To experience the full range of Liam O’Flaherty’s stories, one must deal with the exceptions in the collection The Stories of Liam O’Flaherty, notably “The Mountain Tavern,” which, like his historical novels, treats the revolutionaries in the 1920’s, and “The Post Office,” a humorous account of visitors’ attempts to send a telegram from a small Irish town. The bulk of his stories, however, deal with nature and with people close to nature. In his publication entitled Joseph Conrad (1930), O’Flaherty distinguishes himself from Joseph Conrad and other novelists, saying, “I have seen the leaping salmon fly before the salmon whale, and I have seen the sated buck horn his mate and the wanderer leave his wife in search of fresh bosoms with the fire of joy in his eye.” Such firsthand observance characterizes twelve of the forty-two stories in the collection, for all twelve are animal stories with little or no intrusion of a human being.
The raw guts of nature, its tenderness and its viciousness, appear in these stories, with both wild and domesticated animals. A cow follows the trail of its stillborn calf to where it has been thrown over a cliff, the maternal instinct so strong that, when a wave washes the calf’s body away, the cow plunges to her death in pursuit. A rockfish fights for its life against a fisherman’s hook, winning the battle by leaving behind a torn piece of its jaw. A proud black mare overruns a race...
(The entire section is 2787 words.)
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