Richard Power

Quotations

Life
1928-1970, b. Dublin; entered Irish Civil Service, 1945; took an English degree at TCD and studied Irish in Aran Islands; taught at State Univ., Iowa, 1958-60; issued Ull i mBarr an Ghéagáin (1959), winning the Gaelic Book Club Award, and later trans. by Victor Power as Apple on the Treetop (Dublin: Poolbeg 1980); wrote one-act plays, Saoirse (Abbey 5 Nov. 1955), and An Oidhreacht (Abbey 17th March 1958); also wrote RÉ scripts and novels - The Land of Youth (1964), set on Inishkeever, concerning Barbara, returned from America, who becomes involved with an ordinand and pregnant by a trawlerman, all with tragic consequences; The Hungry Grass (NY 1969), dealing with the isolation of Fr. Tom Conroy; d. 12 Feb., Bray. DIW DIB DIL OCIL.

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Works
Novels, The Land of Youth (NY: Dial Press 1964; London: Secker & Warburg 1966); The Hungry Grass (London: Bodley Head 1969); Ull i mBarr an Ghéagáin (Baile Atha Cliath: Sáirséal agus Dill 1959), trans. by Victor Power as Apple on the Treetop (Dublin: Poolbeg 1980); ‘Poems translated from the Irish, Poetry Ireland, 19 (Oct. 1952), pp.7-8; ‘Peasants: A Story, The Bell, XVIII, 7 (Dec. 1952), pp.424-30; ‘An Outpost of Rome’, The Dubliner, Vol. 3, 1 (Spring 1964), pp.14-26. See also extract from The Mohair Boys [unfinished novel] in The Irish Press (27 Feb. 1971);

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Criticism
Terence Brown, ‘Family Lives: The Fiction of Richard Power’, in Patrick Rafroidi and Maurice Harmon, eds., The Irish Novel in Our Time [Cahiers Irlandaises 4-5] (l’Université de Lille 1976), pp.245-53; James MacKillop, ‘The Hungry Grass, Richard Power’s Pastoral elegy’, in Eire-Ireland 18, no. 3 (Autumn 1983), 86-99; SEE also James Cahalan, The Irish Novel (1988) and J. W. Foster, Colonial Consequences (1990). [Note, no IF2 items.]

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Commentary
J. W. Foster writes in Colonial Consequences (1990): ‘Power has created in this novel a priest who endures [several] kinds of exile, from the ‘deep, green soft-layered places’ of Rosnagree, his family home and native parish; from post-revolutionary Ireland which has degenerated into political jobbery and bureaucratic squabbling; and from his political relations who batten upon the recently independent country.’ [... &c.] Foster remarks: ‘The contest between place and self is crucial in Irish fiction. So powerful is it that it is not unusual for it to be a death-struggle, for the fictional self to be so bound to place that the self is destroyed when it is sundered from place. What makes the theme so pervasive is the fact that the Irish have such a localised sense of place that the archteypal trauma of the separation from place can quite easily occur inside Ireland itself. This is evidenced by Richard Power’s The Hungry Grass (1969). Power has created in this novel a priest who endures [several] kinds of exile: from the ‘deep, green soft-layered places’ of Rosnagree, his family home and native parish; from post-revolutionary Ireland which has degenerated into political jobbery and bureaucratic squabbling; and from his political relations who batten upon the recently independent country. Father Conry has been banished to Kilbride, the poorest parish in the diocese .. in part because he was thought to have been a red priest during a labour dispute at the time of the Civil War. Conroy spends the novel trying to make his way back to Rosnagree by locating those he considers his rightful heirs, his dead brother’s anglicised children. This takes the ailing priest to England where he almost dies .. as [his brother did]. But the priest’s sense of orphanhood and exile is most deeply felt in Kilbride itself and drives him to fantasy, panic, and illness. When he returns to Rosangree for the annual reunion of the diocesan priests who had been ordained and together, ‘like an emigrant returning to seek nourishment at his root,’ and there dies, it is as though to confirm the repeated lesson of the Irish novel and short story - that place is life. But all along, Rosnagree and the memory of its natural beauty have held Conroy’s weak self in thrall. We should be equally justified in regarding complete exil as life and place as fatality. The Hungry Grass demonstrates once more that [the Irish geography of fiction] is a scenario of spiritual and intellectual entrapment, imagined escape, and fantasy or death.’

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Quotations
Apple on the Treetop, trans. by Victor Power (Dublin 1980): 'Euston Station, a foggy winter morning. Derelicts still sleeping under the pillars in the main hall, like the cold clay statues of the poor who built this Victorian temple. In a barber’s shop, beneath the platform, a gang of Teddy boys waited for the barber, looking as if they hadn’t had a wink of sleep the night before. Graffiti on the walls of the toilet; swearwords, illicit appointments, obscene verses, cris do coeur ranting against some injustice or other or against life, boasts of demeaning sins, every sort of public expression that an overwrought person would make who desperately needed to broadcast a confession.’ (Quoted in E. Delaney, 'In a Strange Land’, The Irish in Post-War Britain, OUP 2007, p.53.)

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