A WEST Cork-based author has edited a new book on writer Frank O’Connor’s works of translation.
While Frank O’Connor was known primarily as one of Ireland’s finest short story writers, he was also an accomplished translator. Between the mid-1920s and the mid-1960s, O’Connor published 121 translations that give voice to the full range of this centuries-old tradition. Look Back to Look Forward, Frank O’Connor’s Complete Translations from the Irish, edited by Gregory A Schirmer collects them in full for the first time.
The collection includes the Irish-language sources for all 121 translations along with literal translations, enabling the reader to see what O’Connor started from.
O’Connor’s translations sprang from a compulsive desire to breathe life into Ireland’s past, to ‘look back to look forward,’ as he once put it; for him the Irish-language tradition was not for scholars and archives alone, but formed a living body of work vitally relevant to an Ireland that seemed puzzlingly indifferent to it.
Thanks to his profound love of his country’s language and its rich, literary subsoil – ‘a literature of which no Irishman need feel ashamed’, he once said – these voices from Ireland’s past can still be heard. Strikingly modern in tone, they conjoin flesh and spirit, the sacred and the secular, in a way that speaks to humankind.
Gregory has also written books on Austin Clarke and William Trevor, and Out of What Began: A History of Irish Poetry in English. He also edited After the Irish: An Anthology of Poetic Translation and is author of The Midnight Court: Eleven Versions of Merriman. He lives in Ballylickey with his wife, the fiction writer Jane Mullen.