Madame Lazare le Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin: LÉIRMHEAS le Joe Ó Ceallaigh

Cad a ritheann leat nuair a smaoiníonn tú ar litríocht na Gaeilge? An ndéanann tú nasc le litríocht na hEorpa? An bhféachann tú ar scríbhneoireacht na nGael mar pháirt d’ealaín na Mór-Roinne? Bhuel, i saothar eiseamláireach Madame Lazare le Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin, tá leabhar comhaimseartha againn a mheabhraíonn dúinn go raibh scríobhaithe agus scríbhneoirí na Gaeilge i gcónaí ar thús cadhnaíochta maidir leis an scéal Eorpach.


Agus is úrscéal Eorpach atá i gceist le Madame Lazare. Tosaíonn agus críochnaíonn eachtraí ar na hOileáin Árann ach i rith an scéil bogann muid ó Pháras go dtí an Bhruiséil agus chun na hEastóine fiú. Is nadúrtha an t-aistear liteartha seo, cosúil le turas in ilchríoch gan teorainn. I gcomparáid leis an domhan Angla-Mheiriceánach, is gnáth-rud é a bheith dátheangach nó ilteangach. Mar a tharlaíonn sé, is rud neamhghnách a bheith aonteangach sa tsochaí seo a thuigeann luach na héagsúlachta.


Tuigeann Mac Dhonnagáin luach na héagsúlachta chomh maith, agus níos mó ná sin tá sé ar eolas aige cé chomh solúbtha is atá féiniúlacht an tsaoránaigh i saol an lae inniu. Feictear an solúbthacht, nó an éiginnteacht, seo sna carachtair a chuireann an t-údar os ár gcomhair. Ag croílár an úrscéil tá an bhean óg Levana, atá bródúil as a hoidhreacht Ghiúdach. Chomh maith leis an dúchas seo, is Eorpach óg í, a bhogann gan bac ó thír go tír. Ach níos suimiúla fós tá scéal a máthar móire, bean a tháinig slán as slad an Uileloscaidh. Nuair a thagann néaltrú uirthi, tosaíonn sí ag labhairt teanga aistí a bhaineann croitheadh as creideamh agus féiniúlacht Levana.


Maidir le struchtúr an scéil, tá sé cumtha ag an údar sa dóigh is go bhfuil ar an léitheoir bogadh siar is aniar ó na hOileáin Árann go Páras agus tríd na blianta chomh maith. Ní dhéanann sé an plota casta ach tugann sé deis duit blaiseadh blasta a fháil de ghné amháin an scéil sular sciobann sé anall thú go tír agus aois eile. Uaireanta cuireann sé seo fearg ort mar tá tú ag baint suilt as “béile” ar leith ach mar a deirtear - is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras!


Níor chuir sé iontas ar bith orm go raibh an leabhar inmholta seo ainmnithe le dul san iomaíocht do Duais Eorpach don Litríocht 2022 le leabhair ó 13 tír eile. Cé nár bhain sé an príomhghradam amach, fuair an t-údar “tagairt speisialta” ó na moltóirí. Is cúis bhróid dúinn go bhfuil an stádas seo bainte amach ag scríbhneoir na Gaeilge. An chéad uair eile a chuireann duine i leith nach bhfuil i litríocht na Gaeilge ach Peig agus cruachás, beidh tú in ann iad a dhíriú i dtreo an úrscéil Eorpaigh seo.


Joe Ó Ceallaigh – Seirbhís Leabharlainne Dhún na nGall

What do you think about when literature in Irish is mentioned? Do you make a connection to European literature? Do you view the writings of the Gael as a component of European art? Well, Madame Lazare by Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin is an exemplary, contemporary piece of work that reminds us that scribes and writers of the Irish language have always been to the fore regarding the European story.


And Madame Lazare is indeed a European novel. Events begin and end on the Aran Islands but throughout the story we move from Paris to Brussels and even to Estonia. This literary journey feels natural, like a trip in a continent without boundaries. In comparison to the Anglo-American world, it is natural to be bilingual or polylingual. As it happens, it is abnormal to be monolingual in this society that understands the value of diversity.


Mac Dhonnagáin also understands the value of diversity, and even more than that, he knows how malleable the individual citizen’s identity is in the modern day. This flexibility, or uncertainty, is visible in the characters the author introduces to us. At the heart of this novel is the young woman Levana, who is proud of her Jewish heritage. At the same time, she is a young European who drifts seamlessly from country to country. Her grandmother’s story is even more interesting, as a woman who survived the horrors of the Holocaust. When she develops dementia, she begins speaking a strange language that shakes both Levana’s faith and her identity.


With regards to how the story is structured, the author has created it in such a way so that the reader has to move back and forth from the Aran Islands to Paris, at the same time as they transition through the years. He does not overcomplicate the plot but rather provides opportunities to get a nugget of information or another little piece of the story, before whisking you away to a different place in a different time. This can be frustrating at times when you are enjoying a particular plot but, as the Irish proverb or seanfhocal says - is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras! Hunger is a good sauce!


It did not surprise me in the least that this book was named amongst those in the running for the European Award for Literature 2022 along with books from 13 other countries. Even though it did not win the overall prize, the author received a ‘special mention’ from the judges. We should be proud that such status has been achieved by an author writing in Irish. The next time someone implies that all Irish-language literature amounts to is Peig and hardship, you will be able to direct them towards this European novel.


Joe Ó Ceallaigh – Seirbhís Leabharlainne Dhún na nGall