Míchéal Ó Conghaile

Life
b. Inis Treabhair, off Connemara; fnd. Cló Iar-Chonnachta, 1985; MA at UCG: writer in res. at QUB to 2002; issued poetry, short stories a novel, and a novella in Irish incl. Sná Fir (1999); Seachrán Jeaic Sheain Johnny (2002), An Fear nach nDéannann Géire (2003); Cúigear Chonomara (q.d); trans. The Queen ofLeenane and The Lonesome West by Martin MacDonagh; issued his own drama, The Connemara Five ([2006]), orig. in Irish; elected to Aosdána in 1998.

Works
Seachrán Jeaic Sheain Johnny (Cló Iar-Chonnacht 2002), 96pp.; The Connemara Five, trans. Úna Ní Chonchúir (Arlen House [2006]), 80pp., et al.

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Criticism
Eamon Kelly, review of The Connemara Five, in Books Ireland (Sept. 2007), p.180 [infra].

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Commentary
Alan Titley, ‘This and other worlds’, review of Snagcheol [with other works], in The Irish Times (28 Sept 2002), Weekend Review: writes that Snagcheol ‘the fascination of an older man for a young woman’, and further: ‘His novella takes us directly into the mind of the man and his obsession. We inhabit his house and we feel his world closing in on him. Although the borders between his mind and what lies outside it are sometimes blurred, we are never led into mushy fantasy. The unity of the writing holds it all together and we are rolled along never knowing what the end of this could possibly be. All of this is a risky task on a risky theme. To tell it would be to invite the charge of impossibility. But Mícheál Ó Conghaile carries it off by his sympathy, his understanding, his courage and the power of his writing.’ (See full text, infra.)

Eamon Kelly, review of The Connemara Five, in Books Ireland (Sept. 2007), p.180: ‘[...] The five characters of the title feature a practising transvestite, his overtly lascivious girlfriend, a comically dirty old man with creeping Aizheimer’s, a sexually repressed son and an elderly female neighbour who may or not be having sex with the old man. / The comedy is very much in the style of Martin McDonagh, arising from the collision between old Catholic Ireland and modern mores, with colloquial speech embedded with modern slang; the Sacred Heart and Virgin grottos set against page three girls and the Tellytubbies; the laughs further generated by the exaggerated bickering of a dysfunctional family unit. / Indeed the relationship between the elderly father and the eldest son who takes care of him is more than a bit reminiscent of the relationship between the mother and daughter in The Beauty Queen ofLeenane: and as if to cement these similarities the writer chooses in one scene to have the pair bickering about Weetabix, where McDonagh had his two characters bickering about Kimberley biscuits. / The plot concerns a young man who, in unresolved grief for his dead mother, dresses up in her clothes. He carries this secret shame through a series of farcical scenes culminating in discovery by his older brother who mocks him relentlessly, piling on the off-colour jokes. / Act two abandons the farce after the first scene and strikes a more sombre note in a search for significance that becomes overburdened with far too much to do on ground poorly prepared. For instance, out of nowhere an alleged anal rape perpetrated in the past by the elder brother is mentioned and hurried through in a few lines and never explained. / At the end of act two, after their elderly father dies, the cross-dressing son decides it is time for him to leave Connemara and the play closes on a round of poignant goodbyes, with the previously farcical characters, particularly the protagonist’s girlfriend, modified with little revelation to accommodate the tonal shift. [...; &c.]’

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