BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 439

BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 439

IELTS Academic Reading Test

The Soul of Irish Writers

The windswept clouds into inky puddles across the sky. A few swollen drops of rain fell on the windshield of our rental car as my friend and I sat at a service station. A red-haired lad with a spattering of freckles across his face pumped our gas. He craned his head upward. ‘Ah, the weather is desperate today,’ he said.

Desperate. The word clung to me. How had he found the most poetic and perfect word to describe the weather that day? Although this trip was many years ago, I still recall that young man, as well as the cadence and lilt of the words that greeted us in the shops and pubs at which we stopped to ask directions. As a writer, I was inspired and intrigued by the Irish and their wonderful facility for language and poetic prose.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

While Ireland is a small island – you can drive from the east coast to the west coast, or north to the south in little more than four hours -this green and fertile land has produced more writers per square inch than any other country. And it has done so for centuries, from James Joyce to Nobel-Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney. But how? What organic ingredients have created a recipe for such talent? Could it be the mythical landscape itself?

During that trip, I still remember how the green, undulating mountains that opened up to vistas of the ocean, cliffs, and ruined castles seemed to be permeated with ancient wisdom and mysterious energy that seeped from the earth into my very spirit. Is it this that made such prolific writers of the Irish and blessed them with their gift for the lyrical word?

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Perhaps so, but I believe it is also about the Irish soul, which is so entwined with storytelling. Much like the primeval land that was carved over centuries, the Irish seem to allow for the flow of space and time. They are present to the rhythm of their lives and allow the creative process to speak to their souls. One of my favorite authors, the late John O’Donohue in his book Anam Cara, spoke of the power of simple presence which takes us ultimately where we need to be, as people and as creative writers.

‘It is far more creative to work with the idea of mindfulness rather than with the idea of will. Too often people try to change their lives by using the will as a kind of hammer to beat their lives into shape. If you work with a different rhythm, you will come easily and naturally home to yourself. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore, you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go.’

IELTS Academic Reading Test

The Irish are also well-known storytellers. In fact, the Seanachie (pronounced Shawn-a-key) or storyteller is still an honored profession in Ireland as it has been for centuries. Sean O Suilleabhain in Storytelling in Irish Tradition writes: ‘The good storyteller, who had a large repertoire stored in his memory, seated at his own fireside, in an honored place in the house of a neighbor or at a wake, was assured of an attentive audience on winter nights.

Nor was it only adults who wished to hear tales. My father described to me how himself and other children of eight years of age would spend hours, night after night, listening to an old woman storyteller in South Kerry and an old man in the same area told me that, as a youth, he and his companions used to do all the household chores for an elderly neighbor each winter evening in order that he might be free to spend the night telling them long folktales …’

IELTS Academic Reading Test

The desire to tell stories, to weave narratives, is still central to the Irish people, as their works of literature demonstrate. James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, C.S. Lewis, Frank Mccourt, Maeve Binchy, Niall Williams, and countless other writers have not only given us moving stories but told them, oftentimes, in words that resonate to the rhythm of our soul.

At the end of that trip, we found time to visit the site of Yeats’ grave in County Sligo. The weather that day was more than desperate, as a biting wind whipped leaves around the Drumcliffe cemetery. I took a quick snapshot of his grave, and stood there, part of his poem When You are Old and Gray wafting through my thoughts.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

I thanked him for sharing his gift of words with the world and asked him to help me do the same. Weeks later after we had returned home, I had the photos developed (there were no digital cameras back then) and was amazed at what I saw. There, above his grave, floated a form, a shape – a hazy gauze of white that I could not explain. I like to think his Irish soul was wishing me well as a writer.

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Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer.

 [1] Which word did the gas pump attendant use that so impressed the writer?

[2] Which TWO words in the second paragraph mean the accent and rhythm of the Irish voices the writer heard on her trip?

[3] Which three physical features of the landscape of Ireland does the writer describe as having an unreal quality?

[4] According to the writer, which basic elements of life do the Irish appreciate and embrace better than people elsewhere?

[5] Which idea did the writer John O’Donohue believe to be preferable to determination and a desire to achieve?

[6] What is the Irish word for a person who entertains with stories?

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.

–  tales were recalled from the storyteller’s [7] ……………………..

– storytellers were [8] …………………….. guests at social gatherings

– both [9] …………………….. were attentive listeners

– storytellers sometimes exchanged stories for [10] ……………………..

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1?

In boxes 11-12 on your answer sheet, write

TRUE if the statement agrees with the information.

FALSE if the statement contradicts the information.

NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this.

[11] The weather on the day of the writer’s trip to Yeats’ grave was better than on the day she spoke at the gas station.

[12] The writer would like to believe that Yeats responded to the request she made at his grave.

IELTS Academic Reading Test


BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 439

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12. TRUE

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