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No Man’s Land

Irish Women and the Cultural Present


Sarah O'Connor

This book explores bilingualism and translation in contemporary women’s writing. The author argues that the ‘in-between’ or interstitial linguistic areas of bilingualism, translation and regionalism provide a language and imagery suitable for the expression of a specifically female consciousness. Throughout the book, she draws on the work of writers and critics in both Irish and English to construct a new method of reading Irish women’s writing in the latter half of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first. These bold new readings demonstrate that the concept of interstitiality or the ‘in-between’ can enrich our understanding not only of Irish women’s literature in itself but also of the culture that produces this literature.


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Chapter 6: Cailíní Beaga Ghleann na mBláth: Snámhaithe den Scoth(The Little Girls of Ghleann na mBláth: Exceptional Swimmers) 111


Chapter 6 Cailíní Beaga Ghleann na mBláth: Snámhaithe den Scoth (The Little Girls of Ghleann na mBláth: Exceptional Swimmers) As Cailíní Beaga Ghleann na mBláth opens, the protagonist, Máire, is a successful journalist with a satisfying career, married to gentle, quiet Muiris, an architect. They have two teenage children, Emma and Dara. Máire is ‘sona’, that is she has achieved ‘happiness’ as defined by the author in a prefatory note. However, this ‘sonas’ soon turns to upheaval. Seventeen-/ eighteen-year-old Emma has grown increasingly despondent, introverted and uncommunicative: she suf fers from a disease with no name. This causes Máire to meditate upon a defining moment in her own life; a sojourn in an Irish college at the age of nine. This Irish college, like her life, had promised perfect happiness but brought something rather dif ferent. There follows a deep excavation of Máire’s consciousness, as memories that have previously been suppressed, or lain dormant, are disturbed and awakened. By recovering and repossessing these buried secrets of her own personal history, Máire begins to comprehend her present. As Máire slowly dismantles her vision of perfection, her daughter gains her strength back. Ní Dhuibhne’s narrative is balanced between the past and the present, each illuminating and informing the other. The novel is a combination of retrospective and present first person narration told by Máire (as a grown woman). Ní Dhuibhne engineers the narrative so that the reader is inside...

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