Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Táin Bó Cúailnge

…de la Los Angeles Times:

Within the West's small but precious hoard of archaic literary epics, "The Táin" is surely the most complex and least known outside its native Ireland.Even in its homeland, it's a work more often respectfully acknowledged than read. With justice and a bit of luck, this brilliant and altogether engaging new translation by the Belfast poet Ciaran Carson should change all that. Indeed, Carson has performed an act of aesthetic recovery that, in every sense, deserves to be ranked with his old friend and colleague Seamus Heaney's bestselling version of "Beowulf."

In old Irish, "táin" literally means "a raid," usually for cattle, though like any good Irish-language word, it has other meanings as well. The ancient epic by that name is often called "Táin Bó Cúailnge" (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), and it is, as Carson explains in his introduction, "the longest and most important tale in the Ulster Cycle, a group of some 80 interrelated stories which recount the exploits of the Ulaid, a prehistoric people of the north of Ireland, from whom the name of Ulster derives."

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