Banned novel by Liam O’Flaherty republished 87 years on

the martyr liam o'flaherty
Photo: NYPL Digital Gallery/Wikipedia

Inis Mór writer Liam O’Flaherty’s banned novel The Martyr has been republished by Nuascéalta, eighty-seven years since its first and only publication in 1933.  

With the republication of the novel, Nuascéalta has completed its epic task of bringing back the last three major O’Flaherty novels banned by the Irish state.

The other two novels reprinted were the first book on the index, the Galway novel The House of Gold, and O’Flaherty’s insightful and scathing Hollywood satire Hollywood Cemetery.

O’Flaherty’s novels, mainly written in the 1920s and 30s, address significant events in Irish history and the newly emerging Free State.

The Martyr gives O’Flaherty’s take on the battle to control the country’s destiny. The novel written just ten years after the civil war, and published in 1933, brings to life the nationwide Free State attack on the anti-Treaty forces.

One such offensive was the landing at Fenit in Kerry. Liam O’Flaherty fictionalises this event at ‘Carra Point’ and ‘Sallytown’ (Tralee).

Events around the Free State troop landing and its sequel are seen through the eyes of Sallytown’s defenders and its townspeople, clerical and lay.

In the author’s imaginative reconstruction of this real Civil War encounter, professional Free State troops face Sallytown’s ill-trained, badly-led and poorly equipped volunteer defenders.

The historical characters given prominence in this novel are the somewhat uncomplimentary portrayal of Constance Markievicz, and the title giving Terence Mac Sweeney, whilst erstwhile comrades find themselves on the opposing sides of this tragic conflict.

The total ineffectiveness of Sallytown’s Republican leader is rooted in Catholic nationalism, an issue of immediate relevance to O’Flaherty at the time he wrote the book.

A dialogue between this leader and his Free State army torturer paves the way for the novel’s startling ending.

The Liam & Tom O’Flaherty Society has welcome the publication, which makes the entirety of Liam O’Flaherty’s novelistic work available and moves towards the restoration of the panorama of Liam O’Flaherty’s works for a global audience.