Books: New translation gives German’s perspective on Ireland in 1913

A book written by a leading German journalist who was dispatched to Ireland in 1913 has been translated from its native tongue for the first time.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 4:45 pm
Ireland [1913] has been translated from German for the first time

The Berliner Tageblatt, the leading liberal paper in the German capital, sent its rising star reporter Richard Arnold Bermann to Ireland to give their readers an insight into the culture and politics on this remote, yet intriguing Atlantic island.

The ‘Irish Question’ was hotly discussed in European capitals because on the eve of the Great War, the stability in the British Empire’s ‘back yard’ was considered of the utmost strategic importance.

Translated for the first time, Ireland [1913] by Richard Bermann published by Cork University Press, is an entertaining yet informative, ironic yet sympathetic, personal yet factual account of his summer spent crisscrossing the island.

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The German reporter interviewed Sir Edward Carson. Photo © by Jonathan Porter

Interspersed with surveys of Irish history, political analysis – for example, and very pertinently, visits to monster rallies in Ulster and an interview with Sir Edward Carson, ruminations on literature and theatre, Irish lore and dancing, it also forms a unique historical source of Irish life and culture on the eve of the First World War.

The book contains a wealth of historical insights, many related in unique ways – it is for example particularly strong at capturing the atmosphere in Ulster including Belfast and The Giant’s Causeway

Many of the impressions of the author, who died in 1939, on political movements, cultural displays and national characters still, and in a truly astounding way, resonate today.

Jerome Aan de Wiel, School of History, University College Cork, said: “Bermann’s book is a very welcome addition to a growing interest in Irish-continental European relations during the twentieth century, a topic that has been seriously neglected for decades.

“The book dealing with the year 1913 confirms in many ways the impressions on Ireland of many German travel writers between the 1750s to the late 1880s, namely the wild beauty of the country, its abject poverty and its poor management by the British.”

The book costs £25.

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