Waysiders is a path. At the same time, it is an extremely strong emotional experience, a way of knowing late nineteenth century Ireland, an opportunity to access to universal issues. Its fascination is probably due to its essential expression of a land living between the misery of an exhausting country life, a system of property deteriorating the social and personal relationships, the magic of Celtic traditions intertwined with a religion that transfigures reality, and the dream of a better life. You feel part of an ungrateful daily life where glances of striking intelligence surprisingly catch you, severe and destructive feelings arise, a subtle irony glimpses. With extreme realism and sacredness, many themes are treated with great definition, striking deep cords which can still speak to us today: emigration, fairy tales, death, work, music, power, madness, love …
You can meet individual male and female characters of different ages, cultures and passions, who now and then are dramatically opposed to a deprived, intimidated, sometimes violent throng.
The slow narrative pace often coincides with that of solitary journeys on donkey carts, along walks bordered by hard walls covered with ivy, streams, ravines, through roads on the hills between poplar trees, fields of gorse, sharp frosty night sceneries.
You find yourself in a world of which you capture clear sensorial perceptions: awakenings before dawn, the taste of a special breakfast, the fear of being attacked and robbed, dark landscapes waiting for the first gleams of light, repressed hunger, thirst, the fatigue of cracking stone, tight muscles overcoming slopes with the cart loaded with grey limestone blocks. You can see the colors, the lights, you feel the cold, smell the peat smoke, savor the homemade whiskey, you let yourself be carried away by the music of the fideóg, by the folk song of the young peat seller, with his long throat throbbing like a bird’s, you fall in love with young guys in the throes of a dark depression.
A shepherd and his little girl painfully witness the agony of a goat brutally hurt. Impotence, possibility to put an end to that horror, sense of responsibility: in a night of heavy rain you are dazzled as the shepherd by the mystery of life and motherhood symbolized by the goat’s nipples, of the end of life, of free will.
You participate in the dream of impossible love, in the frustration of ideals shattered by daily famine and fatigue, you sense a carnal relationship with the earth, you are blinded by manic obstinacy towards things, means of subsistence, you fly on the wings of creativity and art.
A journey to Ireland becomes, as always with the best literature, an intense journey of self-discovery; it leaves an indecipherable nostalgia.
Translation edited by Chiara Canova and Robert Mardle