Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 
The Way It Is

The Way It Is

Jon Smith

The Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard has admitted that he dislikes plots and feels oppressed by fictions. Writing, for him, is rather ‘a matter of trying somehow to reach the real life, how it tastes and feels. And there’s no story in real life. More than anything, stories stand in the way.’

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The High Deeds of Fionn

The High Deeds of Fionn

Síle Ní Mhurchú

The historical institution of the ‘fían’, on which the Fianna tales are based, provided an outlet for young free-born men, allowing them to improve their hunting and fighting skills. It was, however, seen by the church as a disruptive force, given to robbery and plundering.

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Our Language, Their Babble

Our Language, Their Babble

Michael Cronin

German concentration and extermination camps were run by the speakers of one language but inhabited by speakers of many others. Interpretation became necessary to both sides. Linguistic skills helped some inmates to survive, but the deployment of these skills could involve a cost.

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The Republican Journey

Thomas Fitzgerald

A new study presents a largely sympathetic history of the Provisional Republican Movement as it has gradually moved away from violence and increased its electoral base. It also gives space – and sympathy – to the views of the dissidents, which is both a strength and a weakness.

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So Many Haters

Michael Hinds

Plato did not hate poetry, though he wished to ban poets from the ideal Republic. In such a state you would not want to let it hold sway, even if in a real one it has its critical power and function. In an ideal Republic of course, you would not feel like a drink after a day’s work ...

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Picking Up The Pieces

Joe Breen

Bruce Springsteen’s memoir pulses with intensity and insight born of hours on the psychiatrist’s couch, covering his blue-collar Catholic background, the gruelling tour schedules and recording sessions, the initial paltry returns, then the king’s ransom when luck and labour chime.

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Ordinary Brutalities

Gavin Foster

A new study of the Civil War period argues that intimidation was a commonplace weapon deliberately employed by republicans, their supporters, and others to expel vulnerable ‘out-groups’. But how such victimised groups should be defined or categorised is not always clear.

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Castaways

Tom Wall

Many young Irishmen went to sea on British vessels in the 1930s. After the outbreak of war some were captured by the Germans, imprisoned and often harshly treated. Though eventually efforts were made to help them, for a long time they seemed to be an embarrassment to the Irish government.

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The View from the Veranda

Eoin Dillon

Africa may be said to have two public spheres. In the air-conditioned office visiting officials from the World Bank or the IMF conduct their business. But the veranda is where most Africans do business, transact politics and live their lives. The elite is comfortable in both spaces.

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A Study of Scarlet

Catherine Marshall

Michel Pastoureau’s account of the history of the colour red is in many respects fascinating. But what worked well for his previous studies of black, blue and green comes up a little short for red, a colour which is oceanic and in whose multiplicity of meanings one might well drown.

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Reasonable Doubt

Frank Callanan

A study of Joyce’s literary use of the law by the late Adrian Hardiman stresses the writer’s ‘persistent assertion of the need for philosophical and judicial doubt as a proper, moral and humane reaction to the inadequacy of evidence’.

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Compassion, Empathy, Flapdoodle

Seamus O’Mahony

Neuroscientific speculation has escaped from the laboratory and is now the rickety foundation for scores of bestselling, populist books. The sceptical writer and journalist Steven Poole has described the phenomenon as ‘an intellectual pestilence’ and ‘neurotrash’.

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The Russian Troika

Pádraig Murphy

The history that played out for Lenin and his commissars, who assumed dictatorial powers, was built on tactical opportunism coupled with simple good luck. One of the first acts was the setting up of the Cheka political police, with the slogan “Death to the bourgeoisie” written on its walls.

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Time After Time

Tom Cleary

It has been estimated that the population of Ireland may reach 10 million by 2050; a sizeable proportion of that number will not be ‘native Irish’. Hungary, resistant to immigration, now has 10 million inhabitants, the same as eighty years ago, and this will very probably fall.

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Deep Work at Dollarton

Shane Barry

Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano was greeted on its publication as a ‘magnificent, tragic, compassionate, and beautiful book’. Yet its author was a far from beautiful person. How did a chronic alcoholic with a chaotic, violent lifestyle manage to write such a work?

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A Soul in Wonder

Sean O’Hogain

As a poet, Michael Longley has so many sides to him that he is, for all practical purposes, round. His lyrical gift is wedded to a lightly worn but well-used education, an eye for detail and an ear for music.

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In Love With Death

Eugene Brennan

Is Islam a violent or a peaceful religion? Rather than cherrypicking the sacred texts, we might be better served by sociology and reception studies: rather than trying to decipher what the Quran says, that is, one might usefully listen to what Muslims think and say it says.

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Mother of Invention

Mary Morrissy

Éilís Ní Dhuibne is a deceptive writer, deceptively light in tone, deceptively erudite in her references, deceptively irreverent in her treatment of form. Her literariness betrays itself when she pulls the narrative rug from under the reader and in her likeness for embroideries and yarns.

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Making Waves

Patricia Craig

A novel set on Rathlin Island at the end of the nineteenth century takes as its subject the arrival of Marconi’s men to conduct an experiment transmitting sound across the sea. It derives its considerable force from the conjunction of archaism and modernity, the clash of material and immaterial forces.

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Hauntings

Peter Sirr

Mark Granier’s poems are full of skies and hauntings, the missing, the dead, time’s erasures, ‘the slow shift of light’, the closely observing eye lighting on the city and where the city meets light and water and sky. He is, as one poem has it, an eternal ‘cloud watcher, seawatcher’.

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Circuitry of the Snowflake

Florian Gargaillo

The late Elise Partridge’s poems dealing with her cancer note that blurred vision can be a side effect of treatment. Yet even blurred vision - the alphabet letters b and d made out as ‘beer-bellied cousins’ – can for a poet mean enhanced vision, and seeing anew through metaphor and analogy.

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A Bhealach Féin

Ronan Sheehan

The writer and thinker Desmond Fennell has spent nearly seven decades searching for ways in which we – the Irish that is, but not just the Irish – might live a civilised and decent life. If we had already been close to being able to live such a life there would have been no need for the search.

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Hunger Amid Plenty

Margaret Smith

By late 1846 there were 1,207 inmates in Tralee workhouse and families were being turned away, even though they met the admission criteria. In 1847 the famine worsened, yet the wealthy continued to celebrate festive occasions like the Tralee races with lavish dinners and balls.

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Beyond Anger

John Fanning

If the centre-left is to regain some influence in politics it will have to become more interesting. Accepted wisdom on becoming more interesting these days seems to revolve around finding the right “personality”. But let us not forget the importance of policies and ideas.

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Those Who Remain

Julia O’Mahony

The new collection from Katie Donovan presents an unflinching look at the realities of living with and caring for a husband with a terminal illness while also acknowledging the chance fragments of joy she experiences as she continues to raise her young family.

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Whiskey In The Jar

Keith Payne

An intoxicating new study of Irish pot still whiskey tells us what it is and how it is made, while also managing to bring into the blend economic and social history, gastronomy, revolution, science and alchemy, Prohibition, Catholic Emancipation and the temperance movement.

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The City Spreads Out

Erika Hanna

Dublin is often celebrated as a Georgian city, or a medieval or Viking one. But for many Dubliners it has been essentially a mid-twentieth century city. It was in these decades, from the 1930s through to the 1960s, that the suburbs where many of us grew up were built.

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Wandering in the Desert

Ruth Gilligan

Joyce is just one Irish writer who is alert to the Exodus story and its specific resonance within a national context. Hence the parallel between Moses and Parnell, each of whom ‘led a turbulent and unstable people from the house of shame to the verge of the Promised Land’.

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The Ascent of Women

Ann Kennedy Smith

‘The average standard of mental power in man must be above that of women,’ Charles Darwin asserted. The opinion was perhaps surprising given the number of talented and active women he knew personally, as well as the wide-ranging social disadvantages they faced as a sex.

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A Life of Noticing

Gerald Dawe

The mastery of American English which we associate with Richard Ford’s fiction – the subtle not-saying, the deflection of painful emotional realities into half-said or half-seen things – is abundantly present in a memoir in which he recalls and recreates the lives of his parents.

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The Trap

Clare O'Dea

A compelling and thoroughly researched novel focuses on the experiences of the refugees and the clients of people traffickers as they are ‘processed’ through the British asylum system, often towards a bleak conclusion, while struggling to maintain some dignity and hope.

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The Most Distressful Country

Joseph Woods

In the mid-1830s a liberal Hungarian aristocrat and writer made a journey through Ireland. Inspired by Daniel O’Connell’s campaigning, he wrote that England, while being viewed by the world as great and upholding the rights of man, was now ‘trembling before the country she has enslaved’.

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Getting to Grey

Liam Hennessy

Bipolar disorder has been explained as an attempt to create a world in which everything is either black or white. The illness can only be treated, it is suggested, when the important third element is introduced.

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Astonished at Everything

Peter Sirr

Generosity and largeness of vision seem to meet happily in the poems of Uruguayan-French writer Jules Supervielle, which seem to cover great distances in short spaces.

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All or Nothing

Joschka Fischer

Those Germans who argue so vehemently against a so-called transfer union should realise that the EU has always been such a union. France got the CAP for its large rural economy and Germany the common market for its strong industry. Little has changed since.

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Birds, beasts and flowers

Gerald Dawe

DH Lawrence’s poetry offers a record of the powerful current of physical pleasure, the elusive joy of witnessing that which is different, and the kind of opinionated prickliness when things are not what they seem to be or should be.

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The Stilled World

Nicola Gordon Bowe

Unsentimental, sparing and unspecific, the painter Patrick Pye has sought figurative images to represent symbolically “the archetypes of our humanity” depicted in an alternative universe where expiation has been achieved.

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Sparks from the Comet

Dubliners on Culture Night this year heard a talk about one of the most eminent Dublin newspapers of the early nineteenth century, delivered in the very heart of what was then the city's newspaper and publishing district.

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Will There Be Blood?

Most of us assume that blood will always be available for us should we need it in transfusion. But in Ireland the only source is from volunteers, who donate out of altruism, receiving nothing in return except perhaps a 'warm glow'.

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The Proust of Ormiston Crescent

In 1912, EM Forster travelled to Belfast to meet Forrest Reid, whose novel ‘The Bracknels’ he had greatly admired. The two men were to become lifelong friends. On Reid’s death in 1947, Forster wrote that he was the most important man in Belfast, ‘though Belfast knew him not’.

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John Ashbery: The Syntax of Time

What marked John Ashbery out from most of his contemporaries was his extraordinary immersion in syntax as the prime organising force of his verse. Many readers noted the parallels between his mature writings and the late novels of Henry James.

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Socrates and 'O Jogo Bonito'

The Brazilian footballer - and medical doctor - Sócrates was a hero not just on the pitch but off, and his courageous engagements with politics in a dark era offer a good introduction to the country's recent history.

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Ivan Illich: An Exchange

David Cayley takes issue with a review of a book on the philosopher Ivan Illich. Seamus O’Mahony, the author of the review, responds to the criticism.

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The First Irexit

In 1922 Southern Irish unionists saw themselves as a cultured, cosmopolitan people, repositories of uprightness and fair dealing, bearers of values which could well be smothered by superstition, greed and chicanery should Ireland leave the United Kingdom.

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A European at Eighty

The historian Peter Burke has devoted his life to scholarly synthesis, specialising in short, densely argued and concise books which range across borders, both geographical and academic.

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It's wonderful to be here

Philip Larkin dated the sexual revolution to 1963 and the Beatles' first LP. Perhaps, but the album that came along fifty years ago this month was revolutionary in more than one sense.

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From ‘How’ to ‘What’ in Politics

Political debate in Ireland is conducted at a juvenile level of jeer and insult which bores the public even more than it does the TDs themselves. Greater civility is required, but an exploration of what shared norms as a society we wish to live by would also be beneficial.

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Eddy and Me

The success of a recent novel set in the depressed northern French region of Picardy reminds an Irish writer of her own novel set in the same village and focusing on the experience of a young Irish girl at the end of the 1950s. Not so much has changed in the culture in the intervening decades.

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First Impressions

It is not unusual today to pick up a book that is written by an Italian, published in London and printed in China. But the business of printing from the outset was no respecter of national boundaries and indeed had many globalist aspects as early as the sixteenth century.

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Election Fever

Scottish electors have been called to the polls five times in the last three years and will soon be voting for a sixth time. Society has become intensely politicised, chiefly to the benefit of the SNP. Otherwise the strongly unionist Tories are recovering, while Labour’s miseries continue.

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All Change in France

The second round of the French presidential elections confirmed some of the voting trends of the first. Now we move on to parliamentary elections, which are likely to usher in major changes in the political landscape.

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The Several Faces of France

It is rather obvious perhaps that the results of a general election will put on display the divisions in a country. What is interesting about the results of the first round of the French presidential election is the salience of divisions not just of class but of geography, in particular those between urban and rural electorates.

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In and Out of Fashion

James Clarence Mangan’s reputation saw a significant revival in the early twentieth century, and another around the bicentenary of his birth in 2003. Today he is seen as prefiguring some of the great poets of the later nineteenth century and is frequently read as something of a proto-modernist voice.

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Fahrenheit 451

The ritual burning of books is generally considered to be a fairly radical act of censorship. So why is an organisation that campaigns for free speech publishing an argument defending the perpetrator of such an act?

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New Books

Irish Literature

Featuring a full chapter extract from The Abode of Fancy by Sam Coll and a poem from Paula Meehan's new collection, Geomantic.

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World Literature

Featuring 2016 Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty's The Sellout.

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Irish History & Politics

Featuring Hell at the Gates, in which Brian Cowen, the late Brian Lenihan, Eamon Ryan, Micheál Martin, Mary Harney and many others recount in their own words the inside story behind the government's infamous bailout.

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World History & Politics

Featuring Final Solution, David Cesarani's sweeping reappraisal challenging the accepted explanations for the anti-Jewish politics of Nazi Germany.

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Irish Culture, Philosophy & Science

Featuring Paul Howard's I Read the News Today, Oh Boy, the extraordinary story of the young Irishman who was immortalized for ever in the opening lines of the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life'.

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World Culture, Philosophy & Science

Featuring Loose Canon: The Extraordinary Songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin, an exploration of the lyrics and tunes that have won Clive James and his musical partner, Pete Atkin, a fanatical cult following.

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Ireland 1912 - 1922

Featuring Wherever the Firing Line Extends, Ronan McGreevey's study of the places where the Irish made their mark in World War I and are remembered in the monuments, cemeteries and landscapes of France and Flanders.

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More New Books ...