The Brian Friel Papers

What is vaguely forbidden?

In this note towards Dancing at Lughnasa (1990) dated 30 May 1989, Friel asks himself whether dance might be a means of expressing as-yet unidentified taboos.

From MS 37,104/1, National Library of Ireland; copyright Brian Friel Estate, reproduced by permission.


30 May

It’s absurd, I know, but when I every time I recall that summer in 1937, (see bottom)

Maggie ironing Fr. J.’s surplice

Mother finds it + dances

Humdrum scene: turf – feeding hens – 

correcting exercises – knitting

What is vaguely forbidden?

What is taboo?

Is dance the secret code that permits these things to be expressed?

(Christina in surplice.)

Open with humdrum domestic scene.

Then narrator talking about above – dance + dance’s code

And illustrate it.

It’s absurd, I know, but every time when I recall that summer in 1937 I the memories are there are very few memories of people talking, of conversation. But there are lucid, vivid memories of people dancing – joyous dancing – wonderfully skilled dancing – expressive dancing that disposed of language, supplanted words


Don't anticipate the ending Creative encounters with the Brian Friel Papers

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