Broken Landscapes: Selected Letters of Ernie O’Malley 1924-1957
By: Ernie O’Malley
Ernie O’Malley was a revolutionary republican and writer. One of the leading figures in the Irish independence and civil wars, he survived wounds, imprisonment and hunger strike, before going to the USA in 1928 to fundraise on de Valera’s behalf. Broken Landscapes tells of his subsequent journeys, through Europe and the Americas, where O’Malley moved in wide social circles that included Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Hart Crane and Jack B. Yeats. Back in Mayo he took up farming. In 1935 he married Helen Hooker, an American heiress, with whom he had three children, Cathal, Etain and Cormac, before a bitter separation. His literary reputation was established with a magnificent memoir, On Another Man’s Wound (1936). In later years he was close to John Ford, and worked on The Quiet Man (1952).
This vibrant new collection of letters, diaries and fragments opens up the broad panorama of his life to readers. It enriches the history of Ireland’s troubled independence with reflections on loss and reconciliation. It links the old world to the new – O’Malley perched on the edge of the Atlantic, a folklore collector, art critic and radio broadcaster; autodidact, modernist and intellectual. It conducts a unique conversation with the past.
In Broken Landscapes, we travel with O’Malley through Italy, the American Southwest, Mexico and points inbetween. In Taos, he mingled wiht the artistic set around D. H. Lawrence. In Ireland, he drank with Patrick Kavanagh, Liam O’Flaherty and Louis MacNiece. The young painter Louis le Brocquy was his guest on his farm in Burrishoole, Co. Mayo.
These places and people remained with O’Malley in his private writing, assembled for the first time from family and institutional archives. Reading these letters, dairies and fragments is to see Ireland in the tumultuous world of the twentieth century, as if for the first time, allowing us to view the intellectual foundations of the State through the eyes of its leading chronicler.