No more than the Galway Races and the
Galway Oyster Festival, not to mention Cúirt and the Galway Film Fleadh, the
Galway Arts Festival has become a major event in the Irish Festival Calendar.
As the organisers have grown in confidence and professionalism, so have the
quality of the acts and the wow factor of the spectacle.
Even the publication of the Festival
Programme is as much of an anticipated event as any that are announced within
and this year’s is no different. Its forty eight pages announce a fortnight
bristling with theatre, spectacle, music, talks and discussions, comedy and
visual arts that would make any festival goer’s mouth water. It promises, to
coin a cliché, something for everybody in the audience.
One of the great strengths and delights of
the Festival is that hidden among the more spectacular gigs, there is always
one quietly sitting in the corner that packs a much greater punch than its
billing would suggest. On page thirty three of the Programme we are told that
Emma Donoghue who was born in 1969 is an Irish writer now living in Canada. She
has written several novels but last year became something of an overnight
success when her novel Room was shortlisted for the Booker prize and won
several other prizes. She will be in the Meyrick Hotel at 6 pm on Wednesday on
the 20th of July for a talk discussion. The format of this talk
discussion is not clear.
What makes this event so tantalising is not
that Room has won so many prizes and accolades, it is the fact that the
concept and execution of the novel is such a tour de force that it is well nigh
impossible to read it without being moved in some way. It is the stuff that
nightmares are made of and yet it reverberates with a real human sense of hope,
love and regeneration.
A terse tension is already evident in the
opening two sentences: “Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in
Wardrobe, but when I woke up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five,
abracadabra.” There is an immediate sense of anticipation. As the narration
moves forward, the strange world of this unusual child is described in his own
peculiar brand of English and reveals a world almost perversely self sufficient
although he and Ma are the victims of the most horrific abuse.
Kidnapped while on her way to College seven
years previous, Ma has been incarcerated in the Room since and is regularly
assaulted by her captor Nick, by whom she has had two children Jack being the
only survivor. Whenever Nick calls to
the Room, Jack is hidden in Wardrobe as she won’t allow him lay eyes on the
child let alone touch him. The only contact Jack has is with the world is
through a skylight and the television in the corner. For Jack the only other
real figures that exist other than Ma are the cartoon characters he sees on the
television, the rest are Outside.
Exploring their world in Room, Donoghue
never misses a beat. Gradually the idea of escape emerges and as this idea
becomes a possibility, and the book takes on a new energy that is firmly
sustained to the end.
The story is only a tiny part of what this
book is about. Always sympathetic, but always honest – often searingly so –
Room is an extraordinary testament the to the suffering and resilience of
women who have suffered and suffer physical, mental and sexual abuse; it is a
testament to the personal courage and inner strength of these women; it s a
testament to the power of their maternal instinct and inherent humanity; above
all, it is a testament to their ability to survive and overcome these horrific
ordeals, and retain their self respect and dignity.
To have a discussion or talk with the
author of this fascinating portrait of the female heart and soul has got to be
a rich and enriching experience.