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

Buried Treasures

Patricia Craig

Belfast’s Balmoral Cemetery was once a gloriously dishevelled and spooky playground favoured by the more adventurous among neighbourhood children. But after many complaints it was cleaned up, and it’s now as straight-lined and ‘Protestant-looking’ as anyone could wish.


The Botplot

Kevin Power

Ian McEwan’s novels tend to set up a clash between opposing worldviews, with the authorial thumb pressed heavily on one side of the scales. His latest, a humanist exploration of posthumanist ideas, is a hugely pleasurable read, but might the author not have tried to surprise us a little more?


The SS’s Bargaining Chips

David Blake Knox

As World War Two drew to an end, a number of prominent prisoners of the Germans were moved to South Tyrol in the Italian Alps. Among them were veterans of the Great Escape, two former European prime ministers and a handful of Irishmen who had served in the British army.


Struggling towards Citizenship

Tom Hennigan

For all Brazil’s great size and demographic weight, and the economic and social progress marked up since the return of democracy in the 1980s, the country continues to be the champion of social inequality and is still struggling to construct true republican values and true citizens.


Living in the End Times

John Fanning

Oscar Wilde saw one significant drawback to socialism – ‘too many meetings’. But with increasing inequality and ample evidence of big money’s erosion of democracy, citizens who wish to save it may well have to resign themselves to going out the occasional night.


Magic, Modernity, #MeToo

Tony McKenna

Whereas Homer, and the Homeric heroes, would have regarded manual labour as a noble pursuit, Plato saw ‘mechanical crafts’ and the raising of ‘sordid beasts’ (farming) as activities suitable only to the lowest ranks, distracting man from the encounter with his soul.


Pinning Down the Protean

Philip O’Leary

Alan Titley is probably the most important writer in Irish since Ó Cadhain. It is a daunting challenge to anatomise a writer as various, versatile and sometimes difficult as Titley, but Máirtín Coilféir suggests that one valuable path into understanding his writing might be through the lens of ethics.


Peace to end Peace

Angus Mitchell

In making the case that war is simply humanity’s natural lot, other causes of conflict, such as secret diplomacy, the arms trade, inequality, censorship to protect national security and industrial capitalism’s wish to profit from misery, perhaps get off rather lightly.


The Brazils of my Bedroom

Andrew Lees

According to one source, Lt Col Percy Harrison Fawcett, who went missing in the Brazilian rain forest in 1925, was a Colonel Blimp figure who discovered nothing. According to another, he is still alive in the underground city of Ibez, where he can materialise and dematerialise at will.


Protestant and Irish

John Horgan, Robbie Roulston, Niall Meehan

Three historians discuss issues raised by a new anthology outlining the varieties of Protestant experience in independent Ireland. Topics touched upon include religious segregation in education, privileged access to employment, and its disappearance, and national feeling.


A Novel Enterprise

Geoff Ward

Daniel Defoe was a prolific journalist, producing no fewer than 560 journals, tracts and books yet somehow always in debt. His various schemes included attempts to sell marine insurance and to breed civet cats – and the writing of what we might consider the first novel in English.


No Homes To Go To

Aideen Hayden

In a situation where housing has been ‘commodified’ and has become more an investment good than a form of shelter or a human right, unless the state takes on a strong management role the prospect of owning one’s own home will soon for many people be just a distant dream.


Life, Death, Clean Water

Alena Dvořáková

By the 1990s, seven prose works by the Hungarian writer Magda Szabó had appeared in French, ten in Czech and seventeen in German, while there are now more translations in Italian even than in English. How does this neglect impinge on our notions of the universality of literature?


Turn On, Tune In, Help Out

Paul Walsh

The aim of any left-wing project worth its name surely has to be human emancipation. Perhaps the real strength of Corbynism might turn out to be its ability to incubate a new radical political culture rather than discovering a new form of economics.



John Mulqueen

We should be sceptical when great powers tell us a region is riven by age-old, unresolvable conflicts and hatreds. This was the kind of mystification that in 1938 supplied Britain and France with an excuse to abandon their ally Czechoslovakia, a European democracy, to Hitler.


Time’s Factory

Fintan Calpin

Ali Smith’s novels have always been interested in deviant temporalities and ‘unexpected afterlives’. Her narratives are never singular or isolated, but a gathering of threads and she has also pushed at the formal boundaries between the novel and the essay.


Where Do the Dead Go?

Marie Rooney

Freud saw ‘Trauerarbeit’, literally grief work, as a work of breaking the bonds that tied the survivor to the deceased – ‘letting go’ and ‘moving on’. Current thinking however would be more open to the idea that while death may end a life, it doesn’t necessarily end a relationship.


Deadly Precision

Amanda Bell

A particular feature of Rita Ann Higgins’s new collection is the use of juxtaposition: essays appear side-by-side with poems tackling their subject from a different angle. It is fascinating to see this process, with the background which informs a poem laid out in prose form.


More than a Small Glow

Neil McCarthy

Moya Roddy presents us with poetry that is straight out of the ordinary, a refreshing reminder that not every poem needs to be an epic, complicated, deep analogy of something or another; the kind that make open mics up and down the country the stuff of nightmares.


Teenage Kicks

Susan McKeever

A group of youngsters from Derry is interested in the same things that many youngsters elsewhere are interested in – sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll. But this is 1981, Bobby Sands is getting closer to death and to the normal trio of pleasures is added another experience, war.


Silence is Part of the Problem

Enda Wyley

Sarah Henstra’s novel about rape culture in the fraternity of an American Ivy League college can at times be a messy, difficult and violent read, but ultimately it is an important book, one that demands to be read and is not easily forgotten.


Elliptical Obit

Daniel Fraser

In Ann Quin’s fictional world acts of finality or resolution repeatedly come undone. A dead bird is buried and then dug up. Plans of escape are formulated and then abandoned. A corpse is disposed of and returns. Tissues of falsehood are constructed and destroyed. Business is always left unfinished.


How Perfectly the Parts Fit

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Michael Coady’s poems revolve around his home town of Carrick-on-Suir, where the river and the countryside are as essential to living as the air, but it is the presence of people, alive and dead, their relationships, memories, agreements and disagreements that fills them with life.


Beyond Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Frank Callanan

The thesis that there are no real differences between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael does not hold water. The two parties have significant differences of attitude and approach, and to a limited degree of ideology. If this were not the case they would surely govern together rather than in alternation.


Stepping Into The Light

Susan McKay

Sinéad Gleeson is already known as a generous literary critic and anthologist, who has rescued the work of some shamefully neglected writers and whose perceptive author interviews are celebrations of the imagination. Now she has stepped out to shine with a luminosity all her own.


Not Just Tuneful But True

John O’Donnell

‘A verse may find him whom a sermon flies,’ George Herbert wrote. Like the metaphysicals, Micheal O’Siadhail incorporates a great deal of learning in his verse, bringing in major figures from Europe’s intellectual and spiritual journey. But is this history or poetry? The answer is yes.


Active Recovery

Marie Rooney

We first meet the author when he is twenty-eight, an aspiring writer resigned to suffering a bout of depression every summer since his mother’s death nine years earlier. He is diagnosed as bipolar but is reluctant to accept this, a position in which he is encouraged by a therapist.


Big and Little Lies

Henry Patterson

A new book argues that those who criticise the Good Friday Agreement for not creating a framework for dealing with the past or for not addressing the deep divide in the North, are missing the fundamental purpose of the accord, which was simply to deliver an end to violence.


The Deep Music of the World

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Michelle O’Sullivan’s three collections, but especially this new one, will convince many that her work should find its way to attentive readers, who it is hoped will not try to fit her into any boxes other than the big one marked ‘poets’, who will appreciate her skill with language and her alertness to the world’s music.


A Marlowe from Mayo

Pauline Hall

In the rural Ireland of the 1920s memories of the War of Independence and Civil War are still strong. The Garda Síochána stands at the forefront of efforts to normalise life in a traumatised society, yet they too, both as individuals and as a force, have problems winning trust.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Forthcoming Events and News

A regularly updated diary of events of literary and artistic interest and news from the publishing and arts worlds


Sleeping with the Enemy

The party system of European states, George Soros argues, continues to reflect the capital-labour divisions that mattered in the 19th and 20th centuries. But the cleavage that matters most today is the one between pro- and anti-European forces. Well up to a point, Mr Soros.


Eastward Ho!

Peter Sirr prowls the tangled history and contemporary reality of Dublin’s Docklands.


Sharp Right Ahead

European social democracy has lost ground in recent years, in spite of a notable success in Spain last month. Social democrats in Denmark, which goes to the polls next month, are offering ‘muscular’ policies on immigration and integration, making them sound very like the populist far right.


Omani novelist wins Man Booker International

Jokha Alharthi's novel 'Celestial Bodies' provides readers with 'access to ideas and thoughts and experiences you aren’t normally given in English', according to the judges. The £50,000 prize money will be shared equally between Alharthi and her translator, Marilyn Booth.


Men at Arms

The differing attitudes of Irishmen in the period from 1914 to 1922 and beyond can be seen through a brief history of three men. One of them, Emmet Dalton, served with distinction alongside Michael Collins. He had previously been in the British army, and he wasn’t ashamed of that.


Earning Death

Jean Rhys disappeared off everyone’s radar for fifteen years after the critical success of her pre-war novels, eventually emerging from poverty and obscurity to produce ‑ in spite of ill health and alcoholism ‑ her masterpiece, published to great acclaim in her late seventies.


Can Spring be far behind?

Percy Shelley felt, in winter’s grip, a presentiment of coming spring. It’s true there is a certain inevitability to these things and the leaves have never failed to return to the trees yet. But the wait can sometimes be a bit tedious.


Jane Austen and IVF

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of the $800 needed to buy a vial of pre-screened sperm will wish to be informed of the heritable characteristics of its donor. A man of parts will certainly be favoured, yet even more so one of amiable and ductile temper.


Karol Modzelewski 1937-2019

The distinguished Polish historian spent eight years in prison for his activism in favour of free trade unions and political democracy. He was also the man who came up with the name by which the movement he was engaged in building would become known, Solidarność.


No Pizza. No Lasagne. No Directions.

There are a number of places in Europe where no one, except for some not very numerous sellers of tourist tat, wants any more visitors. In fact they’d prefer to be without the ones they have. So will we be staying away? No, no, let the others stay away. I need my culture.


Vanishing Dublin II

Flora Mitchell’s warm tribute – in words, ink and watercolour – to old Dublin, published in the mid-1960s, records the city at a time when much of it was about to disappear forever, a victim of better economic times and the optimism, and heedlessness of the past, that accompanied them.


The Left holds the line in Spain

Sunday’s general election saw a disastrous drop in the votes of the main right-wing party, the Popular Party, a qualified success for the centre-left PSOE and a smaller than forecast breakthrough for the new, ultra-nationalist party of the Spanish right, Vox.


No More Mr Nice Guy

There is a widespread belief in the US that not only must China be contained but that the traditional American style of conducting international politics through alliances no longer serves the interests of the US. A radical change of approach is required. This is where Trump, the great disrupter, comes in.


Response to a Review

Lucy E Salyer responds to comments by Breandan Mac Suibhne in his review of her book 'Under the Starry Flag'.


Not reading but yawning

Well of course we all love books. There’s absolutely nothing like a book. Nothing so gripping. Nothing so enthralling. So why do I sometimes fall asleep in my armchair?


Vanishing Dublin

A beautifully illustrated book published in a small edition in 1966 featuring descriptions of numerous streets and lanes in the capital has become a collector’s item. In Stephen Street the street sellers called out ‘Some good fish here!’, perhaps leaving open the possibility that there were some not so good too.


‘The Sentiments of my Heart’

John Rocque’s Dublin map offered an image of harmony, order and industry. It lied of course. But George II was so taken by it he hung it in his apartments. Perhaps on sleepless nights, Peter Sirr speculates, he climbed out of bed to count his way down Sackville Street or follow his little finger down the lanes of the old city.


A Narrow Sea, by Jonathan Bardon

A history of the interactions between Ireland and Scotland over two millennia, told in a series of 120 episodes, ranges entertainingly from the Roman governor Agricola’s plan to invade Ireland from Scotland to 21st century pitch invasions at Ibrox and Celtic Park.


To Live Like a Moor, Olivia Remie Constable

The cultural absorption or lack of it of large immigrant communities may not have predictable outcomes. The relationship between culture and politics, it seems, is not straightforward and drawing political conclusions from cultural practices is an inexact business.


The One Hundred Best Novels in Translation, by Boyd Tonkin

A new anthology of works of fiction translated into English is modest about its ambitions and disclaims any ambition to be ‘canonical’. Nevertheless it is a smartly executed work, which invites us to fill in some gaps in our literary education and ‘get out a bit more’.


Revivalism and Modern Irish Literature, by Fionntán de Brún

Once independence was won, the question facing Irish ideologues and leaders was how to make revival real. It was then that the tenuous and tentative nature of the relation between the cultural and the political became clear. Those different spheres would never march in lockstep.


Love Notes from a German Building Site, Adrian Duncan

In Berlin, an old building is being repurposed for use as a computer store. In the middle of a bleak winter, the construction workers have inadequate time, inadequate resources, speak many different languages and have managers fresh from the Celtic Tiger building boom. Nothing can go wrong.


Pirate Queen, Tony Lee and Sam Hart

The indomitable Grace O’Malley, pirate queen, is the heroine of a new graphic novel that will entertain and inform children from nine years upwards.


Nano Nagle, the Life and the Legacy, Raftery, Delaney and Nowlan-Roebuck

Nano Nagle’s emphasis on educating the Catholic poor had a political dimension and contributed to the integration of the several parts of Catholic Ireland into a whole which had the potential of politically focusing the majority. In this sense it is not too fanciful to see her  work as prefiguring that of O’Connell.


A Short History of Drunkenness, Mark Forsyth

A Ukrainian proverb can be taken to illustrate our human attraction – and perhaps our occasional uneasiness about that attraction – to alcohol, its pleasures and dangers. “The church is near,” it goes, “and the tavern is far. It is snowing heavily. I shall walk carefully.”


Monster Agitators: O’Connell’s Repealers, 1843 Ireland, Vincent Ruddy

O’Connell’s Monster Meetings came to an abrupt halt in October 1843 when the Viceroy  mobilsed four battalions of troops, some four hundred armed RIC and Metropolitan Police and moved three gunships into Dublin Bay 


Then Again, Pat Boran

In a poem about O’Connell Street’s Spire, the monument becomes a dagger, a skewer, an extended middle finger. None of the names are inclusive of us, the citizens; the Spire is the ‘we’ reduced to ‘I’, which might be seen as the opposite of Boran’s project, to expand the ‘I’ to ‘we’.


The Sex Economy, Monica O'Connor

Is prostitution, or ‘sex work’ as it is increasingly called, simply a market transaction, perfectly legitimate as long as the sale is voluntary? Or is it something which is inherently harmful, which sustains criminality and undermines the very idea of gender equality?


Why Nationalism, Yael Tamir,

But why should there be just two forms of nationalism? There is Trump’s “America First”, there is Viktor Orbán’s quite dour Hungarian nationalism, there is French nationalism, which is arguably based on a notion of cultural and intellectual superiority; there is Irish nationalism, there is Scottish nationalism and there is English nationalism, 


Europe’s Fault Lines: Racism and the Rise of the Right, Liz Fekete

Perhaps what most of us currently want to know about the extreme right is how dangerous is it? To which the answer might vary from country to country. And is it likely to become more dangerous? Will it be isolated, will it be contained, or will it be conciliated, comforted and brought in from the cold. 


Lotharingia: Europe’s Lost Country, Simon Winder

Pity the poor continental children who must grapple with Charles the Bald, Charles the Bold, Charles the Fat, Charles the Simple, Philip the Bold, Philip the Fair and a good dozen of Henrys. To all of this complexity, Winder is a perpetually good-humoured guide.


The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells

It’ll be forty degrees today in Alice Springs, in Australia’s Northern Territory, but it’s likely to go down to thirty-eight around midweek and then plummet to thirty-two in a fortnight’s time as autumn takes hold. But hey, what do I care? I don’t live in Alice Springs, I live in Dublin.