Foras na Gaeilge Irish Language Fiction Book of the Year Award

Shortlist 2023



By Diarmuid Johnson

To the Borders of Christendom 

In the year 591, a band of Irish monks crossed the sea to the continent on a mission to bring the Christian faith to the pagans. Saint Columbanus was their leader. Amongst the disciples who chose to leave their homeland to accompany him, was a cleric called Ceallach. 

A Hermit’s Cell in the Wilderness 

After an epic sea journey, wanderings and hardship, Columbanus and Ceallach founded monasteries in eastern France and in southern Germany. But they fell out, and Ceallach founded his own hermit’s cell in the wilderness. That place is called St Gall today – a university town in northern Switzerland. 

The Story of Ceallach: The Story of Europe 

Ceallach: prince and monk; exile and hermit – this book is his story. This is our story as well, the story of the part our forebears played in European civilisation one and a half thousand years ago. Ceallach: he was never to return to his homeland. But his story lives on.

About Diarmuid Johnson...

Since the late 1980s, Diarmuid Johnson has pursued a varied career as a writer, poet, musician, scholar, translator and journalist. His work has brought him to many countries, including Brittany, Germany, Poland and Wales, an odyssey well documented in Seacht dTír Seacht dTeanga (2021). 

His best-known works in Irish are a retelling of the origin tales of Ireland. These are Conaire Mór (2017), Tuatha Dé Danann (2018) and Éadaoin (2020), three short novels now known collectively as the Tara Trilogy

His most recent work, Ceallach, deals with the contribution to the evangelisation of the European continent made by Irish monks in the late sixth and early seventh centuries. Forthcoming volumes include Deoch an Tobair, an introduction to Irish-language prose AD 1100–1925, and An Cláirseoir, a novel that examines the historical conquest of the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169.

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