'Go to the Aran Islands. Live there as if you were one of the people themselves, express a life that has never found expression.' J.M. Synge did exactly as W.B. Yeats suggested and, revisiting these harsh yet beautiful specks of land off Ireland's west coast over a period of five years, created a literary masterpiece.
Synge immersed himself in the islanders' lives as they steered their curaghs through Atlantic waves, mourned their dead, celebrated weddings and suffered the horrors of eviction. The Aran Islands weaves their stories with Synge's own and the result, as Colm Tóibín has observed, is that 'Unlike most travel books of 100 years ago, it has not dated at all.'