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Ireland: Looking East

Christophe Gillissen

If Ireland’s relations with the Western world have been the object of numerous scientific publications, its links with the East have been neglected by research. The aim of this book is to redress that imbalance by proposing studies of various aspects of Ireland’s interactions with the East.
It is a multidisciplinary publication, dealing with some of the historical, political, religious, cultural, demographic and sociological connections between Ireland – both North and South – and the East.
The chapters, which offer novel perspectives for the field of Irish studies, are organised in a chronological sequence, from the mid-19 th century to the present. They focus on three main areas: the links between Ireland and the Asian continent, notably India, China and Turkey; its interactions with the Jewish people and the state of Israel; and its relations with Eastern European countries, in particular Poland and Lithuania.

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‘To the East’. Paris, Ireland and the Jews in Derry O’Sullivan’s An La go dTainig Siad 89

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89 ‘To the East’ Paris, Ireland and the Jews in Derry O’Sullivan’s An La go dTainig Siad Grace NEVILLE Dept of French, University College Cork Eastwards is not a direction in which we Irish generally face. Westwards, yes. For pre-Christian Ireland, westwards was where the islands of the blessed lay as depicted in early Irish texts like Immreamh Brain. West was also where the land of eternal youth lay (Tir na nOg) in the story of Niamh and Oisin, could be found. The European “discovery” of America, that other “great land beyond the western waves” (as it is called in the archives of the Irish Folklore Commission) is said in Irish folk belief and elsewhere to have been due to a Kerryman, St Brendan the Navigator. In later years, westwards was also where latter-day salvation lay, in the form of streets paved with gold (or not) awaiting waves of Irish emigrants, as Irish folk song reminds us. North, too, is familiar, from the ever shifting political landscapes of Northern Ireland to Seamus Heaney’s richly imaginary North.1 Even the South is not unknown: witness Bob Quinn’s hypotheses about the Irish coming from the south, the Mediterranean, North Africa even, making Ireland a wannabe Mediterranean country cast adrift under northern skies.2 But east? What do we Irish have to say about the east? Does the east resonate at all in Irish consciousness? And yet one could argue that, of all directions, it is the east, and specifically journeys to the east during...

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