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Connemara: Listening to the Wind (Anglais) Broché – 7 décembre 2011


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Revue de presse

Many landscape writers have striven to give their prose the characteristics of the terrain they are describing. Few have succeeded as fully as Robinson. (Robert Macfarlane Guardian)

Présentation de l'éditeur

The first volume in Tim Robinson's phenomenal Connemara Trilogy - which Robert Macfarlane has called 'One of the most remarkable non-fiction projects undertaken in English'. In its landscape, history and folklore, Connemara is a singular region: ill-defined geographically, and yet unmistakably a place apart from the rest of Ireland. Tim Robinson, who established himself as Ireland's most brilliant living non-fiction writer with the two-volume Stones of Aran, moved from Aran to Connemara nearly twenty years ago. This book is the result of his extraordinary engagement with the mountains, bogs and shorelines of the region, and with its folklore and its often terrible history: a work as beautiful and surprising as the place it attempts to describe.Chosen as a book of the year by Iain Sinclair, Robert Macfarlane and Colm Tóibín'Dazzling ... an indubitable classic' Giles Foden, Condé Nast Traveller'One of contemporary Ireland's finest literary stylists' Joseph O'Connor, GuardianA native of Yorkshire, Tim Robinson moved to the Aran Islands in 1972. His books include the celebrated two-volume Stones of Aran. Since 1984 he has lived in Roundstone, Connemara.


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Of recent years my explorations in Roundstone Bog have repeatedly led me to a place called Scailp. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Amazon.com: 8 commentaires
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Amazing Book 3 juillet 2009
Par Anne Thompson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This is one of the most beautifully written prose pieces I have ever read. Robinson is up there with the greats of all the centuries. His sentences are delicate and at times almost painfully beautiful. The images and stories that he crafts leave you feeling almost breathless. I've had the privilege of visiting Connemara and I must say that this style of writing somehow fits the landscape it describes. Both leave you awed and almost empty with amazement at their beauty.

If I could give this book ten stars, I would. I found it to be a real page-turner, and I don't generally like nonfiction. Try it. You'll love the book, and you'll end up wanting to move to Connemara.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
mapping Connemara in myriad ways 14 juin 2008
Par The Lucid Librarian - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
From botanical treasure troves to pre-historical geology lessons, then onto oral history, social history and biography; this book of Robinson's ranges as widely and wildly as he does around Connemara, its past, present and future. This book is packed extraordinarily with facts, historical references and anecdotes woven together very deftly. Gladly it also includes an index and its sources are well referenced. This artfulness is possibly due to the author having such a wide range of interests and understanding that he is able to bring together and focus carefully and sharply on the area he now calls 'home'.

There are wonderful diversions that provide their own intriguing association with the history of this part of Ireland. For example references to the Braun-Blanquet system of classifying plant communities and the "skirmish in the centuries-old philosophy wars between anglophone empiricism and continental metaphysics" (p233) and to Richard Berridge (an absentee landlord in Connemara) whose will included the princely sum of £46,000 in 1887 that went to the Lister Institute of Preventative Medicine (flourishing still today) and £4,000 to The National Health Society to "collect and diffuse sanitary knowledge, and all other knowledge bearing on the physical and moral welfare of all classes of society;" (p352).

For those that like a meandering tale teller, who packs his stories densely with research references and refrains from overwhelming you with their experience or perspective, these are stories to slowly but surely, work your way through. Robinson draws the reader along in a way that perhaps he also wends his way through the landscape he has settled in. In sharing his thoughts, learnings, the anecdotes of others and his passion for mapping, the writing is easy (in that the reader doesn't labour with it) and the reader is gently drawn into his learning and learnedness. In describing the effect of scientific mapping and investigation Robinson rather uncannily reflects his own approach to his storytelling of Connemara and its past:

"The patient eyes of science disentangle the chaos of phenomena, naming, classifying, hypothesizing causal connections, reconstituting it as a highly individuated organic whole, fragile but adaptive, simultaneously rivalrous and convivial. Some may feel that this intellectual process distances one from reality, or reduces it, drives the spirit out of it, frightens the cuckoo out of the wood. But I have always found it a form of awareness, an introduction to wonder." (p383)
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Connemara, Connemara, Connemara 21 janvier 2012
Par Daniel Myers - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
The first thing that struck this reader about this first book of Tim Robinson's Connemara Trilogy were the similarities of the prose style to that of Thoreau's. Indeed, before I even began to read it, the subtitle "Listening to the Wind" brought to my mind a line from Walden: "So many autumn, ay, and winter days, spent outside the town, trying to hear what was in the wind..."

Robinson covers so much ground herein regarding Connemara: geology, taxonomy, impressionistic landscapes, folklore, documented history, personal friendships and reflections etc. that it's hard to see what else it is he has to say in the other two volumes regarding this rather small patch of land in the rather small - purely in terms of acreage! - land of Ireland.

Robinson's modus scribendi, more often than not here, is to wend his way through a landscape, or a history, or an association of things until he reaches some sort of epiphany, frequently very poetically expressed, at the end of each chapter. Sometimes this method worked for me; sometimes not. At times, Robinson - figuratively and, sometimes, quite literally! - becomes, ahem, bogged down in minutiae that, frankly, do not interest me a whit, such as the taxonomic controversy he bangs on about in one chapter.

At his best, though, Robinson is capable of startling, often unsettling insights which he expresses magnificently. A fantastic - meant literally - example is the reverie that comes upon him on observing Cashel Hill reflected upside-down in its lake:

"The world becomes abstracted, its attention all on its own image. Not a detail of the scene changes, but the earth's unearthly beauty is suddenly terrifying. I have witnessed this awful transformation in the expression of Connemara very often. Perhaps the last person alive in the village by the lake, for whom hope was too far away, behind those mountains scissored out of a hard blue sky, saw it too: the landscape clenched against its reflection like the teeth of a skull." - End of chapter.

Robinson certainly has his moments! It's a jolly interesting book, this, and I enjoyed the reading of it, for the most part. But this particular reader doesn't plan to plough on through the other two books of the trilogy. I already feel I know more about this particular patch of the earth than is requisite. Other realms beckon!
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
"Connemaran omniscience..." 31 octobre 2014
Par John P. Jones III - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
As the last century waned, it was a friend's 50th birthday bash that provided the much overdue excuse for my first visit to the land of my ancestors (more precisely, one-fourth of them). It was being hosted in Sligo, on the west coast, a relatively short drive of 200 plus km from Dublin airport. Sligo is W.B. Yeats country, where he spent his childhood summers, and now contains his grave. The western coast of Ireland is purportedly the "real" Gaelic Ireland, and Sligo contained a wonderful bookstore that was my introduction to Tim Robinson, who could explain so much about this area that my eyes were just skimming over. It was in that bookstore that I purchased Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage (New York Review Books Classics) without actually knowing where the Aran Islands were. I would be informed. The book is structured as a walk around the island's coast, with many digressive historical, biological, and sociological commentaries. Robinson is an erudite polymath. Everything interests him, and he can explain arcane facts and relationship so well. It was an overwhelming pleasure to read. How much can be said about one relatively small island? Well, more, since he wrote a second book on the interior of the island Stones of Aran: Labyrinth (New York Review Books Classics). Both works are fairly dense, and the latter is not repetitive. Each deserves a 6-star rating.

I didn't know where Connemara was either, but I knew I would be in "good hands" with Tim Robinson. It is on the mainland of Ireland, and the town of Roundtree, which is Robinson's home, is only 30 km from the Aran Islands. Historically, it served as the "wild west" of Ireland, and is about 120 km southwest of Sligo. This is the first of three volumes Robinson has written on this area, where he and his wife have lived for the last 30 years. This volume confirmed Robinson's continued erudition, and ability to explain the interactions of humans and nature.

Bogs, midges, stony, Connemara is a tough land. Though "bogs" are the dominant geographic feature, Robinson eschews the temptation to use any of the generally negative metaphors associated with them. He covers the geology of the area well, starting from the time there was no Atlantic Ocean. He gently segues from topic to topics, and positioned himself to be a vast depository of the oral history of the area, which he checks and cross-checks with the written record, as attested to by the extensive bibliography.

Robinson peppers the historical account with numerous anecdotal stories. King Edward VII visited Connemara in 1903, and security was provided by numerous "plainclothesmen" all dressed identical, pretending to be bicyclists taking a break, all at very precise intervals. The author explained the practices of "booleying," which is similar to the practice of transhumance in the Pyrennes, whereby the summer six months, that is, from May 01 to November 01, were spent in the Maumturk Mountains, 30 km to the east of Roundtree, with the flocks. It was the women who kept the flocks, and the men worked at home. Inis Ni is a small island in the bay, just across from Roundtree, now connected to the mainland by a causeway. The author depicts its rustic, poor rural past, and its transition to the holiday home crowd of absentee owners. In another anecdote, the author goes out with some of the few remaining peat cutters, and learns their now dying techniques. It is a lot of work, for a fuel that is not that efficient. Roundstone experienced significant Protestant immigration during the 19th century, which came as a surprise to me, and Robinson depicts their vicissitudes.

A majority of Robinson's work is devoted to the land and ownership arrangements which briefly provided much to the "1% crowd" of the 19th century, but ultimately did not. The decisive event of this period was the totally failure of the potato crop due to fungal blight. Starvation ensured thereafter, aided and abetted by inept, incompetent, and/or willful neglect in terms of relief efforts. Mass emigration of many of the remainder followed, resulting in a largely depopulated Connemara.

The author's prose is fresh. Among many other examples, he writes that the tour buses would now "decant" 50 Germans, or Italians. At another point, he is searching for perfectly smoothed basins carved out of stone by a smaller stone and tidal action. Beartla, his friend is helping him, and he wants to take his picture next to one of the basins: "When I looked through the viewfinder I was intrigued to see that he had picked up a scallop shell and was holding it before him between his two hands in an oddly pious and almost girlish pose. Whether tradition was at work in him I do not know, but I was made to think of the cockleshell badge of medieval pilgrims to the shrine of Compostella, and of the cockleshell-shaped madeleine that is the emblem of Proust's pilgrimage through Time." Erudition, indeed.

If I had not read both books on Aran, I would have thought that surely this one volume would have exhausted all that is to be said of Connemara. I know better now, and look forward to the other two volumes. 6-stars.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
"This topography of doubt" 14 février 2013
Par John L Murphy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Reading this a few years after his pair of Aran books, the density of detail and erudition applied to what appears a far larger realm than an island is not diminished by the widened perspective. This Cambridge-trained mathematician, cartographer, and artist applies his Irish-language acquisition to his adapted terrain, where's he lived in Roundstone since 1984. Around his new home, he explores its shores, the Twelve Pins, and the Maamturk mountains inland in the western portion.

He walks without textbooks, so as not to get too bogged down in detail, but surely he consults them, as this learned first installment of his trilogy--well-indexed and over four-hundred pages-- documents. He tries to "see things as they are when he's not there," as a naturalist. (26) He visits a Dead Man's Grave and finds in its name a fitting reminder of our shared fate. He enters a bog to revel in its monoculture, where biodiversity may be lacking, but where it holds intact its own simple treasure.

As in all his writings and maps, the attention to the Irish enlivens this in terrain from which the spoken language has faded along this patch of its western enclave. "Irish placenames dry out when anglicized, like twigs snapped off a tree." (81) In a "gargoyle-logic of creation," Robinson inserts our own small span, as we add years, distort, and then fall rigid ourselves in odd postures. Mortality infuses these eloquent pages, where Beckett's "skull in Connemara" (and I think since this of Martin McDonagh's plays) lingers in the fate of a Famine village of Rosroe. Graves speckle some boreens so much that in his map-making he gave up marking them. Such poetry and philosophy combined with archives and science deepens the fatal impacts of the abandoned.

This narrative is best read slowly and sparingly, for sometimes the amount of local history (he seems to enjoy telling the comings and goings of the titled and the eccentric, as often the incomers get the attention given their printed records of power or orally transmitted anecdotes of oddity that the anonymous dweller or nameless emigrant will never reclaim) or botanical precision can weary. I would have welcomed more follow-through on colonist Sir Richard Bingham's 1641 coverage of the land, the 1660s Survey & Distribution books, or Richard Martin's holdings, for instance; Robinson has published on the Martins separately, but sometimes he alludes in this volume too briefly to matters that only whet the curious appetite. And the map here, the same in the sequel (see my Feb. 2013 review of "Connemara: The Last Pool of Darkness") is far too small and sketchy. You will need Robinson's own maps of Connemara (and Aran) to fully enjoy his books.

Still, that gap shows a book that generates interest. Derryclare Wood's five thousand years in the making, the felled conifer plantation's disaster zone adjacent make for a telling symbol of Irish stewardship for a fragile ecosystem. But, a great joke about King Edward VII's visit to Recess in 1903, and a spirited encouragement on the Barony Bridge at Ballynahinch, restored after the War of Independence, sum up promise well. Young John Barlow hesitated to cross it; an army officer at the other end cheered him on. "Come on, little boy! This bridge was built for you!" (398)
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