IRELAND BY DERVLA MURPHY [Photographs by Klaus Francke]
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Dervla Murphy after taking a skinny dip in the Waterford Blackwater last year (an act of high courage in a country where the locals are not as yet entirely acclimatised to the sight of one another unclothed) was butted in the back by an irritated bullock while in the act of drying her hair. She was dumped into deep water with a cracked spine but managed to swim (and walk) back home. She is a brave and intrepid woman who has previously written gloriously of her adventures in Asia, Africa, and most notably, the Andes. Here she has been presented with the rather more difficult task of writing about her own country, to provide an accompanying text to quite the most superb set of contemporary photographs, both colour and black and white, yet to be published on the subject.
'Klaus Franke has taken the trouble to mingle with crowds at horse fairs, to climb with pilgrims to the top of Croagh Patrick and, unless I am mistaken, to sink more than a few pints in order to be able to catch that look of studied angst which is the badge of the Irish drinker. His townscapes are quite as striking as his country pictures, but the appeal of the book lies principally in those telling moments - of a prosperous-looking farmer who is shaking hands with a tinker on an item of horse-trading which, plainly, the farmer feels he may yet have cause to regret; or of covetous eyes being cast on a chestnut at Ballinasloe fair by would-be buyers who have not got the price of the animal. Of course he is helped by that magical Irish light which is God’s gift to photographers. Miss Murphy provides a lively text, which is an independent pleasure, in the form of five extended essays. She sets forth the complex history of the island with an admirable lucidity and considerable wit, suggesting, in the process, that the British might stop apologising for the Norman conquest of 800 years ago, and the Irish might stop complaining about it.I am not lending this book to anyone.' Stan Gebler Davies, The Field
'Ireland is irresistibly photogenic, and every year produces a crop of lyrical photographic books featuring its beauties and curiosities. Dervla Murphy’s Ireland stands head and shoulders above the rest because of her penetrating extended essay which accompanies the pictures by German photographer Klaus Franke.' Alannah Hopkin, My Book of the Year, Financial Times, 1985
'It is rare in a largely pictorial book that the illustrations should be upstaged by the text, especially when the pictures in Ireland are as good as Klaus Franke’s. Still it is Dervla Murphy’s masterly survey of the island, north and south – part history, part personal observation, quirky and shrewd – that grabs the attention.' The Daily Telegraph
'Coffee table books are bland by definition. In that case Dervla Murphy’s Ireland is not for the coffee table … Taking all Ireland’s history, culture, character and contradictions as her matter, she bobs about among the items that most interest her with the heart of an Irishwoman and the eye of a travel writer: Celtic Christianity, the late nineteenth-century Gaelic revival, hurling for which she supplies incomplete instruction in how to play, the Aran Islands before Aer Arran started flying tourists in and out, the Easter Rising the abortion referendum and much else … It is a handsome production, opinionated, genial as often as sharp, never dull, and it ends with a long political statement of the case for ‘negotiated independence’ for Northern Ireland.' The Tablet