An Cléireach

Darach Ó Scolaí


An Cléireach: 208 pp; paperback;  978-0-898332-33-9


This book is available on Kindle.

This first novel won the Oireachtas Prize 2007, and the Gradam Uí Shúilleabháin Award 2008, and was named as ‘the best novel since the turn of the Century’ by Comhar.

Set in mid-17th century Ireland and Continental Europe, the narrative in An Cléireach is triggered by a single event that takes place during the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland, when a small band of the retreating Irishry gather on the side of a mountain and, despite the threat of massacre, for one night the rain lifts, the stars shine, and art and dreams take centre stage.

“In An Cléireach, Ó Scolaí revisits the trauma of Cromwellian Ireland. The primary narrative device is once again the first-hand account, in this case by Tadhg Ó Dúbháin, a clerk and quartermaster in the Confederate Army in 1650. We sample the hardships, the friendships, the tensions, the rivalries, and the petty jealousies amongst comrades in arms, including remnants of the Gaelic literary class, as the Confederate soldiers, increasingly a rabble more than a cohesive unit, retreat in advance of Cromwell’s forces. An Cléireach concludes with the narrator and his family in exile in continental Europe. But along the retreat route, and central to the novel, members of the Confederate army camp, rest up, and tell versions of a story about the keeper of a treasured manuscrit ‘Saltair an Easpaig’ (The Bishop’s Psalter). Their versions raise issues about memory construction, the limitations of individual perspectives, personal agendas, and how minor changes in the telling of a story can alter our understanding of history, Thus, An Cléireach complements Fontenoy in moving beyond more realistic recreation of a historical evebnt or period to interrogate the notion of history as contruct.” Pádraig Ó Siadhail in Liam Harte, The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Fiction.

Oireachtas Prize 2007, ‘Book of the Year’ 2008

“We’re stuck in the mud with them, and in the mire, and the muck. There are pages here that leave you reaching for a towel to dry yourself. .. A strong clear style.” Alan Titley, Foinse.

The Reader is in the Centre of the Whirlwind

“It is the credibility and verisimilitude of the writing that lures the reader into the story in the first place, followed by an surpassed richness and precision of language that convinces him that he is in the centre of the whirlwind wherever the action takes us.” Breandán Ó Cróinín, The Limerick Leader

“The richness and the clever manipulation of the prose are on an equal footing from beginning to end.” Prof. Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, An tOireachtas

Listen to the EFACIS podcast: Síle Ní Choincheannain talks to Darach Ó Scolaí about the historical novel

View The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Fiction

Read an excerpt from the book