The realm of the improbable

Contemporary literature in Irish in local and global context


Keyword: literature in Irish, minoritized languages, minority literatures, translation

This paper uses modern and contemporary literature in the Irish language to reflect on the creative potential of small or lesser-used languages. The paper gives a brief overview of the current status of the Irish language in Ireland and traces the major literary developments since independence. Despite its minoritized and endangered status, Irish continues to function as a vital literary medium, thus manifesting a creative and intellectual resistance to the forces of assimilation and homogenization. Drawing on some recent Estonian connections, attention is given to the importance of translation and cross-cultural dialogue and collaboration. The paper argues that one of the most significant attributes of minority language literatures is their openness to the pleasures of multilingualism and to translation as a form of cultural enrichment and exchange. While literary activity can support language revitalization initiatives locally, the literatures of smaller languages also serve as a constant reminder of the value of linguistic diversity as cultural and societal resource and as an integral part of a global literary heritage.


Máirín Nic Eoin (b. 1958), PhD, MRIA, Professor Emerita of Dublin City University (DCU All Hallows Campus, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, Ireland), mairin.niceoin@dcu.ie