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Literary and Cultural Relations

Ireland, Hungary and Central and Eastern Europe


Edited By Maria Kurdi

The lively, informative and incisive collection of essays sheds fascinating new light on the literary interrelations between Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic. It charts a hitherto under-explored history of the reception of modern Irish culture in Central and Eastern Europe and also investigates how key authors have been translated, performed, and adapted. The work of Jonathan Swift, John Millington Synge, Flann O'Brien, Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Martin McDonagh, it is indicated, has particularly inspired writers, directors, and translators. The searching analyses presented here illuminatingly reflect on the far-reaching political and social import of multicultural exchange. It is shown to be a process that is at best mutually defining and that raises questions about received forms of identity, the semiotics of genre and the possibilities and limits of linguistic translation. In addition, the histories compiled here of critical commentary on Irish literature in Hungary or of the staging of contemporary Irish plays in Hungary and in the Czech Republic, for example, uncover the haphazardness of intercultural exchange and the extent to which it is vulnerable to political ideology, social fashion, and the vagaries of state funding. The revealing explorations undertaken in this volume of a wide array of Irish dramatic and literary texts, ranging from Gulliver's Travels to Translations and The Pillowman, tease out the subtly altered nuances that they acquire in a Central European context. By the same token, it is demonstrated that Ireland has been changed by the recent migration of workers from Eastern Europe and that consequently projections of the figure of the emigrant or asylum seeker in current drama warrant scrutiny. This original and combative collection demonstrates, not only that literary exchange between Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Ireland has been prolonged, multifaceted and, above all, enriching, but also that it exposes blind-spots, and forces confrontation with issues of racism, failure of empathy and cultural misprision.

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Drama and Theatre

1 |   All We Say is ‘Life is Crazy’: Central and Eastern Europe and the Irish Stage


Patrick Lonergan

If you had visited the Abbey Theatre during 2007, you might have seen a card displayed prominently in its foyer. ‘Join Us,’ it says, its purpose being to convince visitors to become Members of the Abbey – to donate money to the theatre and, in return, to get free tickets for productions, to have their names listed in show programmes, and to gain access to special events. The choice of image to attract potential donors is easy to understand (Figure 1). The woman, we see, has reached into a chandelier to retrieve a letter, and we can tell from her expression that the discovery she’s made has both surprised and delighted her. Why is she so happy? What does the letter say? And who is that strange man, barely visible, holding her up at such an unusual angle?

As well as being eye-catching, the image is also an interesting analogue for the experience of watching great drama. The woman’s face is surrounded by darkness, as if she were an audience member in a darkened auditorium; the lights of the chandelier are like an illuminated stage at which she marvels. In other words, this image doesn’t just aim to get people’s attention: it is hinting to them the delights that they might experience as Members of the Abbey Theatre.

It might come as a surprise to learn that this image is not taken from an Abbey Theatre production. It isn’t even taken from...

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