Liam Mac Mathúna, Peadar Ua Laoghaire

Séadna

A new edition of this major classic, complete and unabridged. Shortlisted for Irish-language Book of the Year 2011

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A new edition of this major classic, complete and unabridged. This book has been shortlisted for Gradam Uí Shúilleabháin 2011 – the Irish-Language Book of the Year Award. This is an updated and revised edition and contains a comprehensive new preface to introduce Séadna to new generations. This edition is attractively presented. A companion product to the printed text is an audio book on several discs, presenting this masterpiece of modern Irish literature in a new art form.

Weight 670 g
Published
Pages
Cover

hard, soft

 An Timire, Fómhar [Autumn], 2013
Scéal Séadna was for some of us a school textbook in our youth. This was an abbreviated version (first published in 1947) of Séadna and was a little literary gem in itself, though only a third of the length of the original book. Séadna was actually out of print for many years until Liam Mac Mathúna produced a new edition in 1987. This handsomely-produced book from Cois Life is a new version of that publication.

Séadna was first published in 1904. It was effectively the first Irish language novel (leaving aside a weak effort from Phádraig Ó Duinnín in 1901) and demonstrated both that fine prose could be based on the living language of the Gaeltacht and that folklore could be a source material for producing modern literature. As such, it was an inspiration to many young writers for long, long after its publication.

But this might imply that Séadna has only an historic value, and this is not at all the case; it is a powerful work which still deserves to be read. At root, it is a comic tale, but framing the joke is the sorry tale of Séadna himself who sells his soul to the devil for a purse of gold (a trope of international folklore). He manages to triumph at the end of the day, but by means that are not altogether transparent.
In his introduction to this new, augmented edition, Liam Mac Mathúna recounts the history of the book and it emerges that An tAthair Peadar had a less than easy time getting it published. Part of it was published in Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge [The Gaelic Journal], another part was published as a stand-alone book, and the final part appeared in a weekly newspaper. We have the Celtic Scholar Norma Borthwick to thank for gathering the entire work together in 1904 and it is on this edition that Mac Mathúna has based the work under review. It is essential reading for every student of the Irish language.

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