April 02, 1984 12:00 PM

by William Trevor

The author of this pretty book on the old country has given himself very little to do except provide rather graceful transitions between translations of ancient myths (including anonymous pre-Christian tales) and the prose and poetry of the later Irish greats. He especially invokes the poetry of W.B. Yeats to help describe the unique little island. The subtitle is “Landscape in Literature,” and there are many photographs (some in color) of dramatic locales, castles, weathered stone crosses and beautiful church ruins. There are a few reproductions of paintings and old engravings. The tales of bulls, so magnificent they inspire war, and of women, so perverse they become shrews, are comic and haunted by a particular Irish violence. Belfast and the continuing killings there seem inevitable in this stormy historical context. Trevor (Fools of Fortune, Beyond the Pale) was born in County Cork. (Viking, $25)

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