A friend rang me this morning to alert me to the fact that my name was mentioned in a Sunday Times article about Irish language publishing. The article by Eithne Shortall is typically negative and wrong-headed about books in Irish and the support for writers who write in Irish.
Firstly the shock headline, which is inaccurate and actually contradicts the content of the article:
'€74,000 grants for writers who sold 76 books'.
I could use bad language about that headline but I won't. Let me just say, as those interviewed for the piece said, sales of Irish language books rarely take place in book shops. They are more often sold at book launches, readings and literary festivals, or directly from the publisher. This reflects the realities that a) bookshops will not give shelf space to anything other than surefire sellers, and b) Irish language books have a smaller audience than English language books. These are facts, accepted by those who write and love Irish language books.
Also, why shouldn't Irish language writers receive grants? These grants are also received by writers in English (I received €5000 in a very welcome Arts Council Bursary recently) but there is no huge backlash against them.
To say, as this article does that 'Irish language books are not popular; writer Darach Ó Scolaí was awarded €30,000 in grants but clocked up 6 sales' is frankly, ridiculous. Even if each of Darach's siblings bought his book, he'd have more than 6 sales!! Darach ó Scolaí's books have sold in their thousands. FACT. Mostly his books have not been processed through Nielsen BookScan. FACT.
As for my name being mentioned as an Irish language writer, this is a partial inaccuracy. I am in fact a translator; I have an MA in translation. I write the very odd poem in Irish but mostly I translate, both my own work and that of other writers. It is accurate to say that I received a €900 travel award. I went to a Welsh university to deliver a lecture on translation to a creative writing MA; I also read to them and did a further bilingual reading in the Dylan Thomas Centre, with Welsh writer Menna Elfyn. Is the journalist objecting to me getting that money? If so, why?
What is this absolute negativity towards the funding of Irish langauge literature about? Why is there almost a hatred towards the writers who choose to write in Irish and who receive government support to do that? Eithne Short's reporting is as gleefully negative as it is inaccurate. I don't understand her motivation.