First Death Anniversary of Tomás Mac Síomóin

By Roshni D’Souza

Well-known Irish author, Tomás Mac Síomóin passed away on the 17th of February last year, just two days short of his 85th birthday. He was a writer of both fiction and non-fiction in Irish.

Mac Síomóin was a Marxist journalist, writer, and poet, whose strong Marxist values are reflected in his writing. Jeannine Woods, who teaches Mac Síomóin‘s work, An Tionscadal, at the University of Galway, told Galway Pulse that his communist values were one of the main themes that ran through all of his work.

The book is set in a post-modern, capitalistic world, with the main focuses of the novel being, “the greed, the competition, and the destructiveness of that. It turns out quite destructive for the powerless community in it,” said Woods.

His Work

Woods chose to teach An Tionscadal because of its salience in themes. “You could read it as a kind of dystopic science fiction piece, but it’s also a kind of piece of meta-fiction. The subtitle of it is a fable in three interludes so it’s this kind of modern fable.” The book has a mythological framework despite being set in the 21st century according to Woods.

The brevity of An Tionscadal, from Woods’ understanding, is that it underlines the importance of art and literature in understanding the world we live in, and then questioning it.

“Literature and art can, I suppose, explore certain truths that are not in the realm of factuality necessarily or that can derive {from} scientistic or factual truth. But there are truths that art can explore and make us aware of. And I think that really struck me in this work,” remarks Woods.

His beliefs about the Irish language

Mac Síomóin was well-versed in the English language and could write very well in English, yet he chose not to. Instead, he translated his work into English. He wrote a book called ‘The Broken Harp,’ in which he explained his opinion on language and identity.

Woods, who read the book, said that his reason for writing in Irish was because “he felt that there was a relationship between language …values {and} world-views that languages carry.”

Woods is of the opinion that, Mac Síomóin believed that languages carry culture, history, and values with them, whilst observing that “he was very disappointed that his work in Irish didn’t get greater critical attention.”

She indicated her own disappointment as she explained, she too “would like to see [Mac Síomóin‘s work, that was written in Irish], get more critical attention.” As well as this “his exploration of contemporary themes and issues” is something that Woods believes to hold great importance.

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