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The Colony

de Audrey Magee

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3042286,931 (4.31)81
"A novel examining the long, complicit aftermath of colonialism, told through the summer of 1979 and a remote island in the west of Ireland, one of the last places where people speak everyday Irish, and two men who come to experience it"-- It is the summer of 1979. An English painter travels to a small island off the west coast of Ireland. Mr. Lloyd takes the last leg by currach, though boats with engines are available and he doesn't much like the sea. He wants the authentic experience, to be changed by this place, to let its quiet and light fill him, give him room to create. He doesn't know that a Frenchman follows close behind. Jean-Pierre Masson has visited the island for many years, studying the language of those who make it their home. He is fiercely protective of their isolation, deems it essential to exploring his theories of language preservation and identity. But the people who live on this rock--three miles long and half a mile wide--have their own views on what is being recorded, what is being taken, and what ought to be given in return. Over the summer, each of them--from great-grandmother Bean U Fhloinn, to widowed Mairad, to fifteen-year-old James, who is determined to avoid the life of a fisherman--will wrestle with their values and desires. Meanwhile, all over Ireland, violence is erupting. And there is blame enough to go around.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 21 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
A fine book with gorgeous physical descriptions of summer on a remote Irish island through the eye of the artist protagonist. "continent's outpost...empire's edge...endlessness of sky, azure blue, sky blue, turquoise blue, gentian blue, cobalt blue, Prussian blue, Persian blue, France blue, layered and thickened, indigo, Payne's grey, Mars black, ivory black, reaching into infinity...copying how the sun shaded and lit the outcrops, the caves, the folds and creases of the rock...each moment of sun and shade different to the one that went before."
I'm in a class studying color use in writing so I am ecstatically expanding my lexicon.
The shocking pieces between chapters registering the obituaries of casualties of the Northern Ireland Troubles raise the tension and gradually become pertinent to the story and the conflicts between the colonists and the summer interlopers, the artist and a linguist studying their original Irish language. The book ends more sadly for the colonists than for the intruders underlining the rift of imperialistic forages of any kind. Highly recommended.
For an in depth review, read https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5498525-fionnuala ( )
  featherbooks | May 7, 2024 |
We're in Ireland in 1979, on a small, sparsely populated and isolated island, whose inhabitants have only recently started to learn and use English. Two visitors come to spend their summers there. Mr. Lloyd is a painter who wants to explore the landscape. He's rude and entitled, but interesting to young islander James who has ambitions to go to art school. Masson, known as JP, is a French academic, keen to preserve and promote the Irish language, whether the inhabitants want it or not. Each chapter is interspersed with a terse newspaper-like account of a sectarian murder on the mainland, whether of a Catholic or a Protestant. At first these almost seem an irrelevance. Gradually, the penny drops that these incidents are deeply rooted in the history of the English towards their Irish 'colony', and do much to explain the largely hostile feelings both of the islanders and its two visitors. The book paints a picture of an island in many ways left behind, whose characters still struggle to find their place in the world, as indeed do the two visitors. A book to provoke thought long after the last page has been turned. ( )
  Margaret09 | Apr 15, 2024 |
A brilliantly written, absorbing story that takes place over a few months on a remote and tiny Irish-speaking island in 1979, an island on the cusp of being unable to exist as it traditionally has, an island that hosts at this moment in time two foreigners of great ego and opposing viewpoints that are equally shaped by histories of colonialism.

In 1979 the majority of the island of Ireland had been independent from Britain for decades, yet the legacy of colonialism of course loomed large. It was a mostly poor and agricultural country; the part of the island that had been industrialized lay in the north, still retained by the British, and the site of a brutal violence of the sort following on from a past colonial project. Irish was the language of the poorest, most rural, most traditional of the nation’s citizens, those out on its western edges. Those farthest from Britain. Those whom the colonization project had least touched. The majority of the country now spoke English, and to have new opportunities, one needs speak that language.

Life on the small Irish-speaking western islands was particularly hard and over the years a number became uninhabited as the Irish government relocated their residents to the mainland, perhaps most famously (thanks to books like [b:The Islandman|684871|The Islandman|Tomas O'Crohan|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1347713179l/684871._SY75_.jpg|671254]) those on the Blasket Islands in the 1950s. Those islands that remained inhabited would come to be big tourist draws and see themselves transformed in many ways by the tourism industry, most famously the Aran Islands.

The island serving as the setting for The Colony has had neither event happen to it yet. It maintains a population of under 100 hardy and mostly older people and apart from one repeat French visitor who comes with an academic interest has no tourism. The Frenchman, JP, is researching the state of the Irish language and, influenced by the legacy of French colonialism in his own familial background, seems driven by an outsized need to see the Irish language preserved here. However he’s even more driven by a desire for attention and fame in “discovering” this outpost of a dying European language, and the result of his publicity would be the tourism that would destroy such as existence. He would, despite his protestations, be the colonizer taking advantage of the colonized.

And now comes an Englishman, an artist who despite whatever stereotypes there may be about artists as locus of opposition to imperialism and power embodies the stereotype of the benevolent colonizer, all the way up to cluelessly protesting about “all we’ve done for this place!”. Mr. Lloyd comes to paint the cliffs, which naturally are wilder and more savage than English ones, but ends up turning his gaze on the islanders as Gauguin turned his gaze on the Tahitians. Mr. Lloyd, unlike the Frenchman, puts up little front of being interested in the life and identity of the colonized and unselfconsciously exploits them.

But even more interesting than the stories of these two men are the stories and characters of the islanders that host them. Mairéad lost her husband to a fisherman’s drowning death and has a complex attitude towards questions of the island vs the rest of the world, the Irish language vs the English. Her mother and grandmother however are strongly committed to their language and way of life. Then there’s her son James/Seamus, whose very name is a struggle over post-colonization identity, who is a bilingual speaking teenager, who wants the opportunities of life off the island and might find a way out through his hitherto unknown artistic abilities if Mr. Lloyd can be trusted.
I don’t want one of your jumpers, Mam. Those drowning jumpers. Not for me, Mam. I won’t do it. I won’t be that fisherman. That tradition. That drowning tradition. He opened a fresh sheet of paper and drew in pencil, two rabbits, dead on the grass, three fishermen, dead on the seabed. Not for me, Mam, he said.


Meanwhile there’s Micheál who has a utilitarian attitude towards language and an entrepreneur’s orientation towards everything and everybody else (when tourism inevitably comes, if the island remains inhabited, he will thrive).

The characters frequently debate amongst themselves (in Irish and English) questions like the value of maintaining tradition versus seeking greater opportunity, and, informed by radio reports of “The Troubles”, questions of violence and colonial legacy.

He shouldn’t be here at all, Micheál. This island should be protected from English speakers.
Micheál laughed.
Like a museum, JP?
More a conservation project.
A zoo then?
An Irish-speaking island is a precious thing, Micheál.
You can’t lock people onto the island because they speak Irish, JP.
You can if it saves the language.
Nor can you keep other people off because they don’t speak Irish.
It’s your island. You can do what you want.


I found this novel fully and believably immersive and compelling. Great stuff. ( )
  lelandleslie | Feb 24, 2024 |
Excellent plot about how we have to confront our personal views for survival

Strong Irish island story, love the French/English strand, different storyline ( )
  ChrisGreenDog | Feb 11, 2024 |
Audrey Magee clearly is a writer who likes to test her readers. This novel begins with the arrival of the English painter James Lloyd, on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland; he wants to stay there for a few months to paint the spectacular light effects on the cliffs. From the start, Lloyd is presented as particularly unsympathetic and sullen, the few dozen Irish residents as closed and living far from civilization. Can it be more cliché? But then Magee intersperses her story with short, journalistic reports of terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland (the year is 1979); the connection with the foregoing is not immediately clear, but the repetitive nature of the accounts underlines the brutality of the Northern Irish conflict. Finally, she also brings to the island a French linguist, Jean-Paul Masson, a man who has made it his personal mission to record and preserve the ancient Irish language (Gaelic).
The subsequent interaction goes in different, interconnecting directions: Lloyd and Masson cannot tolerate each other and constantly argue, the young islander James hopes to develop an artist's career through Lloyd and turns out to actually have talent, his mother (Masson's mistress) develops into a kind of faun and presents herself to Lloyd to have herself painted naked, Masson turns out to be traumatized by his childhood as the son of an Algerian woman who was terrorized by her racist French husband, through Masso we also get a history lesson on Gaelic and on the bloody English oppression of the Irish, etc., etc. Gradually, the passages about the terror attacks in Northern Ireland increase, and the islanders also begin to comment on what they hear about that. And more and more the story takes the form of a series of interior monologues by different protagonists, with the narrative point of view jumping back and forth between the first and third person. And finally, there is also quite a bit of excitement and suspense about a mysterious canvas that Lloyd is painting of the islanders themselves.
Just to say: there is quite a lot in Magee's cocktail. But what is she really hinting on? As befits any good writer, the answer is not clear-cut. The most obvious storyline is that of the good and the bad: Lloyd as the gruff and unreliable Englishman, Masson as the savior of the true Irish soul, but, clearly, that is far too simple. Lloyd appears to be struggling with a complex private life and a sense of inferiority as an artist, and Masson turns out to have quite a few fanatical traits that are anything but nice. The Irish islanders also appear to be not just innocent sheep, neither the men nor the women; there is quite a bit of anger in them that expresses itself in very extreme opinions and behavior. It's as if Magee wanted to indicate that there is a terrorist or a fanatic in each of us.
Her ingenious use of style and perspective indicates that she had more in mind. At a certain point the book seems like an exposé about the interweaving of language and politics, about the charged nature of words and actions. And what with that title, ‘colony’? Does that refer to the English colonization of Ireland? To the French colonization of Algeria? To an artists' colony?... I have to say that I'm not quite sure what to think of this novel, because despite the layering and the ingenious stylistic play, there are quite a few weak elements in the book. As you can see, I'm struggling with it and I still haven't figured it out. So perhaps worth a reread. ( )
  bookomaniac | Jan 24, 2024 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 21 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
The neocolonial rivalry between a painter and an academic staying off the west coast of Ireland is given a dispassionate but luminous treatment.... Characters do very little very slowly and discontents are expressed sardonically or obliquely, if at all. Naturally, there’s also an equally traditional smattering of merciless killing and colonising foreigners. And Magee’s setting is traditionally remote, an Atlantic island off Ireland’s west coast, three miles long, with its 1979 population now down to double figures....Magee’s prose is always luminous, lyrical and pungent: sometimes sliding into vertical columns of one-word paragraphs, sometimes dwelling on the minutiae of rabbit gutting or the smell of Prussian blue, and yet always remaining ever so slightly distanced. And it would be wrong to say the book rises to a climax: in true Irish tradition, the story shrinks back to its status quo ante
 

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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Audrey Mageeautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Smyth, JackDesigner da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are

FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense
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To the memory of John Magee
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He handed the easel to the boatman, reaching down the pier wall towards the sea.
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You can do a lot of damage with a paintbrush.
As though some title could confirm who you are.Soe house or car could prove your worth. (p. 117)
She stared at him, at his pencil moving across the page, his eyes flicking from side to side, his tongue running intermittently across his lips, moistening them, as though preparing to kiss, to taste as that other artist had tasted the sleeping woman, as though he, this Englishman, needs the taste of me to draw me, to know me as she was known, though I have no need of him, no need of the taste of him, need only that he takes me from here, away to live elsewhere, the young widow island woman hanging from a wall in some strange place, a foreign land while I stay, still setting the kettle on the fire, the dishes on the table, the day i motion, breathing in the fragments of my dead man, living with the bits of him that the sea never got. (pp. 200-201)
Will you miss me, Mam?
I will, James, but we're used to missing around here.
We are, Mam. Experts at it. (p. 275)
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"A novel examining the long, complicit aftermath of colonialism, told through the summer of 1979 and a remote island in the west of Ireland, one of the last places where people speak everyday Irish, and two men who come to experience it"-- It is the summer of 1979. An English painter travels to a small island off the west coast of Ireland. Mr. Lloyd takes the last leg by currach, though boats with engines are available and he doesn't much like the sea. He wants the authentic experience, to be changed by this place, to let its quiet and light fill him, give him room to create. He doesn't know that a Frenchman follows close behind. Jean-Pierre Masson has visited the island for many years, studying the language of those who make it their home. He is fiercely protective of their isolation, deems it essential to exploring his theories of language preservation and identity. But the people who live on this rock--three miles long and half a mile wide--have their own views on what is being recorded, what is being taken, and what ought to be given in return. Over the summer, each of them--from great-grandmother Bean U Fhloinn, to widowed Mairad, to fifteen-year-old James, who is determined to avoid the life of a fisherman--will wrestle with their values and desires. Meanwhile, all over Ireland, violence is erupting. And there is blame enough to go around.

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