New Book: Ireland [1913] by Richard Bermann translated and edited by Leesa Wheatley and Florian Krobb. Cork Uni Press

Ireland [1913] by Richard Bermann translated and edited by Leesa Wheatley and Florian Krobb

Translated for the first time Ireland [1913] looks at what was happening in Ireland on the eve of World War I

In 1913, the ‘Irish Question’ was hotly discussed in European capitals because on the eve of the Great War, the stability in the British Empire’s ‘back yard’ was considered of the utmost strategic importance. The Berliner Tageblatt, the leading liberal paper in the German capital, dispatched its rising star reporter Richard Arnold Bermann (1883-1939) to Ireland to give their readers an insight into the culture and politics on this remote, yet intriguing Atlantic island.

The volume contains the first, and only, English translation of Richard Bermann’s Ireland one of the most prominent and the most travelled of journalists of the first decades of the 20th century.

Bermann’s book is a very welcome addition to a growing interest in Irish-continental European relations during the twentieth century, a topic that has been seriously neglected for decades. The book dealing with the year 1913 confirms in many ways the impressions on Ireland of many German travel writers between the 1750s to the late 1880s, namely the wild beauty of the country, its abject poverty and its poor management by the British – Jerome Aan de Wiel, School of History, University College Cork.

His book on Ireland is an entertaining yet informative, ironic yet sympathetic, personal yet factual account of his summer spent crisscrossing the island. In the 110 years since, Bermann’s vivid prose and astute observation have lost nothing of their charm.

Interspersed with surveys of Irish history, political analysis (for example, and very pertinently, visits to monster rallies in Ulster and an interview with Sir Edward Carson), ruminations on literature and theatre, Irish lore and dancing, it also forms a unique historical source of Irish life and culture on the eve of the First World War.

The book contains a wealth of historical insights, many related in unique ways – it is for example particularly strong at capturing the atmosphere in the West of Ireland, in Dublin and in Belfast. There are chapters on Cork and Kerry.

Many of the author’s impressions on political movements, cultural displays and national characters still, and in a truly astounding way, resonate today.

The book is both a serious historical and political source, unique because it marks one of the last outsider’s views of a situation that, with the outbreak of the Great War a year later and imminent Irish independence, was to undergo radical upheaval. But it would also make for intriguing reading when touring the country today, because the author notices details and opens up historical and folkloristic contexts, offers assessments and provides insights that have not lost their resonance. The English translation has congenially captured Bermann’s wit, irreverence and acerbity, and for the more curious student a comprehensive introduction, further reading tips and valuable explanatory notes are provided.

Richard Arnold Bermann (1883-1839), who also wrote under his nom de plume Arnold Höllriegel, was between the 1910s and 1930s one of the leading journalists and travel writers in German.

Leesa Wheatley is a translator and author. She has been working as a professional translator for many years now, translating literary, academic and commercial texts from German to English.

Florian Krobb is Professor of German at Maynooth University, Republic of Ireland, and Extraordinary Professor at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

May 2021| 9781782054351 | €29 £25| Hardback | 234 x 156mm | 206 pages | Cork University Press

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