Cathal Ó Searcaigh


Saighdiúir: 312 pp; paperback; 978-1-913814-35-9

This is the first novel in the Irish language to deal with the First World War. It is a landmark work of literature, a compelling account of life and loss on the western front.

A harrowing corrective to the myth of a just war

The novel’s protagonists are two young Gaelic speakers from Cloich Cheann Fhaola in north west Donegal who believe they are going on a glorious adventure without any real notion of the horrific realities they would encounter as infantrymen on the western front. Saighdiúir (Soldier) is an immensely moving book that evokes the horror and the terror of that dreadful conflict. It gives vivid heart-rending descriptions of the tragic waste of brief young lives fed into the voracious jaws of war. It is a harrowing corrective to the myth of a just war.

The power of the human spirit to endure

The book goes beyond military history, though, to give voice to the futility and pathos of all wars. In that respect it’s a raw, haunting anti-war novel. It captures the living hell of the front lines, the bombardment of bursting shells and belching artillery, the water-logged trenches, the dawn raids, the deadly mustard gas, the mud and blood and grime of a senseless war.  And yet, in this endless horror the power of the human spirit to endure is truly remarkable. And in the midst of this savagery and slaughter are moments of tenderness, of immense courage and companionship.

The lost generation of Irishmen

Two hundred thousand Irishmen fought in the First World War. Until recently, the joining-up of these legions of men was, mostly, excised from our troubled history. This novel brings forth that lost, largely forgotten generation of Irish soldiers who fought and fell on the western front. It is a universal story of the brutality unleashed by war and a fitting testament from a generation marked for slaughter. This is a remarkable war novel and will stand with the best of its kind, an authentic and compelling addition to the war literature of Sassoon, Owens, Rosenberg and Remarque.