It is this single-minded focus that gives A Ghost in the Throat its intense flavour: Ní Ghríofa’s utter submission – capitulation almost – to the lives of others (Eibhlín Dubh, her children) shows how we come to understand the world; how we get to know the person through the writing and the writing through the person. And at the end, as though a dam has burst, Eibhlín Dubh’s poem about her husband’s murder thunders through the pages. The effect is electric, like seeing a ghost returned to life; Ní Ghríofa’s translation is energetic, rhythmic and pulsing, literally, with blood: “I couldn’t wipe it away, couldn’t clean it up, no,/no, my palms turned cups and, oh, I gulped.”
With writing as strong as this, Ní Ghríofa more than earns her place alongside contemporary writers such as Emilie Pine, Sara Baume, Lucy Caldwell, Sinéad Gleeson and Elaine Feeney. But there is something that sets A Ghost in the Throat apart, an otherworldliness or older-worldliness, which stems from her lyrical prose and the stoic, almost noble sensibility that runs through her autofiction. Sometimes the prose is Gothic in nature – “I make myself a life in which whenever I let myself sit, it is to emit pale syllables of milk, while sipping my own dark sustenance from ink” – with descriptions of ordinary, 21st-century activities frequently rendered strange and beautiful.