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Pilgrimage, the first volume of Tim Robinson’s extraordinary account of walking and mapping çirann–the largest of the Aran islands off the west coast of Ireland–describes his circuit of the island’s coast. At the end of that book, he turns to the interior of çirann, noting that “for a book to stand out like an island in the sea of the unwritten, it must acknowledge its own bounds, and turn inward from them and look into the labyrinth.” Labyrinth is the fruit of that inward turn, an unparalleled work of reading and writing, of contemplating in the fullest and deepest sense both the natural and human history of a landscape. Encyclopedia of myth and reality, herbal, love letter, prayer book and joke book, Stones of Aran has a near inexhaustibility that mirrors the island itself, just one scrap of earth’s surface. Labyrinth concludes the mission begun in Pilgrimage, opening up the interior and merging cosmic themes with the utterly personal, until by the end, the island is mysteriously returned to itself, untrodden and unread, yet revealed.
A book for walkers, for travelers, for students and lovers of the landscape, customs, and history of Ireland, for any explorer of the written word, Labyrinth completes one of the most astonishing literary adventures of our day.