney is not substantiated in any other way and the translation process is not acknowledged, a strategy in line with the emphasis placed on the absence of intermediaries and the direct connection with Ireland. The issue of directness links in with the Revista Nós mission statement that opens the first issue in the Autumn of 1920:

Querendo suprimir entremediario antr’o pensamento galego e o pensamento dos pobos cultos, Nós abre as suas páxinas a prestixosas persoalidades estranxeiras que contan de nos honrar co’a sua colaboración e tamén ha informar ó púbrico galego do movemento das ideias no mundo civilizado.

[Wishing to eliminate intermediaries between Galician knowledge and the knowledge of cultivated peoples, Nós opens its pages to prestigious foreign personalities who shall honour us with their collaboration and it will also inform the Galician public of movement of ideas in the civilised world.] (Nós 8, 2)

←25 | 26→

The establishment of links between Galicia and other cultural contexts or ‘prestigious foreign personalities’ by ‘suppressing the intermediary’ was crucial to the galeguista legitimising strategy, as the need for mediation would equate to cultural dependence, symptomatic of political dependence, The explicit declaration of a commitment to international contact and to the suppression of intermediaries in their legitimisation of cultural production in Galician determined the treatment given to translated material and, more specifically, to Antón Villar Ponte’s Cathleen ni Houlihan. The fact that the play was a translation from the Irish context added to its value and relevance in the Galician context. At a time of political change both in the source and target systems, the ideological charge of Cathleen ni Houlihan, an allegorical treatment of the conflict around land and national freedom, is in many ways an obvious choice for translation in the context of revival and defence of a minorised culture, as it enabled strategic elements of the Galician nationalist agenda to be materialised. Hence, the play is clearly framed as a translation, with the author’s name (‘W. B. YEATS’) printed above the bracketed and notably smaller ‘Tradución galega de A. VILLAR PONTE’. What the editors fail to acknowledge is that a young Marià Manent had published his Catalan version of Cathleen ni Houlihan under the title La Mendicant in La Revista in January 1921, and that his version was beyond doubt the mediating text used by Villar Ponte, as numerous instances of intertextuality and shifts corroborate. Like in Nós, the text was surrounded by Irish-related content, indicative of an interest in political developments in Ireland also in the Catalan context.

Both from the cultural and political point of view, many a parallel could be drawn ‒and could certainly have been drawn then- between the Catalonian and the Galician situations. However, while in Catalonia there was also political interest in Ireland, the racial and historical argument deployed by the Galician nationalists was not applicable. Under the influence of Noucentisme, and in particular the ideal vision developed by Eugeni d’Ors before his defection to Madrid, Catalonia was regarded as a Mediterranean nation, far removed from the ideal of Atlanticism the Grupo Nós had in mind for Galicia. The Galeguistas knew and benefited from Catalan-language sources, as proven by the derivative relationship between Villar Ponte’s Cathleen ni Houlihan and Manent’s La Mendicant. ←26 | 27→The total exclusion of the Catalan translator’s name was a response to the strategic muting of mediation processes in the incorporation of cultural products into the Galician system. Allusions to Catalonia and Catalan theatre abound in the works of Villar Ponte, which makes the lack of acknowledgement of Manent even more glaring. Not only did Villar Ponte dedicate one of his early plays, A patria do labrego, to Santiago Rusinyol but he also presented Catalonia and Valencia as an inspiration, in particular for future theatre practice in Galicia in a number of articles.21 The silencing of the mediation does not stem from a prejudice against the Catalan system then but from the internationalist vocation of the Revista Nós and the aim to eliminate intermediaries in the contact with other cultures, thus raising the prestige of the Galician language as a vehicle for cultural production. Moreover, the idea of Ireland and Galicia as kindred nations, promoted and utilised by the galeguista movement, was incompatible with the need for the mediation of Catalonia. The treatment of Villar Ponte’s translation brings to light essential aspects in the appropriation of Irish cultural values for the Galician context, as well as norms governing translation activity at the time.

The significance of specific strategies by which Villar Ponte negotiates perceived linguistic, cultural and theatrical needs is linked to that target culture-generated agenda and its political underpinning. In the original, the action is set in Killala, coinciding in time and place with a decisive episode of the Irish Rebellion of 1798: the arrival of French ships in support of the Irish rebels. Yet in both the Catalan and Galician translations, focus on this historical episode is blurred. It is instead the allegorical nature of the play that allows for an easy transposition of the situation from Ireland in the dawn of independence to early-twentieth-century Iberia. The Old Woman who seeks refuge in the Gillane’s cottage on the night before their eldest son’s wedding speaks of ‘Too many strangers in the house’ (Yeats 2001: 88),22 her ‘four beautiful green fields’ (l. 146, p. 88) stolen from her ←27 | 28→and of those who died for her sake (‘He died for love of me: many a man has died for love of me’ (89). She identifies herself as Cathleen, daughter of Houlihan, a name taken from a William Heffernan poem (834). To an Irish audience, she is recognisable as the personification of Ireland, rejuvenated in the end by virtue of Michael Gillane’s decision to follow her and join the fight. The play fits in with the dramatic models supported by Antón Villar Ponte, who favoured historical theatre as a means to spark a revalorisation of national spirit and ‘reawaken’ a proud interest in the past and he co-authored with Ramón Cabanillas O Mariscal, based on the historical figure Pedro Pardo de Cela (1425–1483), Galician nobleman executed by order of the Catholic King and Queen. However, when Villar Ponte called on the coros to embrace historical theatre in their repertoire as a fundamental step in the renovation of the Galician stage, his suggestion was met with pragmatic concerns on the part of the societies:

¿Con qué apoyo oficial o particular contamos, para vestir y decorar, lo que tan maravillosamente han forjado ustedes en su obra? […] También sentimos el dolor agudo de la indiferencia de los organismos oficiales que tienen el deber – al igual que las diputaciones Vasca y Catalana – de proteger cuando fuere necesario, estas manifestaciones de cultura regional.23

[What official or private support can we count on to dress and design what you have so wonderfully forged in your play? […] We also feel the acute pain of indifference from official bodies that have the duty – just as the Basque and Catalan diputaciones – to protect when necessary those manifestations of regional culture.]

Cathleen ni Houlihan offered political weight as well as production viability, requiring no grandiose means or a large cast. The historical frame of the original is blurred in favour of more straightforward identification and the rural setting facilitated the incursion into ‘folkloric’ theatre, in Villar Ponte’s opinion, a line of work that could be the way forward in the establishment of a Galician theatre.

←28 | 29→

Language dignification and translation strategy

Whereas the treatment of cultural references, the lexical choices, and the rhythm are inexorably marked by the Catalan mediating text, the translation of Yeats’s play was marked by both the symbolic value of Ireland and the theatrical ‘gap’ in the target context and, therefore, governed by a different set of norms than those affecting the Catalan text. Produced within the ideological framework of Galeguismo, the Galician version also had to advance an agenda of linguistic legitimation, prestige-building and cultural redefinition. When it comes to Villar Ponte’s translation choices, those aims intertwined with considerations around stage practice and, overall, the result is a text that simultaneously pursues the enhancement of popular features and the dignification of the Galician language as the quintessential means of expression for the nation.

The language in the translation exhibits many dialectal features of Occidental Galician of oral production in the A Coruña and Pontevedra regions. However, choices are not consistent and markers from different diatopic variants alternate through the text. In all likelihood, those variations were meant to display a wider expressive range, hence highlighting the literary potential of the Galician language. Despite the oral character of the text, Villar Ponte does not reproduce the gheada, one of the distinctive traits of spoken Galician, a phonetic modification of the soundless occlusive velar consonant /g/ onto a fricative /X/. Since the nineteenth century, the phenomenon had been associated with a lack of culture or sophistication and, until very recently, considered to be the result of contagion from Spanish. This assumption is likely to have caused Villar Ponte to reject gheada, as his aim was to emphasise the unique qualities of Galician that would place the language on a par with any other mode of expression, specifically distancing it from Spanish. Villar Ponte’s language is precisely characterised by a ‘differentialist’ approach. That is, where two alternative words are possible, one coinciding with the Spanish term and another one with a different stem, lexical choices distanced from the Spanish are prioritised. The text also has a number of hiperenxebrismos, over-galicianised words that were favoured in much of the written production of the period. These avoid coincidence with the Spanish language are often generated ←29 | 30→by arbitrarily applying etymological changes idiosyncratic to Galician e.g. the Latin ‘duplare’ gives ‘doblar’ (Spanish) and ‘dobrar’ (Galician and Portuguese), so ‘public’ is hiper-galicianised as ‘púbrico’*, as an alternative to the actual term in use, ‘público’.

His strategy to showcase the potential of the Galician language is predominantly based on the incorporation of a range of synonyms throughout the text. The emphatic lexical diversification is evident from the offset: in fifty lines of his Cathleen ni Houlihan translation, we can identify two different verbs for ‘to look’, instead of the more obvious and neutral choice, ‘mirar’, which would coincide with the Spanish word. Villar Ponte uses ‘ollar’ and, in his quest for variants, the verb ‘alucar’ (‘Xa vai para tempo que alucabamos pol-a fenestra para te ver chegare’ (My emphasis) [It’s been sometime since we’ve been looking out the window to see you arrive], which incidentally reflects the sounds of the English ‘to look out’ but introduces the idea of surreptitiousness. ‘To see’ is on one occasion ‘ver’ but on another ‘fitar’, a verb that corresponds with ‘to stare’, indicating intentionality, and therefore, an intensification of the source text choice. Similarly, the translator uses ‘rubir’ instead of ‘subir’, the latter meaning simply ‘to go up’ and the former having connotations closer to ‘to climb’. This shift ultimately results in a narrower range of signifiers as it restricts the interpretation of the sentence. It is evident from these choices that accurate meaning is a secondary matter for Villar Ponte, whose priority is to demonstrate the expressive possibilities of the Galician language and to contribute to the creation of a literary standard. Those examples corroborate the derivative relationship between Villar Ponte’s and Manent’s versions, since some of the verbs used were not present in Yeats’s original but had been introduced into the Catalan version. The insertions were subsequently translated into Galician by Villar Ponte, with the addition of lexical variation, as a conscious step towards norm creation.

Another example where lexical diversification is favoured over form, is Villar Ponte’s rendition of the Old Woman’s song. In the original, each of the four verses end with the words ‘for ever’ in the English language original, which Manent translates as ‘sempre’ (always), creating a rhythm by means of the anaphorical structure. In the Galician version, we find the introduction of other partial synonyms, as well as the word ‘sempre’: ‘decote’ (often), ‘de continuo’ (continuously) and ‘cada día’ (everyday), resulting in a ←30 | 31→lessening of the lyrical effectiveness in the pursuit of lexical enrichment. In line with his aim to distance the language of the translation from Spanish, Villar Ponte follows on the choices found in the Catalan version, using ‘táboa’, which replicates ‘taula’; ‘vestidos’ (‘vestits’ in Catalan), instead of the more common ‘roupa’; and favouring ‘fenestra’ to translate ‘window’, a dialectal variety of ‘fiestra’ that calques the Catalan ‘finestra’, over alternatives such as ‘xanela’ and ‘ventá’.

Villar Ponte also follows Manent’s lead with regards to the treatment of character names – while the surnames of the main characters are maintained; first names are converted into their target culture equivalent. The ‘Old Woman’ character becomes in Catalan ‘La mendicant’ (‘the beggar’) of the title, whereas in the Galician version she is ‘(A) Pobriña’ (‘the poor woman or girl’), a diminutive not only referring to economic necessity but loaded with affective connotations suggesting vulnerability and at a distance from the concept of old age present in the original. The Galician version maintains and often augments the inflationist trend and the shifts present in Manent’s translation, resulting result is a considerably longer play than the English-language original. However, Villar Ponte preserves the original title, Cathleen ni Houlihan, which foregrounds the Irish origin of the play and hints at direct knowledge of Yeats’s works. When published in Catalan, the title of W. B. Yeats is just a subtitle to Manent’s La Mendicant (‘The beggar’), whereas in Antón Villar Ponte’s version it is the only title present. This was converted into Catuxa de Houlihan for the 1935 book, introducing a degree of localisation. In the latter version, the name also appears in the body of the text as follows: ‘[…] e outros chámanme Cathleen (Catuxa), a filla de Houlihan’ [and others call her Cathleen (Catuxa), daughter of Houlihan] (Yeats 1935: 17). The explanatory strategy, which places the emphasis on the symbolic, allegorical persona of Cathleen ni Houlihan, presents difficulties in performance, affecting the flow of the text and confusing the identity of the character, and indicates the tensions between the ideological and the aesthetic traversing the translation process.

The relationship of the text with Manent’s Catalan translation uncovers a political reading of the play in the Iberian context, as illustrated on a micro-textual level by the translation into Catalan of the terms ‘strange’ and ‘stranger’ as ‘foraster’ (‘forasters’, ‘forastera’), which appear throughout ←31 | 32→the play. Both in their functions as noun and adjective, they are used to refer first to the ‘Poor Old Woman’, then to the invaders and, finally, to Delia, the fiancé that Michael abandons to fulfil his patriotic duty. In terms of meaning, ‘the strange woman’ differs from ‘la forastera’: the former can denote mystery, weirdness, unusual behaviour or simply lack of familiarity, while the latter is restricted to geographical origin, indicating alterity. Manent introduces a network of signification absent in Yeats, which then materialises in the relationship between land and belonging, motherland and otherness in Villar Ponte’s version. This shift contributes to a more markedly political reading of the play. ‘Stranger’ is consistently translated in the Catalan version as ‘foraster/a’, and as ‘forasteiro/a’ in Villar Ponte, whose choices show a concern with lexical variation and enrichment, and a tendency towards explicitation through the text. The influence of ‘outsiders’ is intensified in the Galician version through the use of further synonyms indicating foreignness and the addition of explanatory phrases, translating Manent’s ‘forasters’ as ‘xentes alleas’ [outsiders] (10) or ‘aos forasteiros, aos alleos’ [foreigners, outsiders] (11).24

Villar Ponte closely follows Manent’s interpretation of culturally coded terms, unfamiliar in the target system. At times, this works in favour of the underlying agenda of identification and racial affinity with Ireland and the Irish, as in the following explanatory footnote included in the Catalan text: ‘Els O’Donnell i els O’Sullivan són antiquissimes families irlandeses de raça cèltica’/ ‘Os O’Donnell e os Sullivan son antigas familias de raza céltiga’ [The O’Donnells and the O’Suliivans are ancient Irish families of Celtic race.]25 However, Manent’s choices sometimes erase cultural elements that contribute to the Irish characterisation of the setting, with the subsequent loss of references to tradition. Such is the case with his ←32 | 33→translation of ‘oat cake’ as ‘galeta’, which Villar Ponte renders as ‘galletas’. A more radical semantic shift occurs in the translation of ‘hurling’ in the following exchange, which also illustrates the extent to which Villar Ponte was dependant on Manent’s interpretation:

PETER: It might be a hurling.

PATRICK: There’s no hurling to-day. It must be down in the town the cheering is. (Yeats 83, my emphasis)

PERE: Hum! Hi deu haver agun avalot …

PATRICI: No, avui no n’és dia d’avalots. Deu ser allà baix, a ciutat, que fan aquesta cridòria. (Manent 39–40, my emphasis)

PEDRO: ¡Hui! Débeche sere algunha gresca.

PATRICIO: Non, hoxe non é día de rifar ninguén. Cecais d’aló embaixo, da cidade, veñen esos berros. (Villar Ponte 1921: 8, my emphasis)

Here, Yeats features the quintessentially Irish sport in order to reinforce the characters’ national identity. Inexplicably, the game becomes a riot in the Catalan translation and then a street fight in the Galician version, resulting in the loss of a significant reference to the source cultural context.26 Villar Ponte’s use of Manent’s text as his source led to a number of mistranslations that prove beyond doubt the derivative relationship between the two texts. Another blatant error is the rendition of the Catalan ‘Heu fet un camí llarg, avui?’ (41), from ‘Have you travelled far to-day’ (87) as ‘Traguedes un camiño longo, aboa?’ (10), with the remarkable transformation of an adverb of time into an appellative denoting the old ←33 | 34→age of the listener, albeit accidentally coherent and adding a colloquial quality to the text.

In the Galician translation, the term ‘cottage’ of the opening lines is explained in brackets as ‘casiña aldeán’, that is ‘small country house’, providing a rural setting for the action from the very first moment. This contradicts the later translation choice of ‘town’ as ‘ciutat’ and ‘cidade’ respectively, which suggests an urban setting. Whereas for Manent the shift may not be very relevant, any transposition from a rural to an urban milieu would carry greater implications in the Galician context. The use of Galician language was generalised in the rural areas, while Spanish was favoured by city dwellers and therefore, the rural setting was a fundamental component in the characters’ verisimilitude,27 as was the incorporation of abundant markers of oral register. These include phonetic and syntactic features that are exclusively found in the Galician language, in line with the overall differentialist strategy e.g. [e]; epenthesis, contractions and the conjugated infinitive:28 ‘Moitos teñen morto polo meu amore’ [Many have died for my love] (11); ‘agora s’alcontra eiquí o mesmo que un rei sentado’ [he is now here sitting just like a king] (9); ‘Cecais señan os rapaces a xogaren’ [Maybe it is the lads playing] (8). Whilst such features suggest a preoccupation with the speakability of the text and with representational aspects, Villar Ponte’s version of Cathleen ni Houlihan in the Revista Nós is not accompanied by any references to performance or onstage viability, in contrast with the later collaborative translation with Castro, published in 1935.

←34 | 35→ ←35 | 36→

Folk-drama and saudade: A dramaturgy of identification

In 1935, fourteen years after the first translation of an Irish dramatic work into Galician, the Editorial Nós published the paperback – almost a booklet – Dous folc-dramas de W.B. Yeats, which included Villar Ponte’s Cathleen ni Houlihan, now under the localised title Catuxa de Houlihan, together with O país da saudade, a translation of The Land of Heart’s Desire. Building upon prior efforts in the creation of a dramatic corpus, a preface and foreword by the translators framed the texts with explicit references to the inspirational value of Ireland and, specifically, of the Abbey Theatre, guiding readers towards their envisaged function of these texts in the target system, namely foundational steps towards a national theatre. The focus on stage practice contrasts with the prominent political framing of the 1921 Revista Nós edition, where Cathleen ni Houlihan was tied to a political figure, Terence MacSwiney, the ethnic, historical and even spiritual affinities the two nations were repeatedly highlighted via recurring references to ‘racial brotherhood’ and religious imagery that guided the readership towards a mystical/mythical identification with Ireland and the parallels between the Irish cause and the Galician nationalists’ claims. While the Nós publication represents a continuation of some of those strategic emphases but there is also a significant shift towards stage practice that links in with the debates around the aesthetic and socio-political facets of Galician theatre described in the previous section. The ample references to theatre and performance indicate that this publication was not only part of a political strategy but also aimed at the development of dramaturgical activity in Galician language via the exploration of a new genre: the folk-drama.

Like in the Revista Nós case, there is a utilisation of source-culture prestige, although on this occasion not a political activist. On the cover page, the reference to the Nobel Prize that Yeats received in 1923 captures the extent of the shift to cultural concerns. The translations of the plays are preceded by three short texts: an opening statement in the form of a dedication, and forewords by Antón Villar Ponte and Plácido Castro. There is however no individual contribution from the other named translator, Ramón Villar Ponte. Those paratexts position the translations in terms of their value, both political and ideological, and theatrical, as crucial pieces ←36 | 37→in the development of Galician national theatre, for which the Abbey was deemed an appropriate model. The coros, the folkloric groups that were so often mentioned in Villar Ponte’s journalistic contributions, are the explicit addressees of these plays in a dedication with the revealing title ‘Agasallo’ (‘gift’), signed by the translators:

C’o pensamento posto nos coros enxebres – colmeas de mocedade a traballaren o recendente mel lírico zugado pol-o genius da terra nas marelas chourimas da montana e na herba de namorar da mariña – pillamos dun horto da Illa Verde co’a fouce druida do luar estas flores

[With our thoughts set in the enxebre coros – hives of youth who make the aromatic lyrical honey suckled by the genius of the earth from the yellow gorse flowers in the mountains and the sea thrift – we handpicked from an orchard in the Green Isle with the druidic scythe of moonlight these flowers] (Yeats 1935: ii)

These lines are likely to be the work of Antón Villar Ponte himself, drawing on the same images that appeared in his 1929 article, ‘Caravel andaluz e chourima galega’, namely the floral metaphor and the religious imagery, previously discussed in relation to the language in the Revista Nós: ‘Todal-as xestas da verde Eirin en prol da sua liberdade, doas sanguiñentas d’un Rosario de sacrificios heroicos unidos pol-o fio da perenidade do común esforzo vencellado ô longo da historia’ [All the feats of the green Éire for the sake of freedom, bloody beads on a Rosary of heroic sacrifices joint by the thread of perennial common effort united throughout history] (Villar Ponte 1935: 4). The introduction then moves on to the current shortfalls of Galician theatre, such as the excessive dependence on ‘Castilian’ models, which he considers an unsuitable vehicle of expression for the Galician self. The solution to this can be found by following in the footsteps of Irish dramatists: ‘Este é o problema que Yeats, Synge e outros poetas irlandeses resolveron mergullándose na lagoa da saudade, común ôs pobos celtas’ [This is the problem that Yeats, Synge and other Irish poets solved by plunging into the lake of saudade, common to Celtic peoples] (5).29

←37 | 38→

In the second of the forewords, Plácido Castro acknowledges the obstacles for a staging of the chosen plays in the Galician context: ‘Podíanse ter escollido para iniciar unha serie de traduccións ao galego das millores obras do teatro irlandés, pezas cecais máis teatraes e máis inmediatamente adaptadas â nosa escea que istes dous folk-dramas de William Butler Yeats’ [One could have chosen to initiate a series of translations into Galician of the best Irish theatre works with plays perhaps more theatrical and more immediately adapted to our stage than these two folk-dramas by William Butler Yeats] (1935: 7). Reference here to ‘a series of translations’ points in the direction of the projected Galician version of Riders to the Sea that Villar Ponte is believed to have produced, a text that is yet to be located (Vieites 2002: 175). According to Castro, the artistic value of the plays, their inaugural character in the source context and, above all, on their ability to encapsulate the ‘celtic spirit’ and mediate it for international audiences were all decisive for the selection: ‘[…] obras súas como ‘Cathleen ni [sic] Houlihan’ e ‘The Land of Hearts Desire’ abriron os ollos, primeiro de Irlanda, e logo do mundo enteiro, â inmensa fonte de riqueza artistica que podia xurdir do ‘folk-lore’, cando era o seu intérprete un gran poeta’ (1935: 7). The Irish Dramatic Movement and the Abbey Theatre are presented as ‘unha das mais outas manifestacions do arte teatral do noso tempo’ (8). In Castro’s view, Yeats’s dramatic works were crucial for the evolution of Irish drama and their theatrical example is one to follow in Galicia:

As obras dramáticas de Yeats […] mataron para sempre ao tradicional ‘irlandés de scenario’, cuyo humorismo e simpatía servían de capa para perpetuar, da maneira máis insidiosa, unha falsa interpretación do pobo irlandés. […] o sucedido en Irlanda fai máis de trinta anos, encerra hoxe para nós leccións de extraordinario valor.

[Yeats’s dramatic works (…) killed once and for all the traditional stage Irish, whose comicality and charm were a cover to perpetuate, in the most insidious way, a false interpretation of the Irish people. (…) The events in Ireland over thirty years ago hold for us lessons of extraordinary value.] (p. 7)

As far as the translation process is concerned, Antón Villar Ponte, Ramón Villar Ponte and Plácido R. Castro are presented as joint authors, together ←38 | 39→with claims of directness and permission of the author: ‘Vertidos â língoa galega direitamente do ingles por Plácido R. Castro e os irmáns Vilar Ponte, con licencia do autor’ [Rendered into the Galician language directly from English by Plácido R. Castro and the Vilar Ponte brothers.] (See Figure 1). However, the source text for Catuxa de Houlihan was clearly Marià Manent’s 1921 Catalan version and, therefore, not from the English original and, although the 1935 edition reflects some changes, there are no revisions of questionable shifts or mistranslations and no evidence of an English source text in this case either.30 A Catalan version of The Land of Heart’s Desire, La terra del Desig, also signed by Marià Manent and published in La Revista (1927), precedes the Editorial Nós book. The Catalan text was likely to be known to the translators and it is possible that it played some role in the selection of the play, but nothing indicates that O país da saudade could be a secondary translation, as corroborated by Vázquez Fernández through her micro-analysis of the text (207–208).

In fact, certain choices indicate direct contact with the English-language original. For instance, amongst the characters listed, we find a ‘Faery Child’, a qualifier maintained in Galician (‘Unha Fada Meniña’, ‘a little fairy girl’), ‘Unha Noia’ (‘a girl’) in the Catalan. The reference to a world of magic is preserved in the Galician version and the young age of the character also emphasised by the use of ‘meniña’. Plácido Castro in the project, whose knowledge of the English language and trajectory as a translator are beyond discussion, is the most likely agent. Indeed, in a letter he sent to the Estafeta Literaria in 1965, Castro identified himself as the translator of the play, in collaboration with Antón Villar Ponte (Castro 1965: 238).31 Whereas there is not documentary evidence of direct contact between the translators and W. B. Yeats, who allegedly agreed to the publication, we know of Plácido R. Castro’s high regard for ‘the great Irish poet’ ←39 | 40→(1988: 460). In 1967, the journal Grial published posthumously his article ‘Vida e poesía de Yeats’, in which Castro singles out one aspect of his poetry as particularly worthy of the attention of Galician readers: ‘Quizabes […] seña a saudosa beleza do seu periodo céltigo o que posea maior calidá de supervivencia. En todo caso ten que ser o que pra nós, galegos, posee unha meirande atración’ [Perhaps (…) it is the saudosa beauty of his Celtic period that has the highest survival quality. At any rate it is what, for us Galicians, bears a bigger attraction.]. He finds in those poems ‘o anceio que semella non ter nin percurar un ouxeto’ [the yearning that seems not to have or look for an object] (460). This same feeling of longing, identifiable with ‘saudade’, signals the affinity between Galicia and Ireland.

The rendering of the title The Land of Heart’s Desire as O país da saudade links in with Castro’s focus on the view of saudade as a defining trait of the Celtic nations that must find expression in their art and literature. This was a recurring theme in his articles, although he admittedly fails to define the concept: ‘sería yo el primero en lamentar que se lograra definir la saudade’ [I would be the first to regret that saudade was successfully defined.]32 The association between Celticism and ‘saudade’ is a significant characteristic of Plácido Castro’s understanding of Galician nationalism (Ríos 2002). Vázquez Fernández interprets this as a ‘problematic’ strategic merger on the part of the ‘Galician intelligentsia’, who sought ‘to establish a strong link between their two main referents (Portugal and Ireland) in the construction of a national identity. It is all part of the manipulative process of inventing the nation’ (203). Nevertheless, rather than an explicit use of the term in political arguments, Castro locates this longing for an unattainable ideal in Irish literary production and, specifically, in dramatic production, in his opinion ‘dominated’ by ‘a longing for magic’: ‘Y aún en las ocasiones en que la acción se desarrolla en el mundo real es el tema más frecuente el anhelo de ese inalcanzable mundo ideal.’ [And even in those occasions where the action is set in the real world the most frequent theme is the yearning of that unattainable ideal world.].33 This is precisely the case in the play, where Mary Bruin surrenders to her impulse to enter the world ←40 | 41→of the fairies, ignoring the warnings of her family and the priest. The action is set against the backdrop of traditional rural life ‘at a remote time’ (Yeats 2001: 65), a vague realistic frame that brings to the fore the quotidian presence of the supernatural in both the Irish and Galician cultural contexts while avoiding the constraints of historical accuracy. The interpretation of The Land of Heart’s Desire as a play about ‘saudade’, equated to a quintessential Celtic feeling, dovetails with the sense of identification between Ireland and Galicia articulated in galeguista discourses.

Opposing forces: Language and performability in O País da saudade

O País da saudade shares many of the features found in the language of Cathleen ni Houlihan and, similarly, displays an inflationist trend, as well as instances of explicitation and compensation. A number of decisions point towards the performance intent declared by the translators of the folk-dramas and, accordingly, contribute to the (re)creation of a Galician-Irish symbolic dramaturgical space. However, other translation choices hinder the performability and dramaturgical viability of O país da saudade. The insertion of orality markers and additional stage directions, and the incorporation of elements that contribute to the verisimilitude of the popular setting favours a sense of recognition on the part of the audience, who would be guided towards the identification of the Irish location with Galicia. As in Cathleen ni Houlihan, the characters’ names are localised. Just as ‘Cathleen’ became ‘Catuxa’ in the title of the other folk-drama, Mary is not simply its Galician equivalent, ‘María’, but ‘Maruxa’, a familiar diminutive form that generates an instant association with a popular context and introduces connotations of affection and proximity. These choices contribute to the creation of what Vázquez Fernández describes as a ‘symbolic space that could be identified with either Galicia or Ireland’ (236) and to the construction of a viable onstage universe.

Many of the translations in the Galician text have implications for the characters’ behaviour and attitudes and, therefore, affect the (re)creation of the dramatis personae. Of particular note is the translators’ treatment ←41 | 42→of verbs, specifically of modal verbs that provide attitudinal information and draw attention to the characters’ volition. For instance, ‘would’, usually the auxiliary to form the conditional tense, is interpreted as a verb of desire: ‘pois quero que ti alumees os derradeiros anos do meu vivire’ (22; ‘For I would have you light up my last days’, 70). Similarly, the future tense meaning of ‘will’ can be diluted: ‘¡quero falar crariño!’ (23); ‘I will speak my mind’ (71). The considerable number of insertions that correspond to religious references also has an effect on character representation. Many are simply exclamations that increase the oral character of the text, sometimes introducing an intensification, as per the examples below (my emphasis):

MAURTEEN. It’s precious wine, so take your time about it. (p. 66)

MARTIÑO. É viño do bo que dá El Señor; conque sen presa terma do mandado (p. 20)

MAURTEEN. Persuade the colleen to put down the book (p. 67)

MARTIÑO. Ao P. Hart. ¡Deus que me deu! Terme da rapaza para que deixe o libro. (p. 20)

FATHER HART. My colleen, I have seen some other girls restless and ill at ease (p. 67)

P. HART. Ña filla en El Señor! Eu xa vin outras rapazas intranquilas e sen acougo, com’a ti (p. 21)

FATHER HART. She’s lost, alas! (p. 79)

P. HART. Ela está perdida, santo Deus! (p. 29)

The use of the Spanish ‘El Señor’ as opposed to ‘o Señor’ mirrors the diglossic dissociation of Galician language from power strata and institutions, such as the Catholic Church. Most of the insertions occur in Martiño Bruin’s dialogue, the head of the household who, together with his wife Bríxida, embody family and marriage. Their mentions of ‘the Lord’, shaped by organised religion, align them with P. Hart, the old priest. In contrast, when it comes to Maruxa Bruin, the young bride, religious lexicon is replaced: ‘The unholy powers are dancing in the house’ (76) becomes a much more benign ‘Os espíritos cativos andan a beilaren na casa’ (27). This peculiar treatment of religious references mirrors the tensions at the core of the plot between the world of institutions, marriage and the Catholic Church, the magical, spiritual world longed for by Maruxa Bruin, to which she eventually surrenders. The discursive strategy here leads towards the ←42 | 43→‘struggle’ between reality and dream that Castro had identified as the main topic in Irish dramatic literature and equated to saudade.34

Other translator decisions make the text considerably longer and potentially hinder its effectiveness in performance. The degree of augmentation present in O país da saudade demands a closer look at the motivation behind the decision-making process. As in the case of Cathleen ni Houlihan, one of the functions of this later translation was to showcase the expressive possibilities of the Galician language, which results in great emphasis on lexical variation. In O país da saudade, the remarkable abundance of instances where one single adjective is translated as an adjectival synonymic pair or even as a descriptive passage responds to this norm-creating value of translation at the time of the Irmandades da Fala. In such pairs, one of the words is often similar to the Spanish-language equivalent, and the other a ‘differentialist’, exclusively Galician or markedly popular choice: ‘new-married bride’ (68, 78)/’casada de pouco tempo’(21), ‘esposa nova, esposa recén casada’ (28); ‘After the fall of twilight’ (68)/’despois d’anoitecido, entre fusco e lusco’ (21); ‘the evil spirits’(68)/ ‘espíritos ruíños e cativos’ (21); ‘Thinking that all the things trouble your bright head’ (72)/’a matinar que tódalas cousas torvan ou acoran a túa testa escintilante’ (23); a puff of wind (69)/’un folgo do ar ou unha racha de vento’ (21). This would facilitate the strategic introduction of middle-class audiences and readerships whose first language was not Galician to a wider lexical range.35

Galician being a minorised language in the process of reclaiming its sociolinguistic territory, the linguistic norm for literary and official uses was in the process of being established. The translation of a text from a more prestigious cultural context was an integral part of the early stages ←43 | 44→of that process, since it presented an opportunity to tacitly justify lexical choices through the legitimacy lent by the status of the original. However, such additions counteract other strategies adopted to boost its oral character and performativity. The text, which is already considerably longer than the version for performance conceived by Yeats, is laden with redundant information. In The Land of Heart’s Desire (1894), the author provided certain indications regarding the performance of the play: ‘Amateurs perform this more often than any other play of mine, and I urge them to omit all lines that I have enclosed in heavy round brackets ().- W.B.Y’ (2001: 66). Those passages are not marked in the Galician version and it is difficult to determine whether the translators overlooked the author’s instructions or these were simply not present in the source text at their disposal.36 They certainly show no concern with brevity and, both in the case of Cathleen ni Houlihan (later Catuxa de Houlihan) and The Land of Heart’s Desire, the resulting Galician target texts are considerably longer than the English originals.

The approach to stage directions in O país da saudade corroborates the performance focus of the translators but their insertions, together with other specifications, limit possible interpretations on the part of future readers or directors, specifically where deictic components are replaced with precise instructions regarding movement or interactions:37

BRIDGET. And now – no, Father, I will speak my mind – she is not a fitting wife for any man. (p. 71)

BRÍXIDA. - E agora … (Respondendo a un aceno do P. Hart) agora – ¡non, Padre, quero falar crariño! – non serve pra sere muller de ninguén. (p. 23)

←44 | 45→

Puts the crucifix in the inner room. (p. 76)

Descolga o Crucifixo da parede, levándoo ô ban interior and’o deixa. (p. 27)

The abundant explicitations and disambiguations found in the translation reflects the concern with clarity, which Antoine Berman considered inherent to the translation process (2000: 289). Paradoxically, these excessive clarifications not only result in a longer text, slowing down the pace of the action, but also reduce the potential for performance-generated meaning. By replacing the ‘empty signs’, the translator is eliminating the need for gesturality, the scope for actor’s creativity, the self-referential essence of the performance text and, in sum, its theatricality. The translation of a dramatic text does not only generate a new literary object in another language but it can potentially engender multiple performance texts in the target theatre system. Therefore, the interpretations made by the translator will have a continuation in the work of theatre practitioners and affect the reception of a play, its author and the source culture beyond the printed word. Because of the status of the translators and the inaugural value of the texts in the Galician cultural landscape, those approaching O país da saudade to convert it into a performance text would be unlikely to question where the author’s work ended and where the translator’s input began and assimilate a mediated approach to Yeats’s play that goes beyond a switch of vehicular language.

Setting the scene

The Galeguismo recovered the Galician language, preserved by speakers in rural areas, as a vehicle to portray the essence of Galician culture, in a move that echoes J. M. Synge’s travels to the Aran Islands in search of a unique repository of Irishness. However, J. M. Synge’s and Villar Ponte’s work took place under completely different circumstances. The aim behind the early twentieth-century recovery of the language was not the preservation of a traditional form of expression because of its uniqueness, as if the language were a museum piece, a glimpse of rural authenticity ←45 | 46→presented to outside viewers; the goal was to drive an essential shift in the attitude towards the language and the legitimisation of Galician, its dissemination and its enrichment. For the circles around the Irmandades da Fala, the use of Galician was indispensable to implicate the majority of the population in their political and cultural campaign for national recognition and, in order to broaden the contexts of use for the language, they embarked on cultural production.

For the Galician nationalist movement in the early twentieth century, Ireland, a ‘sister nation’, provided historical justification to the pursuit of political autonomy and offered prestigious literary and dramaturgical models. This emphatic utilisation of the Irish-Galician parallel in the construction of national identity inherited from the nineteenth-century Rexurdimento has continued to affect the perception of Irish cultural products in the Galician context. Specifically, notwithstanding their scarce performance history, Catuxa de Houlihan and O país da saudade established the parameters for future incorporations of Irish dramatic works and their stage realisation: the almost inescapable rurality of the plays; the emphasis on identification, both in extratextual materials and in micro-textual choices in the translations; and the attitude towards mediation are all reoccurring aspects that show the impact of these foundational ‘folc-dramas’.

This influence can be seen not only in the treatment of imported texts from Irish culture but also the consideration towards an indigenous author: the way in which the afterlives of the pieces are later linked to commemorations of Antón Villar Ponte himself. In 1977, the year he was honoured on the Día das Letras Galegas, the translations were reprinted under the title Dous dramas populares (Editorial Castrelos). Also that year, O país da saudade was staged for the first time by Ditea, as will be discussed in Chapter 3, together with another of his plays, Almas mortas. Almost twenty years later, the Centro Dramático Galego would produce Como en Irlanda, examined in Chapter 4. Under that significant title Villar Ponte’s Nouturnio de medo e morte and J. M. Synge’s Riders to the Sea were brought together, a double bill that Ponte himself would have no doubt approved of.


1 In 1936, a few months after Antón Villar Ponte’s death, O país da saudade was being rehearsed by the A Coruña-based group Keltya, under the direction of Serafín Ferro. The outbreak of the Civil War truncated the project and the first documented staging of the play would not take place until 1977, a production by the teatro de cámara group Ditea, examined in Chapter 3. No performances of the Galician-language Cathleen ni Houlihan have been documented. In 1996, the CDG came close to producing the Yeats text but the final choice was Riders to the Sea, as exposed in Chapter 4.

2 Although the campaign for the creation of the Irmandades had been under way for some time, the organisation was formally established on 18 May 1916. For the historical evolution of nationalist ideas, see Ramón Villares (364–397). Note that the foundation year of the Irmandades coincides with the Easter Rising in Dublin. I am indebted to Manuel F. Vieites for drawing attention to a likely link between these two dates.

3 The Conservatorio changed its name to Escola Dramática Galega in 1922 with Leandro Carré as director. Carré was one of the dramatists linked to the short-lived Escola Rexional de Declamación (1902–1905), the first organisation explicitly devoted to theatre practice in the Galician language.

4 Villar Ponte dedicated A patria do labrego, premiered in 1919, to the Catalan Santiago Rusinyol, a gesture that corroborates his admiration for Catalonia. He explicitly addressed the topic of international models from the pages of El Pueblo Gallego in ‘El teatro de Lenormand’ (3 May 1928) and ‘Ibsen en Galicia’ (29 March 1928).

The Pillado Mayor archive in the Universidade da Coruña houses a collection of materials relating to the history of Galician theatre, among them numerous press cuttings, easily accessible thanks to theatre historian Laura Tato’s thorough inventory (Tato 2009).

5 Of Villar Ponte’s Os evanxeos da risa absoluta, Carvalho said ‘O ‘folk-drama’ divídese en tres ‘tempos’. Canto á acción, no primeiro ‘tempo’ non pasa nada. No Segundo tampouco pasa nada. E no terceiro, tampouco pasa nada ate o final, o mesmo final, en que afinal pasa algo. É moito agardar por unha soa escena activa’ (Carballo Calero 610–611). For a summary of Villar Ponte’s trajectory as a dramatist and other details on theatrical activity in the period, see Rabunhal 1994 (137–142; 91–129).

6 Villar Ponte’s preoccupation with the different stakeholders in the creative process is evidenced in ‘Un estímulo necesario para escritores y músicos gallegos’ (1936).

7 The Santiago-based company Ditea took to the stage Almas mortas and O país da saudade in 1977, the year the Día das Letras Galegas was dedicated to Antón Villar Ponte. This and other works by the same company are analysed in Chapter 3. Nouturnio de medo e morte was one of the two texts on which the Centro Dramático Galego based its 1996 production Como en Irlanda, discussed in Chapter 4.

8 The first Galeusca pact was signed by nationalist representatives from Galicia, Euskadi and Catalonia in 1923 to confer on collaborative political action.

9 This is particularly evident in Castro’s articles on the Irish political situation, such as ‘A realidade da independencia irlandesa’ (El Pueblo Gallego, 17 June 1928), where he eschews the mystification of the Irish struggle for independence, introducing a British perspective on the conflict, where he describes ‘[…] la inmensa satisfacción que sienten hoy los ingleses al verse libres de los conflictos provocados por un pueblo que nunca llegaron a comprender’ [(…) the immense satisfaction felt by the English upon finding themselves free from the conflict provoked by a people that they never managed to understand].

10 Plácido Castro accompanied Dr Robin Flower, of the British Museum, to the Blaskets in 1928. The articles appeared on the cover of the newspaper in September 1928 flanked by contributions from other Galeguistas, such as Otero Pedrayo and Correa Calderón, and a short piece entitled ‘Xudaísmo idiomático’, signed ‘ANVIPO’, in all likelihood an acronym of Antón Villar Ponte.

11 One of Plácido Castro’s most accomplished translations is a Galician version of Fitzgerald’s English rendition of the Rubayyat by Omar Khayyam, a project that he returned to throughout his life. Castro’s translation appeared in Grial, as did his ‘Laios gaélicos’, translations of English versions of three Irish poems by Seamus Cartan, Douglas Hyde and Egan O’Rahilly.

12 In pre-war Galician nationalism, two tendencies became especially visible: one which was broadly federalist and had its focus on the political actions necessary to achieve the regeneration of Galicia (supported by the Irmandade in A Coruña, to which the Villar Ponte brothers were affiliated); the other which was more conservative, with a marked Catholic component, which prioritised cultural reconstruction, given that their politically utopian views were impracticable in the existing system. This latter view was led by Vicente Risco and the ‘Grupo Nós’ authors, who agglutinated around the Revista Nós. For detailed descriptions those dynamics and their evolution, see Beramendi (1981), and Beramendi and Núñez Seixas (1996).

13 Villar Ponte, ‘El teatro que necesitamos’, Galicia. Diario de Vigo (18 December 1923).

14 Villar Ponte, ‘Por qué el teatro gallego no prospera’, El Pueblo Gallego (16 February 1926).

15 Correa Calderón (1899–1986) was one of the founders of the Irmandade da Fala de Lugo (1918). After the outbreak of the Civil War, he distanced himself definitely from galeguista activity. Both articles have a marked proselytising tone, particularly the first one, which discusses theatre as propaganda in more general terms: ‘Es el teatro, el medio más simple y más eficiente de ir familiarizando a la masa con una tendencia ideológica’. ‘El teatro gallego como propaganda I’, El Pueblo Gallego (14 January 1926).

16 ‘El teatro gallego como propaganda I’, El Pueblo Gallego (14 January 1926).

17 ‘El teatro gallego como propaganda II’, El Pueblo Gallego (15 January 1926).

18 MacSwiney is referred to throughout as ‘Terencio’. Translation of first names was a commonplace strategy at the time and here it reinforces the identification with his cause and his representation as ‘one of our own’.

19 Vázquez Fernández refers to adjacent content as an ‘introduction’ to the play (51). However, issue number eight of Nós is dominated by political content and nothing points to the theatrical value of the text as being a feature that was given special importance.

20 W. B. Yeats, ‘Cathleen ni Houlihan’. Trans. Antón Villar Ponte, Nós 8 (5 December 1921), 8–13. That same issue included a reflection on MacSwiney’s patriotic death by Antón Losada e Diégues (‘Terencio Mac Swiney’, pp. 2–3), Anne MacSwiney’s contribution, comprising a biographical note focusing on the Mayor’s early years (‘Notas da vida de Terencio Mac Swiney’, pp. 3–7). There are also pieces on political and historical aspects, such as an overview of pro-independence political organisations by Ramón Otero Pedrayo (‘Irlanda Políteca no século XIX’, pp. 13–17) and Vicente Risco’s piece emphasising the historical and geographical parallels between the two nations (‘Irlanda e Galiza’, pp. 18–20). In addition to Yeats’s play, literary content was represented by two poems: one by Ramón Cabanillas (‘Irlanda!’, p. 7); and one by the lesser known Victoriano Taibo (‘Ao Bon Irlandés’, p. 17). Finally, Nós contains to photographic images: ‘Mr. de Valera’ (p. 15) and ‘Terencio MacSwiney’ (accompanied by a quote from his A Múseca da Liberdade, p. 16).

21 Articles commending the culture of the Països Catalans include ‘O espiritoalismo catalán’, ‘Lembranza de Ignacio Iglesias’, and ‘Vendo como progresa o teatro valenciano’, all published in El Pueblo Gallego in 1928.

22 David R. Clark and Rosalind E. Clark (eds.), The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats. Volume II: The Plays (New York: Scribner, 2001), p. 834. All text quotes of English-language versions of Yeats’s plays given throughout this thesis correspond to this edition, unless otherwise specified.

23 Agrupación Gallega Emilio Nogueira, ‘Sobre el teatro gallego. Una carta abierta a Antón Villar Ponte’, El Pueblo Gallego (10 January 1928).

24 Examples from the texts hereon are followed by the page numbers in brackets corresponding to the previously referred editions ‘Cathleen ni Houlihan’, in Yeats, The Collected Works …; ‘La Mendicant’, in La Revista; and ‘Cathleen ni Houlihan’ in Nós.

25 Manent, p. 42; Villar Ponte, p. 11. It is worth noting here that Villar Ponte calques ‘cèltica’ instead of using ‘celta’, introducing associations with referents in all likelihood familiar to the Revista Nós readership, such as the journal Céltiga and the collection of books of the same name, and the nineteenth century tertulia ‘A Cova Céltiga’ that gathered many leading figures of the Rexurdimento.

26 The reference to the sport would evoke the Bloody Sunday events in Dublin on 21 November the previous year, when the Royal Irish constabulary opened fire against the crowd at a Gaelic football game in Croke Park, causing the death of fourteen Irish civilians and injuring dozens more. The mediation of the Catalan version results also in other misinterpretations of the text. For instance, Manent converts ‘There are ships in the Bay’ into ‘Són gent de les naus a la Baja’, which Villar Ponte preserves (‘Son Mariñeiros da Baja’) in line with his strategy of adhering to the toponym found in the Catalan, even though the grapheme ‘j’ was rarely used at the time and has been eliminated in contemporary standard Galician.

27 The use of language as a characterisation element in texts and performances was a feature of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Galician drama, where onstage reflections of the diglossic situation were commonplace: the middle-class characters used Spanish, the peasants used Galician. For a cultural historical perspective on this, see Ogando and Tato 2012. Whereas the convention was challenged, and progressively overcome, we can find certain traces up to recent times, specifically in relation to Irish drama, as I will demonstrate in subsequent chapters.

28 ‘E epentético’ is a phonetic modification (epenthesis) whereby the sound [e]; is added at the end of a word, mainly after a consonant [r] in implosive position. This feature is characteristic of popular language, and frequently present in popular lyrics. The addition of personal endings to the infinitive (‘infinitivo conxugado’), an otherwise non-personal verb form, is a morphological device characteristic of the Galician language e.g. Rematamos o traballo ao chegaren [eles].

29 However, there is no reference to the fact that the dramatists linked to the Abbey Theatre opted for the medium of English in their work. This issue will be insistently raised by Manuel F. Vieites in future, in an application of the philological criterion to Irish drama that I will discuss in Chapter 4.

30 Although Vázquez Fernández describes traits that further ‘galicianise’ the 1935 text (2013: 185–197), these changes are minimal in terms of their impact on performance aspects of the text and overall, a prolongation of the localising tendency of the first translation.

31 The correspondence between Castro and the Estafeta Literaria has been documented by Laura Linares (2015).

32 ‘Saudade y arte I’, El Pueblo Gallego (5 October 1927).

33 ‘Saudade y arte III’, El Pueblo Gallego (15 November 1927).

34 ‘Saudade y arte III’, El Pueblo Gallego (15 November 1927).

35 Gideon Toury (1995) described the use of conjoint phrases of synonyms and near-synonyms in translations into Hebrew and noted that their density was higher than in originals and ‘the semantic difference between their constitutive elements is often much smaller, sometimes virtually nil’ (105) He interpreted this as a use of familiar structures in the target language in order to increase the acceptability of the translated text (104). In the case of Galician, it is not so much the acceptability of the foreign texts but, conversely, the acceptability vernacular terms and, in turn, of the minorised language.

36 The play was first published in 1894 and that Yeats made the following note in 1923: ‘When revived last spring the passages between brackets were left out’ (Yeats 2001: 682), which would suggest that the source text used by Manent would be an earlier version.

37 For a discussion of the treatment of deixis and the effects of filling ‘empty signs’ (‘signos vacíos’) in theatre translation, see Pilar Ezpeleta Piorno (2007).

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Synge in the diaspora: The dislocation of the Galician stage

The corpus of Irish drama in Galician mirrors historical and political developments: if the first translations occur in the early twentieth century, at a moment of incipient national consolidation, it is significant that the first staging of an Irish play in the Galician language took place in the Argentinean diasporic space, where it was also tethered to the reaffirmation of national identity. In 1960, the Escola de Teatro do Centro Lucense – also referred to as Escola do Teatro Lucense and Escola de Teatro Lucense – staged O casamento do latoneiro, a Galician-language version of J. M. Synge’s The Tinker’s Wedding by Ramón de Valenzuela (1914–1980), in collaboration with María Victoria Villaverde (1922–2017), both of whom took part in the performance.1 Not only the choice of text but also the translation strategies respond to the particularities of the Galician community in Buenos Aires.

The importance placed on theatre in the process of Galician national construction during the early decades of the twentieth century was a glimpse into the normalisation of dramaturgical activity through the medium of Galician language. However, on 18 July 1936, less than a month after the approval in popular referendum of the Estatuto de Autonomía for Galicia (28 June) and three days after the declaration was submitted to congress for approval, the fascist coup brought to an abrupt halt the work towards cultural and political recognition of organisations such as the Irmandades da Fala and the Partido Galeguista. The three-year Civil War that followed ←47 | 48→was the beginning of a period of difficulties where any insinuation of differential national identity was a threat to the idea of a unitary state imposed by Franco’s dictatorial regime. For decades, cultural production in Galicia was mutilated by state repression, censorship and the loss of human capital to exile or political reprisals. These circumstances meant the dismantlement of the fledgling cultural structures in Galicia and, as the most prominent figures of the galeguista movement were forced into exile and those who remained at home were coerced into silence, much cultural and political activity was displaced to the diasporic communities.2 This dislocation resulted in two distinct, yet connected, geographical settings for Galician culture and there was constant interaction between overseas and homeland Galeguismo. In the case of theatre, initiatives in the diaspora bridge the gap between the pre-war and post-war periods, yet the Argentinean stage was not an alternative temporary base at a time of adversity in the Spanish state, as some prototypical narratives may suggest. In fact, theatrical recovery in Galicia during the dictatorship took place in parallel to much of the activity in the diaspora. Like other forms of cultural expression, Galician theatre lived on in those two contemporaneous spaces and both are cornerstones for the future evolution of theatre practice in Galicia.

Besides its inaugural significance, O casamento do latoneiro is a theatrical link between the pre-war period and the recovery experienced in the latter years of dictatorship when it comes to the representation of Ireland on the Galician stage and, indeed, the position of Irish drama on the Galician-language stage. The main agents of the incorporation, Valenzuela and Villaverde, exemplify a paradigmatic trajectory of Galician exile and the difficulty of a distinction between the categories exile and migrant: like many others, they travelled, to all legal purposes, as emigrants, even though their decision to start a new life in Argentina in 1949 was clearly motivated by repressive political measures and their socio-economic impact. María Victoria Villaverde’s father, Elpidio, a Frente Popular congress representative, fled to Portugal in the early days of the Civil War. After a haphazard journey, the family were reunited in France and then made the decision ←48 | 49→to relocate to Argentina in 1939, shortly after first meeting Valenzuela.3 A member of the Partido Galeguista and active campaigner for the Estatuto de Autonomía, Valenzuela joined the Republican army during the war, was imprisoned and, upon his release, went to France. After Villaverde’s departure to Argentina, he stayed behind to fight the Nazis. He was apprehended, interned and eventually, deported to Spain. His conditional release came in 1944 and the couple married the following year in Vilagarcía (Pontevedra), Villaverde’s native town. However, the difficulties of making a living in Galicia, due mainly to Valenzuela’s ‘criminal record’, prompted the move to Buenos Aires. Once in Argentina, Villaverde and Valenzuela integrated into the social and cultural life of ‘external Galicia’. The couple maintained their commitment to Galeguismo and political activism, during those years and after their return to Spain in the mid-1960: they organised meetings and theatre readings in their home, published narrative works and journalistic articles, and became involved in the Federación de Sociedades Gallegas, an association with a markedly left-wing political orientation that agglutinated several regional centres.4 There, they played a key role in developing theatre projects. Although their interest in drama does not start afresh in Buenos Aires, the associative tissue of the city provided the necessary framework for their initiatives, in the form of support from like-minded galeguistas, existing infrastructure, prior theatre projects and, crucially, a target audience.

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Galeguismo, exile and migration: Theatre and language in the Galician ‘fifth province’

Biographical notes

Elisa Serra Porteiro (Author)

Elisa Serra Porteiro is a Lecturer in the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, University College Cork. She holds a PhD in Hispanic Studies and a MA in Drama and Theatre Studies. Her research to date has focussed on Irish drama in the Iberian context, with special attention to the intersection of translation and stage practice.


Title: Performing Irishness