Máirtín Ó Cadhain (1907-1970) was the greatest writer of the Irish language in the twentieth century. Born in Connemara (Conamara), he studied to be a schoolteacher. He did do some teaching as a young man, but political commitment soon became his primary interest. He was active in the agrarian reform movement of the Gaeltacht people, which eventually led to the establishment of a new Irish-speaking district at Ráth Cairn, Co. Meath, near Kells (Ceanannas Mór) and Trim (Baile Átha Troim). He also worked for An Gúm as a translator - the most available of his translations is Saile Uí Chaomhánaigh, originally "Sally Kavanagh" by the Irish nationalist author Charles Kickham, a sentimental, tragic novel about the devastation caused by the Irish Potato Famine.
In the eve of the Second World War, Ó Cadhain was arrested and interned at the prison camp in Curragh, Co. Kildare. He was treated brutally and his writings often thrown into mud by his gaolers, but his patience enabled him to conceive of and finish his great novel Cré na Cille. Although inspired by the long, repetitive political discussions of his fellow internees, the novel is set in a Connemara graveyard, where the dead are forever discussing and quarrelling about their bygones. The social differences and snobberies within the Gaeltacht community are described with biting irony and sarcasm. The book has a very Latin American feel about itself, especially the setting.
Cré na Cille is the most well-known of Ó Cadhain's writings, but he was a versatile and prolific writer, especially of short stories: he published several collections of them, above all An Braon Broghach, Idir Shúgradh agus Dáiríre, An tSraith dhá Tógáil, An tSraith Tógtha and An tSraith ar Lár. The setting of the stories changed gradually from his native Connemara to the big city, which he described in a futuristic, dehumanising way. In the 1990's, several books emerged out of his posthumous papers, notably his second novel Athnuachan.
Although original and interesting, Ó Cadhain is not strictly a popular writer. Above all, it is somewhat daunting that he prefers an orthography and a grammar based on his own dialect, even where this is not artistically justified.