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March 25, 2018

#Read Ireland Dermot Healy

by NancyElin


  • Author: Dermot Healy (1947 – 2014)
  • Title : The Collected Short Stories
  • Published: 2015
  • Story: The Island and the Calves



Who was Dermot Healy?

  1. He was one of the most distinctive voices in recent fiction and poetry
  2. not just Irish fiction and poetry.
  3. He once said of Franz Kafka, one of his abiding influences:
  4. “He taught me a lot about the normal and the abnormal,
  5. …and the distance between them.
  6. Contemporary Irish fiction…think of Dermot Healy
  7. His writing reflects the fine line between what appears and
  8. …as Healy said: “What I think is there.”


The Island and the Calves

  1. Jim: (Irish)
  2. “Jim felt he might lose control of each and every moment.
  3. “….every turbulence of wind ad rain had deepened
  4. the reflections in the now calm lake.
  5. He had begon to name with awe each part of the outside world…”
  6. Edward: (English)
  7. Job 6:7 ” The things that my soul refused to touch
  8. …are as my sorrowful meat.”  (are loathsome to me) (pg 19)
  9. Dermot describes an  Easter weekend  in Sussex
  10. …as Edward is visiting his friend Jim and his wife (Margaret) and their children.
  11. Jim and Edward have been friends for a long time.
  12. Jim delights in nature, “Edward will not listen or look at the trees and water.”
  13. One thing Jim and Edward do share deeply is a
  14. appreciation of the  spiritual/religious world.
  15. They enjoy Haydn’s ‘The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ on the Cross (music).
  16. They set up an antenne to pick up the Mass in Irish from Raio Éireann
  17. to allow the chants from Jim’s home country permeate the house.
  18. Motif: Dermot Healy uses the winds as points on a compass.
  19. The winds channel in a low hum that  sparks reflection.
  20. The winds blow…
  21. from the east (general sheet of cold),
  22. from the south (softened and warmed) and
  23. from the west (passion departs and reason returns).
  24. Moral:
  25. The sorrowful day (Holy Saturday) is followed by the joyous (Easter Sunday)
  26. …”when man’s heart might take that agile journey
  27. towards discovering anew
  28. ..still points on that compass held firm” (pg 23)



  1. Dermot Healy is truly a talented writer
  2. …that has fallen between the cracks.
  3. I had to read this story (6 pages) at least four times.
  4. Healy describes  Jim who is haunted by a sense of instability.
  5. Jim finds a sense of moral strength  in nature
  6. …where the winds blow
  7. …North – East – South and West during an Easter weekend.
  8. Edward is the foil.
  9. The foil moves the more important character
  10. …to react in ways the
  11. might not have found expression without such opposition!
  12. Jim is more fully revealed to the reader and to himself.
  13. The principle of continuity:
  14. Calves will find shelter from the storm and
  15. fodder from the farmers.
  16. Geese will always emigrate in winter.
  17. The  hare with “long girl’s thighs and legs”
  18. will always make a joyous…fling around the apple trees.
  19. This flow in nature extends into the spiritual world.
Read more from Ireland, short story

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