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Published in Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 97, No. 387, Views of Ireland (Autumn 2008), pp. 263-274


The Blasket Islands, located off the west coast of Kerry, are remarkable for having inspired a flourishing literature, mainly autobiographical in nature, which is generally acknowledged as being of great anthropological value, as well as of significant literary merit. When one considers that the islands never had a population of more than around 160 persons (with an average of closer to half that number) during the years covered by the autobiographies, the existence of such an important chronicle of the simple and at times perilous life on these Atlantic outposts is all the more noteworthy. The language spoken on the Blaskets was Gaelic and, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the language was in sharp decline, being used daily only in a small number of areas (mainly confined to the western Atlantic seaboard of Kerry and Connemara). Many commentators point to the very important role the Irish-speaking islands played in determining the identity of a newly established state.