Séamus Ó Grianna(1889-1969) - also known as "Máire" - was the elder brother of the Irish language writer Seosamh Mac Grianna and a writer himself - more fortunate and prolific, but less original. He was educated a teacher, as well as his brother, but he soon dropped out, due to his disdain for this profession. His fervent commitment to Irish Republicanism led to a participation in Ireland's wars (the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War) in the 1920's, and he spent almost two years in prison, having fought on the losing side. Later, he joined An Gúm's staff of literary translators. His most outstanding translation is probably Walter Scott's Ivanhoe.

His first novel Castar na daoiní ar a chéile is ní chastar na cnoic is na sléibhte was a naive, but promising attempt to depict contemporary urban, intellectual life in Irish. However, it was only published in book form in 2001, together with Máire's other early writings, in a collection edited by Nollaig Mac Congail. So, it has remained unknown to the great majority of readers of the language - even I only heard about its existence accidentally. The "Máire" most people know is that of sentimental, stereotypical country novels and short stories - he never attempted to write about urban life again.

His novels and shorter pieces are mostly stories of unlucky love: the young man loves the girl, but they are separated by emigration (as in Caisleáin Óir, his first novel in book form) or by war (as in Tairngreacht Mhiseoige) and only joined in death, if at all. In fact, he himself has confessed that he only used story as a pretext to teach the reader about genuine Ulster Irish and old Gaelic customs. He was never very interested in enriching his Irish with words from other dialects or using Irish words for modern concepts - he didn't even call "politics" polaitíocht in Irish, but rather gnóthaí politics - "this politics business", with the English word. He wanted to write the Ulster Irish of his youth, unadulterated. This is probably why he didn't approve of the reformed orthography either.

Towards the end of his life, in the 1960's, he severed his links with the Gaeilgeoirs and joined the Language Freedom Movement - a movement hostile to the Irish language. He was old, tired and disappointed with the way the language was disappearing and deteriorating, and he apparently preferred it dead. This might be due to a deep-rooted inferiority complex from his earliest youth - indeed, both his autobiography Nuair a Bhí mé Óg and his first country novel Caisleáin Óir include moving accounts of his humiliations at school due to his poor command of the English language.

His books continue to be read and studied for their good Irish; only a selection has been reissued, however, and not necessarily the best ones. Arguably the best is Bean Ruadh de Dhálach - one of the last novels he wrote - because it succeeds in combining ethnological precision in the descriptions of rural life and superstition - "Máire" as we know him - with a vivid description of a rapidly changing society very untypical of his writings. Unfortunately, a new edition seems not to be forthcoming.

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