The Unfortunate Fursey, The Return of Fursey, and the unfortunate audiobook

I left Ireland in my early 20s and have lived abroad ever since. I miss it greatly. I miss the people, the places, the humour and the tea. I read a lot of the classics of Irish literature when I was in college in Dublin. I read the others after I moved away. I’ve been on a horror kick since I started this blog in 2015, and I’m always excited when I find a horror novel set in Ireland. Unfortunately, some of the “Irish” horror novels I’ve come across are real crap.

When I first heard of The Unfortunate Fursey, I was intrigued. Here was an obscure book by an Irish writer about a monk who is tormented by the Devil. Not only that, but the book was being republished by Valancourt Books, a publisher I held in the highest regard.

The Unfortunate Fursey and The Return of Fursey – Valancourt Books 2017

Mervyn Wall’s The Unfortunate Fursey was published in 1946, and it was followed by The Return of Fursey 2 years later. They’re pretty much 2 halves of the same story, so I’m going to treat them as one work rather than 2.

First of all, I want to make it clear that although it contains vampires, witches, demons and Satan, this is not a horror novel. This is farcical fantasy/historical fiction.

Fursey, the dumbest monk in Clonmacnoise, is kicked out of the monastery for unwittingly harboring demons in his cell. After his expulsion, he is forced to marry a witch who curses him with the gift of sorcery. Things go from bad to worse, and he ends up turning to a life of unmitigated evil. Fursey is basically a medieval Father Dougal, and both of the novels about his adventures are really, really funny. Wall obviously did a bit of research on witchcraft and sorcery too. He knows what he’s writing about.

I don’t understand how these books aren’t better known. I mean, they tick all of my personal boxes, but every review I have read of them has been positive too. Everyone who reads these books seems to love them. Apparently Gerald Gardner, the guy responsible for popularising Wicca, was a big fan. If you suspect that your tastes are at all similar to mine, I demand that you read these books. I promise that you’ll like them. I’m already planning to read them again in the future. I’m going to try to track down Mervyn Wall’s other books too.

That was the good side baby

Here comes the bad sideā€¦

Jimi Hendrix

I listened to audiobook versions of these two books. I’ve got through quite a few audiobooks from Valancourt, and they’re generally of an excellent quality. I love being able to take in a book as I cook dinner or clean the house, but there’s one thing about audiobooks that bothers me. I hate when audiobook narrators put on accents when they’re reading. I don’t mind if they’re voicing a character in the book. That can get pretty silly, but it totally makes sense. No, it only really annoys me when they put on an accent for the voice of the narrator. Of course, I don’t know any audiobook narrators or where they are from, so this actually only annoys me when they do a poor job of it. Personally, I think it’s pretty dorky to put on an accent just to read a story, but if your accent is good enough for me not to know it’s fake, then I guess it’s ok.

Alright, so far, I’m just discussing my personal tastes. You can roll your eyes and claim that I’m a cantankerous jerk if you want. I wouldn’t argue with you.

Unfortunately for everyone though, the narrator for the second Fursey audiobook doesn’t just put on an accent. He puts on an Irish accent. I don’t know why, but Irish accents seem difficult for people who weren’t born in Ireland. (I’ve discussed this before.) The guy reading this book is no exception. I could tell within a few seconds of him speaking that the accent was put on. Worse still, I could tell that he was English.

I don’t know how much my readers know about the history of Ireland, but a lot of what has happened there in the last thousand years has revolved around the English coming over and making things shit for us. The English did their best to colonize Ireland. They still have one of the parts that they stole. To hear an English man put on a silly Irish accent and read an Irish book about Irish culture is not something I ever want to do. If it was an American it would be annoying, but the fact that it’s a Brit is sincerely insulting. To be honest, I’m surprised and very disappointed that Valancourt Books gave this project the go ahead. I’m not going to hold it against the narrator. He’s a Brit; how would he know any better?

I don’t want to draw direct comparisons here, but I think it’s fair to label this as a case of audio-greenface. I genuinely struggle to see how this kind of thing was acceptable as recently as 2018. Unfortunate indeed. The whole thing is made more annoying by the fact that the first Fursey audiobook is beautifully narrated by an Irish person.

Buy copies of the two books, and get the first audiobook, but avoid the audiobook of The Return of Fursey at all costs.