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The Aran Islands Hardcover – 1 Feb 2003


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 132 pages
  • Publisher: IndyPublish.com (1 Feb. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1404342982
  • ISBN-13: 978-1404342989
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,996,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The geography of the Aran Islands is very simple, yet it may need a word to itself. Read the first page
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bob Salter TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 May 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Millington Synge was well qualified to write a book about the customs and folklore of the people who inhabited the wild and windswept Aran Islands, situated off the west coast of Ireland. After suffering a bout of severe illness from Hodgkin's disease, which was to cause his early death in 1909, he went to the Aran Islands in 1898 and spent five summers collecting stories, folklore and perfecting his Gaelic. The Aran's were still a stronghold for the rich native Irish Gaelic language. In time he was accepted by the people, and gained their confidence, although always remaining a "Duine Uasal", a noble person. Synge was born of landed gentry, and this was a divide that could never be bridged between the impoverished islanders and their wealthy well educated guest. He was treated with the greatest of respect, but could never be one of them. He had the handy knack of playing a mean fiddle, which made him a popular figure with the islanders. He was also familiar with conjuring tricks, and could perform feats of athleticism, which helped pass the boredom with these simple peasant folk.

The book was first completed in 1901, but was not published until 1907. Synge considered it as "my first serious piece of work". In the book, Synge describes in some detail the harsh lives of these islanders, and recounts the stories, often imbued with deep superstitions that they told over the turf fires. Amongst the Aran's population were many gifted oral storytellers. They were the last in a long history of passed down oral traditions, that had its origins in the likes of Homer, and even further back into the earlier mists of mans origins. The Gaelic storytelling over the turf fire is not so far removed from the hunter gatherers who spun tales over the campfire.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 15 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
"The Aran Islands" is a delightful rendition of the experiences of J. M. Synge during his visits to the Aran Islands just over a century ago. Synge's journey had been encouraged by William Butler Yeats. "Go to the Aran Islands. Live there as one of the people themselves; express a life that has never found expression." Here Synge gained an insight into the Irish character which would enrich his later works.
The Aran Islands are a chain of islands off the coasts of Connemara and Clare. Isolated by the sea, the Arans, like the Galapagos in the natural world, preserve the language and customs of traditional Ireland.
The book is a narrative of what Synge saw and the stories he heard during his stays in the Arans, told by a master storyteller in the finest Irish tradition. The language is delightful, the stories are entertaining and the insight into the Irish soul is profound. A must read for any lover of the Irish.
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Format: Kindle Edition
There is nothing much happens in this book. He goes to the Aran Islands, meets a few people and has a few experiences.

However! It allows you to peer into the world of Gaelic Island life that even in other parts of Ireland -like Dublin, a busy, Western, Anglophone city- seems a million miles away. I enjoyed seeing into this different world and I hope you do, too.
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By annekiely on 8 Nov. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I only heard recently that J M Synge had written about the Aran Islands and was interested to get an insight about the life of the islanders. This is an easy and fascinating read, whether or not you have visited the islands. It really was a different world.
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By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
...at least the far western end, if you exclude Iceland, as is generally done. The Aran Islands are a chain of islands, composed of three principal ones, which are just off the western Irish coast, from Galway bay. I learned of this book from Tim Robinson's excellent accounts of the totality of life on these islands, in his Stones of Aran: Labyrinth (New York Review Books Classics) and Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage. Robinson published his accounts in 1986, based on his life on the islands, commencing in 1972. In both of Robinson's books, he references Synge's account of life on Aran around the turn of the century (nowadays, we need to specify that is the beginning of the 20th century). I made that proverbial mental note to read Synge, which I was finally able to fulfill, stumbling on this 1993 version in a used book store in nearby Santa Fe.

Synge was enjoying "La Belle Epoque" in Paris, determined to be an authority on contemporary French literature when he met William Butler Yeats, who was from Ireland's west coast, near Sligo. Yeats urged him, essentially, to "get back to your roots," with the ultimate Gallic experience being available as far away from Britain as possible. And these islands fit that specification. At the time, Britain was directly ruling Ireland.

Robinson lived on the largest island in the chain, Aranmor. Synge sought out life on the middle island, Inishmann, under the idea that life there would be less "corrupted" by modern influences. There was no "steamer" service to this lesser island; transport was by a small rowboat, called a curagh.
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