County Clare, Galway, and the Aran Islands Feature
During the 1800s, the islands, wracked by famine and mass emigration, were virtually forgotten by mainland Ireland. At the turn of the 20th century, however, the books of J. M. Synge (1871–1909)—who learned Irish on Inishmaan and wrote about its people in his famous play Riders to the Sea—prompted Gaelic revivalists to study and document this isolated bastion of Irish culture. To this day, Synge's travel book The Aran Islands, first published in 1907, and reissued by Penguin with a brilliant introduction by artist and mapmaker Tim Robinson in 1992, remains the best book ever written about the islands. Liam O'Flaherty became one of the most famous sons of Inishmore through his novels, such as Famine. And in 1934, American director Robert Flaherty filmed his classic documentary Man of Aran on Inishmore, recording the islanders' dramatic battles with sea and storm, and bringing the islands into the world spotlight. The film is still highly esteemed by the islanders, and there are frequent showings on Inishmore during the summer months. Flaherty, incidentally, continues to be a common surname on the islands; it is hard to visit the islands without meeting a Flaherty.
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