1995-01-25: The Celts (Delaney)

The Celts (1986)

by Frank Delaney (1942-)

This book was developed along with the BBC television series of the same title. It is naturally somewhat more extensive than the series was.

The thrust of the book (more apparent than the series) is to show that the Celtic cultural threads of today are not really representative of the Celtic culture of Hallstatt, La Tene, or even the Celto-Christian artistic achievements. Many stories from Delaney’s Irish background are clearly sympathetic to his heritage (though I wonder how ‘Celtic’ that is), yet the overall effect is to denigrate the “Celtic fringe” cultures, especially their languages and national aspirations.

An interesting aspect of the series was the introduction of the music of Enya. Though it was mainly background, it was mentioned as an example of a modern pseudo-Celtic cultural influence. The book never mentions her.

The overall effect is disappointing to me, in part of the near-equation Delaney makes between a culture and a nation. He doesn’t seem to see that so-called national cultures are an agglomeration of many communities’ traditions, and that the conquest of one community doesn’t end the influence of that or any related ones. So the fact that the Anglo-Normans made the Welsh politically subservient disrupted the tradition of the chieftains, and the social structure that supported them, but not the traditions of craftsmanship, justice, story-telling, individual striving for recognition within a community, and many others.

Except for the inclusion of four traditional stories not used in the series, I can’t recommend the book to anyone interested in the Celts.

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