The Stones of Aran, Pilgrimage


The Aran Islands, in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland, are a unique geological and cultural landscape, and for centuries their stark beauty and their inhabitants’ traditional way of life have attracted pilgrims from abroad. The Aran Islands, in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland, are a unique geological and cultural landscape, and for centuries their stark beauty and their inhabitants’ traditional way of life have attracted pilgrims from abroad. After a visit with his wife in 1972, Tim Robinson ...
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The Aran Islands, in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland, are a unique geological and cultural landscape, and for centuries their stark beauty and their inhabitants’ traditional way of life have attracted pilgrims from abroad. The Aran Islands, in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland, are a unique geological and cultural landscape, and for centuries their stark beauty and their inhabitants’ traditional way of life have attracted pilgrims from abroad. After a visit with his wife in 1972, Tim Robinson moved to the islands, where he started making maps and gathering stories, eventually developing the idea for a cosmic history of Árainn, the largest of the three islands. Pilgrimage is the first of two volumes that make up Stones of Aran, in which Robinson maps the length and breadth of Árainn. Here he circles the entire island, following a clockwise, sunwise path in quest of the “good step,” in which walking itself becomes a form of attention and contemplation.

Like Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia, Stones of Aran is not only a meticulous and mesmerizing study of place but an entrancing and altogether unclassifiable work of literature. Robinson explores Aran in both its elemental and mythical dimensions, taking us deep into the island’s folklore, wildlife, names, habitations, and natural and human histories. Bringing to life the ongoing, forever unpredictable encounter between one man and a given landscape, Stones of Aran discovers worlds.

Robinson’s voyage continues in Stones of Aran: Labyrinth

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a heart-felt and informative micro-history, and a eulogy and an elegy as well. Robinson is especially good on Aran's once great but now vanished kelp industry, and all that was involved....this is a fine addition to a fertile genre." --The Times (London)

"A loving anatomy of the largest of the Aran Islands off the West Coast of Ireland, in which the point where nature and culture meet in the island is observed with great beauty and precision." -Colm Toibin

"Tim Robinson's maps and books honor the landscapes they describe. As invitations, they irresistibly beckon the archeologist, botanist, geologist, bird-watcher, folklorist, student of the Irish language, or just plain tourist." -Chet Raymo.

"Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage and a necessity for all visitors and walkers."--Guardian

"An exquisitely detailed portrait of a special landscape, this is a gem-like addition to the travel genre."-Publishers Weekly

"Robinson takes the reader on a meditative walking tour of Aran...[he] seeks the essence of an increasingly distant Celtic a visitor peering through the warped and colored glass of an ancient church window." -Los Angeles Times

"A kind of travel writing The New Yorker sometimes sponsors: a virtuosity of gratuitous fact-gathering, a penitential recording of minutiae, a recitation of information as if it were prayer." -New York Times

"Looked upon with a tactful, eager, strategic care that is as tender in its address as an admission of love...It is a wonderful achievement." -Seamus Deane, London Review of Books

"The best book ever written by an Englishman about Ireland." -Independent

"One of the most original, revelatory and exhilarating works of literature ever produced in Ireland." -Irish Times

"Rapt, encyclopedic volumes...Robinson has done for the west of Ireland what Ruskin did for Venice, Proust for the voids and vasts of time." -Telegraph

"Climate and location, flora and fauna, culture, myth and legend, people, and over it all, the veneer of language and place name...Tim Robinson achieves this ultimate map in Stones of Aran" -New Scientist

"Wholly irresistible." -Observer

"This is a marvelous book--quirky and endearing, universal in scope yet with an extraordinary sense of place and purpose." -Sydney Morning Herald

"One of the most interesting and important books produced in Ireland in the twentieth century. In prose as layered and rich as the area he explores, Robinson deals with space in the way Proust deals with time." --Sean Dunne

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590172773
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 8/5/2008
  • Series: New York Review Books Classics Series
  • Pages: 316
  • Sales rank: 993,376
  • Product dimensions: 5.01 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim Robinson was brought up in Yorkshire. He studied at Cambridge University and worked as a teacher and artist in Istanbul, Vienna, and London. In 1972 he moved to the Aran Islands, where he gained fame as a mapmaker. He learned Gaelic and began preserving Irish place-names, winning respect as an environmentalist and a Ford European Conversation Award. Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage, published in 1985, won the Irish Book Award Literature Medal and a Rooney Prize Special Award for Literature in 1987. His other books include Stones of Aran: Labyrinth, Setting Foot on the Shores of Connemara, and My Time in Space.

Robert Macfarlane's Mountains of the Mind (2003), about wilderness and the Western imagination, won the Somerset Maugham Award and the Guardian First Book Award, among other prizes.

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Table of Contents

Introduction     ix
Timescape with Signpost     5
South     23
Before Beginning     25
The Architecture of Destruction     29
Connoisseurs of Wilderness     31
This Vale of Tears     33
Ocean Walls and Windows     34
Little Sean's Boulder and Other Stones     37
Prospective     39
A Class Division     41
Sea-Marks     42
Signatures     44
Nine Fathoms     46
Duchathair     50
Styles of Flight     55
Wrack     57
Arguments from Weakness     58
The Cliffman's Kingdom     63
A Marine Cathedral     70
Seats on the Clifftop     72
Brachiopods and Bullets     76
Harbour Without Boats     78
The Worm and the Root     81
Dun Aonghasa: The Direct Approach     84
Dun Aonghasa: A Legendary Perspective     86
Posthumous Career of the Fir Bolg     94
Dun Aonghasa: A Closer Look     103
Perdition's Edge     110
Tides of the Other World     114
Life on the Brink     116
Divisions of the Land     119
An "Agrarian Outrage"     122
Fear of Falling, Fear of Failing     128
Looking Back     132
Excursion     139
North     159
Premonitions     161
Leviathan     162
A Difficult Mile     166
The Seaweed Gatherers     171
On the Shores of the Past     175
Shore Divisions     180
Blackweed and Redweed     183
Women's Work     186
Poets on the Shore     189
Fortune and Misfortune     192
The Kelp Age     194
Smoke and Ash     199
Afterimages, Afterthoughts     205
Man of Aran     212
History of a Stranger     222
Fishermen of Cill Mhuirbhigh     225
Writing on the Beach     229
The Luck of the Shore     234
The Irish Iodine & Marine Salts Mfg. Co. Ltd.     239
The Fingerprint     243
Sailing on a Stone     246
Looking into Other Lives     254
Differences Between Limestone and Granite     260
Yet Two More Bays     266
The Drowned Woman     268
The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul     269
The Minister's Sand     274
The Generations     280
Destruction and Reconstruction     285
Point of Arrival     291
The Bay of Doubt     298
The Field of the Cloak     305
Cill Einne: The Village     309
Aircin: The Castle     313
Aircin: The Pawn     330
Cromwell's Walls     335
Aer Arann     339
Bones in the Sand     342
Sands in the Wind     348
Straw Island     357
The Step     360
Easy Going     365
Upon This Rock     368
Sources     371
The Aran Islands and Neighbouring Coasts     381
Arainn     382
Index     385
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