Irish translations of Russian literature

Last term I had a class on Irish Playwrights Since the 60s and for my final essay, I wrote about Irish translations of Russian literature. There’s been quite a few of them! Lots of Chekhov – Brian Friel and Frank McGuinness both translated Three Sisters, Frank McGuinness also translated Uncle Vanya and Thomas Kilroy moved The Seagull from provincial Russia to the West of Ireland – and a few novels have been adapted for the stage as well – most recently Tom Murphy’s Last Days of the Reluctant Tyrant and Enda Walsh’s Delirium. My essay didn’t really say anything new about all this, just that it happens a lot, with various amounts of success and for lots of different reasons.

Roddy Doyle’s The Government Inspector, currently running at the Abbey, is yet another example of an Irish version of a Russian play. They’re everywhere! (I had a mild hiccup in my research – for about three weeks I was convinced Ibsen was Russian, probably because it suited my topic – there are lots of translations of Ibsen plays. He’s actually Norwegian.) The Government Inspector looks like a fun adaptation and I am going to try and see it before I head back to Galway in January.

I really enjoyed the Irish Playwrights since the 60s class. Each week we were assigned a playwright and could read any play by that person. Then everyone would present their play to the rest of the class and we would discuss them individually and as a body of work. I came across playwrights I had never heard of and was exposed to a huge range of plays over the twelve week term. It was great to talk about the plays and heard other people’s opinions on them. It was a very laid back, chatty sort of a class. It also gave me a great grounding in Irish playwrights which is one of the things I felt I missed out on by doing my degree in England. Reading so many plays was also really helpful for the playwriting class that I also took this term. The two classes feed into each other by forcing me to look at the plays both as a reader and a writer and I found that really useful.

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