KAVANAGH, Patrick. The Great Hunger.
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Shannon: Irish University Press, 1971. Second edition. pp. [i], 33, . Modern quarter buckram on green papered boards. Fine. Scarce.
The great hunger describes a small-farm ethos in which a puritanical catholicism and a preoccupation
with economic security combine to render men’s and women’s lives joyless and emotionally, sexually,
and spiritually unfulfilled. Patrick Maguire is presented as a typical Irish farmer, sacrificing himself
body and soul to agricultural productivity, living ‘that his little fields may stay fertile’, a human tragedy
repeated ‘in every corner of this land’. Yet he also transcends his exemplary status to become a
“Clay is the word and clay is the flesh
Where the potato-gatherers like mechanised scarecrows move
Along the side-fall of the hill - Maguire and his men.
If we watch them an hour is there anything we can prove
Of life as it is broken-backed over the Book
Of Death? Here crows gabble over worms and frogs
And the gulls like old newspapers are blown clear of the hedges, luckily.
Is there some light of imagination in these wet clods?
Or why do we stand here shivering?”
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