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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

May 30, 1993|Kim Bendheim

THE IRISH: A Treasury of Art and Literature edited by Leslie Conron Carola (McMillan: $75; 368 pp.) This is a rich sampling of what the Irish do best: create art in both words and images. Although the art pictured in this book is lovely, hammered silver vessels, brooches, stone crosses, illustrations from the Book of Kells, green landscapes and round towers by the sea, it is the written selections that stay with you, in a haunting fashion, long after you put the book down. Read selections such as "The Hound of Culann" from the 8th-Century, or a monk's poem praising the fierce wind that "ploughs up the white hair of the sea." It kept away the Vikings. Only in Ireland would storms be welcomed for keeping away one's enemies. Starting in the 9th Century, the Irish were invaded by Vikings, then, and fiercer by far, came the English. Seamus Heaney (pictured above in a portrait by Edward McGuire) writes that the Irish often draw "nourishment for the imagination . . . from a sense of place." Perhaps because they had, for hundreds and hundreds of years, no political or economic power in their own country, the Irish learned to manipulate reality through their use of words and images, culled from their past, their culture and their strong sense of place. What is given the reader, then, in this true treasury is a sampling through Irish art, of that place.

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