This Autumn, we published the great Irish novel Exiles by Dónall Mac Amhlaigh, translated for the first time into English by Mícheál Ó hAodha. So far, it has been received excellently by readers, academics and reviewers, and is now due to be published in the US in Spring 2021.
Dónall Mac Amhlaigh (1926-1989) was one of the most important Irish-language writers of the 20th century. A native of County Galway, he is best known for his novels and short stories concerning the lives of the more than half-a-million Irish people who left Ireland for post-war Britain.
Here's a selection of some of the praise which has been given to Exiles so far:
‘A hunger for the possibility of freedom. The tumbling of borders and convention. The migrants of Mac Amhlaigh’s Exiles fear the loss of home and its fixed reference points. Their voices swerve between two languages, two cultures, and two different ways of existing between the future and the past. A wonderful addition to Irish literature.’
Colum McCann, National Book Award winner with Let the Great World Spin
‘Despite the massive Irish emigration to the cities of England it is an experience little explored in literature. But Dónall Mac Amhlaigh was its great chronicler. He was the best man for the job as he both lived the life and imagined that of his colleagues. This great novel is his best achievement, richly translated for the first time. It captures those times of hardship, of fun, of love and of spite perfectly, when the Irish were "building up and tearing England down". It is a story which appears to be documentary but is truly a sympathetic recreation through the imagination of what it was like for those hundreds of thousands of
Irish who left our shores.’
Professor Alan Titley, translator, The Dirty Dust (M Ó Cadhain), Yale University Press
‘A valuable service [has been done by] Mícheál Ó hAodha... for the Irish Studies community worldwide, and especially for those of us who work on Irish immigrant culture in Britain. Although widely recognised as a classic of modern Irish-language fiction... [Exiles had remained] off limits to most Anglophone scholars because it [was] not available in English translation. In rectifying this discrepancy, [the translator] has produced a literary text worthy of the original, which deserves a wide readership not just nationally but globally.’
Dr Liam Harte, Senior Lecturer in Irish and Modern Literature, The University of
Manchester, and author of The Literature of the Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725–2001
'Mac Amhlaigh’s novel, [Exiles], written in his declining years, has until now been inaccessible to readers unable to read work in the Irish language. It is greatly to his credit that Mícheál Ó hAodha has performed this labour of love... it [should] be enthusiastically received, not only by scholars of Irish migration history, but also by that general readership which undoubtedly exists for authentic artistic insights into that now-vanished world.’
Ultan Cowley, The Men Who Built Britain: A History of the Irish Navvy
‘Dónall Mac Amhlaigh is the most perceptive and informed writer on
the Irish in twentieth-century Britain. Mícheál Ó hAodha is to be congratulated for making this masterpiece... available to an English-reading audience. It deserves a wide readership to remind us what emigration and exile was like for the generation who left Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s.’
Professor Enda Delaney, author of The Irish in Post-War Britain
‘Dónall Mac Amhlaigh made a vitally important contribution to th literature of the Irish in Britain and indeed to the Irish diaspora worldwide. As with many working-class writers of his generation and writers of minority languages in particular, he didn’t receive the recognition he deserved while alive. Mac Amhlaigh’s Exiles demonstrates what the Irish and the migrant peoples of our day have always known – to be truly at home is not necessarily to sleep beneath
a familiar roof. Home is not a particular place but is a community or a people and their sense of identity. I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of bringing this work to a wider readership.
Tony Murray, Director, Irish Studies Centre, London Metropolitan University and author of London Irish Fictions: Narrative Diaspora and Identity
You can buy the book online here.