The University of Wisconsin Press

Memoir / Irish Literature


An Aran Keening
Andrew McNeillie

"An Aran Keening stands as a celebration of pungent wildness."
—Patricia Craig, London Times Literary Supplement

In November 1968, at the age of twenty-two, Andrew McNeillie left his job and his girlfriend in Wales and traveled to Inishmore, one of the isolated Aran Islands off the Atlantic coast of Ireland. He was not a tourist; he stayed eleven months on Inishmore, living alone in a tiny house. An Aran Keening   is a limpidly written memoir of that time, a celebration of the island and its people, a lament for a way of life that was infused with a deep sadness then and has vanished altogether now.

An Aran Keening tells of a time before electricity and landing strips, a time of real poverty for many. Island life was, in both mind and body, more stark and more dramatic then; it stood much closer to the candle- and horse-powered nineteenth century than to the digital twenty-first. McNeillie fished and trapped for his food—his accounts of his methods are among the most dazzling passages in the book—and writes with great love, but without a trace of romanticism, about the natural world of Aran. With extraordinary sensitivity and subtlety, this gifted writer recounts the awkward but ultimately enriching interactions between his youthful self and the people of Inishmore. An Aran Keening   commemorates both the immortality of youth, in all its courage, folly, and quick tenderness of heart, and the passing of a world.

"An Aran Keening marks out and occupies its own territory—it caught me in its spell."—Tom Paulin, author of The Wind Dog

"A commemoration of island life; of poverty and deprivation, but also the beauty and the unique spirit of the place."—Sarah-Jane O'Brian, The Dubliner

Andrew McNeillie is a writer and publisher living in Oxford, England. He grew up in Wales, where he began his working life as a news reporter. He is the author of a collection of poems, Nevermore.

Copublished with Lilliput Press, Dublin, Eire.

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February 2002
248 pp. 6 x 9

Wisconsin edition for sale only in North America

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