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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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10 | Venturing onto Licensed Premises. Translating Flann O’Brien’s

10 |   Venturing onto Licensed Premises. Translating Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds into Hungarian


Erika Mihálycsa

I’m thirsty, he said. I have sevenpence. Therefore I buy a pint. I immediately recognized this as an intimation that I should pay for my own porter.

The conclusion of your syllogism, I said lightly, is fallacious, being based on licensed premises.

Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds

If translation as language transfer is not merely difficult but an impossible project, few books have more right to be labelled impossible to translate than Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds. Translating Flann O’Brien (Brian O’Nolan/Ó Núalláin, alias Myles na gCopaleen, Brother Barnabas etc.) into any language certainly means to venture on premises where (poetic, linguistic, stylistic) license is the conditio sine qua non. The author whom James Joyce, Graham Greene, William Saroyan, Anthony Burgess and others admired is deeply embedded into what is currently described as the Anglo-Irish comic tradition ranging from Swift to Beckett’s early English fiction, showing a curious interface with literary postmodernism. It has become much of a critical common-place to refer to At Swim-Two-Birds, alongside Beckett’s Murphy and Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, as a work marking the great divide between modernism and postmodernism; accordingly, O’Brien has ←181 | 182→long been situated in the canon of the great path-openers, as the other ‘illstarred punster’ to react to Joyce’s pervasive formal, linguistic experimentation in strikingly original fictions. Still, O’Brien has received relatively little attention in the Hungarian-speaking area: although his only novel to be written in Gaelic, An Béal Bocht...

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