The Aran Islands have sustained a strong creative streak, partly as a means of entertainment during long periods of isolation. Artists and writers from the mainland have similarly long been drawn to the elemental nature of island life.
Dramatist JM Synge (1871–1909) spent a lot of time on the islands. His play Riders to the Sea (1905) is set on Inishmaan, while his renowned The Playboy of the Western World (1907) also draws upon his island experiences. Synge's highly readable book The Aran Islands (1907) is the classic account of life here and remains in print.
American Robert Flaherty came to the islands in the early 1930s to film Man of Aran, a dramatic account of daily life. He was something of a fanatic about the project and got most of the locals involved in its production. The film remains a classic that's deeply evocative of island life.
The noted 1996 play The Cripple of Inishmaan, by Martin McDonagh, involves tragic characters and a strong desire to leave the island in 1934.
Map-maker Tim Robinson has written a wonderful two-volume account of his explorations on Aran, called Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage and Stones of Aran: Labyrinth.
Local writer Liam O'Flaherty (1896–1984), from, Inishmore wrote several harrowing novels, including Famine (1937) and Insurrection (1950).