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

The Kingdom of Bohemia

Conor Linnie

Cypriot restaurants, Italian barbers and French cafés gave London’s Soho a cosmopolitan atmosphere in the 1950s that stood out from the pervasive drabness. Dublin too had its artists’ haunts, with the link between the two cities taking particular form in the friendship between painters Lucian Freud and Patrick Swift.


Halting the Waves

David Blake Knox

In the last three years, more than two million immigrants – primarily young men – have entered EU states. The policies being followed by European governments in response to this phenomenon are not only harsh and oppressive, but may also be counter-productive.


Not at Rest

Magdalena Kay

The mind of Derek Mahon is not, he assures us, one that can be ‘set at rest’. But would we wish it to be? Would we want him free of tension and contradiction and impossible desire? One might as well wish for a placid elder Yeats or a young Auden free of guilt and fear.


The Genius and the Pedant

Johnny Lyons

Isaiah Berlin had not only a great gift for political philosophy but an unusual talent for verbal expression: his wartime diplomatic despatches from the US were greatly prized by Churchill. A new book by his editor surprisingly reveals that he was very reluctant to have his work published.


The Biggest Question

Scott Beauchamp

William Vollmann is fond of tackling large subjects and writing very big books, both fiction and non-fiction. In a two-volume work on climate change he addresses himself to the future inheritors of the earth and tries to explain to them why we did so little to prevent its destruction.


Homo Economicus

John Bradley

Modern economics often seems wilfully ignorant of the moral context its founder, Adam Smith, brought to the discipline. Smith fully understood the difference between a scientific theory and an investigation into human and societal behaviour. A science of man would always be different from a science of nature.


The Future’s Bovine

John Fanning

Big Tech seems to envisage a future in which most humans will be like docile cows, to be regularly milked for their data. If you want to retain some control over your existence you will have to learn to run faster than the government, faster than the algorithms and faster than Amazon.


Skimming the Cream off the Orphans’ Milk

Pauline Hall

Gerald O’Donovan left the priesthood due to strained relations with his conservative and philistine bishop. In his novel about the fortunes of the provincial middle class Curtin sisters, he indicts late Victorian Catholic values, warped by the privileging of religious vocations over marriage.


Alternative Facts

Linda Anderson

Tracey Iceton, author of a projected trilogy of ‘Troubles’ novels, claims her work, and in particular her portrayal of a woman IRA volunteer, avoids the stereotypes which disfigured previous examples of the genre. These claims of originality and an ethical approach cannot, however, stand much scrutiny.


Development Arrested

Dan A O’Brien

The Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga’s first novel was a major success, although she was accused by reviewers at home of ‘fouling her own nest’. Her latest novel uses the broken female body as a metaphor to explore the collapse of her country’s body politic.


Saving Democracy

John Horgan

The most radical critics of our contemporary political systems offer solutions that sound more like symptoms of the illness than any possible cure. Surely there is plenty of space between thinking there is no alternative and believing that the only alternatives possible are the outrageous ones.


One Robust Story?

Philip Coleman

One could quibble over omissions, but the individual chapters in The Cambridge History of American Poetry are without exception, superb introductions, overviews and surveys of important moments and figures, contexts and movements in the nation’s poetry from the pre-colonial period to the late 1990s.


In Himself an Entire People

Seamus Deane

Charles de Gaulle was a traditional Catholic Christian. He rarely spoke of or even mentioned God but rarely failed to speak instead of France, the great stained-glass rose window in which the divine light had glowed through the centuries in radiance or in sombre melancholy.


Something To Declare

Wendy Graham

Gilbert and Sullivan producer Richard D’Oyly Carte offered to sponsor Oscar Wilde’s American tour, hoping to drum up publicity for the comic opera Patience. The representative stock aesthete left London an understudy for the leaders of the aesthetic movement, returning a celebrity in his own right.


Man of Marble

Maurice Earls

From 1820 to 1850, the sculptor John Hogan’s most productive period, he was largely based in Rome. Yet despite living abroad he was without question, and especially in terms of his subject matter and patrons – chiefly the Irish bourgeoisie and Catholic church – an Irish artist.


Reclaiming Democracy

John Fanning

The internet is the most abundantly stocked pantry of grievance in the history of mankind, its users under constant surveillance. What future can there be for democracy if politics becomes a question of detailed statistical analysis and precisely targeted messages rather than ideas?


Gender in Conflict

Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado

Anna Burns’s new novel explores the impact in the Northern Ireland of the 1970s of a level of violence that has become ordinary and a society where gendered violence is everywhere but remains unacknowledged in a context where ‘huge things, physical, noisy things’ happen on a daily or hourly basis.



Graham Good

The essayist Chris Arthur grew up in Northern Ireland, where his father considered himself to be of British nationality. Physical absence from the island may have helped him create an Irish identity beyond the Catholic/Protestant duopoly. It is an identity based not on tribe but on landscape, place and memory.


At Least Two Irelands

Michael O’Loughlin

There has been a welcome explosion of novels by young Irish women, but they often seem strangely conventional in form and content. Emer Martin cannot be accused of that. It is her unconventionality, perhaps, that has led to her curious invisibility at the forefront of Irish literature.


Narrative Joyride

Afric McGlinchey

In a new collection of short stories, Nuala O’Connor, already known as a novelist and poet, shows what she can do in another form. Secrets, skeletons and the grey areas of morality are her specialty. She writes without a vestige of sentimentality, while still creating a lump-in-the-throat reaction.


Surveying the Wreckage

Dick Edelstein

As both a global writer and an Irish poet, a noteworthy aspect of Jo Burns’s poetry is, rather than the way she views the world, how the world views her. Living at the margins of the English language, with German offspring and spouse, her erudite idiolect can be spiced with fractured syntax or diced diction.


Not the Cartographer of Guilt

Mark Wasserman

Anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing Neil McCarthy read aloud tends to remember the experience. Equal parts showman and shaman, he stalks the stage, reciting his work from memory, pouring forth both wit and wonder. On the page, his voice is not just captured but deepened.


In A Hard School

Susan McKay

Emilie Pine’s father had what she has called ‘an unusual approach to parenting’, consisting of neglect of his duties in favour of the pursuit of his first love, alcohol. Pine survived this upbringing and has now written a wonderful, compassionate book about her and her family’s life and travails.


Get Down from There

Alice Lyons

In her native Poland Olga Tokarczuk has the enviable position of being an author of books seriously engaged with ideas, politics and history who enjoys a wide readership, now steadily and deservedly growing internationally.


Lean In And Listen

Anne Tannam

Martina Evans’s new volume consists of two dramatic monologues featuring the voices of two women from the War of Independence and Civil War periods. Though the monologuists never meet, their stories are fused through the featuring of a third character, Cumann na mBan member Eileen Murphy.


Dazzled by Words

Jean O’Brien

The intermingling of the religious with everyday life, and an ease with it, is evident throughout Noel Monahan’s latest collection. Religious markers are mentioned casually punctuating the seasons, with the yellow whin bushes blooming at Easter, and following the rhythms of everyday life.


A Profound Poetic Pilgrimage

Pól Ó Muirí

John F Deane is a poet who lives history, who breathes at one with the world around him. He reminds the reader that we live only for a short while on this rock in space but that that time is precious and profound. We are all dear pilgrims – whether we realise it or not.


In Cold Blood

John Fanning

It has been euphemistically categorised as ‘enhanced interrogation’, but Jean Améry, who suffered it at the hands of the Gestapo, called it ‘methodical violence, the equivalent of rape’, adding that ‘whoever has succumbed to torture can no longer feel at home in the world’.


Gazing Heavenwards

Gerard Smyth

The challenge in our secular age for a poet engaging with the spiritual and religious is how to sound the authentic note. To this end James Harpur fetches images from the religious art and symbolism of the past, renewing and refreshing them in his language of ‘pure clear words’.


A Fire in the Brain

Declan O’Driscoll

James Joyce never wanted to believe that his daughter could not be cured of her mental illness, saying ‘whatever spark or gift I possess has been transmitted to Lucia and has kindled a fire in her brain’. The problem was, however, that the fire could not be extinguished.


The Traumatic Quotidian

Paul Murphy

Conor O'Callaghan's new collection often deals with rather mundane events, the primary material of life perhaps, rather than subjects more associated with the epic, but from this he often fashions something original and valuable.


Last Waltz, First Waltz

Enda Wyley

Joseph Woods’s new collection takes the reader on a tour through many exotic places ‑ the Chinese Pacific, the Irrawaddy river, the Western Cape, Chicago – but returns to the more familiar Irish Midlands and West and the persisting links through generations, from ailing parents to infant daughter.


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.


Chained to the Magus

If the threat that president-elect Jair Bolsonaro poses to democracy is as grave as Workers Party leaders claim, one wonders why they did not back someone who had a good chance of defeating him? In refusing to do so Lula has helped deliver up Brazil to Bolsonaro, his bastard heir.


Remembering Bernard Loughlin

Bernard, the first director, with his wife, of the Annaghmakerrig writers' retreat, was a man to whom tranquility, the driest of humour and a down-to-earth sense of the ethereal seemed to come naturally.


Getting Wasted

A 1997 book, written as the memoir of a ‘Gen X Drunk’, apparently without literary merit and now out of print, might have given members of the US Senate an idea of who might or might not be suitable to sit on the Supreme Court, particularly in its portrayal of the author’s boozy friend ‘Bart O’Kavanaugh’.


The Day All Hell Broke Loose

Fifty years ago today a police attack on a peaceful civil rights march in Derry initiated the latest phase of that long-running Irish phenomenon ‘the Troubles’. Was everything that followed inevitable or might things have developed differently?


A Killer for President

Brazil, the world's fourth largest democracy, faces the prospect of electing a violent and threatening military man as president. He can be stopped, but only if the other parties come together to save the situation.


Candide in the Eternal City

A French novel of the 1950s portrayed a still pagan Rome in which cardinals were addicted to scheming, money could buy sainthood and truth was not as simple to a young priest as it had once seemed. The novel was shocking for the time and was banned in Italy.


Brothers in Religion

Two seventeenth century siblings from north Donegal are said to have become, through an odd set of circumstances, ministers of rival religions, one an Anglican minister the other a Franciscan friar. The story is thought to be the source of the Gaelic lament ‘Fil, fil, aroon’.


A Mission for the Führer

In May 1940, the German spy Hermann Goertz parachuted into Ireland, his mission to induce the IRA to hinder the British war effort by mounting attacks in Northern Ireland. He remained at large for a surprisingly long time, with many protectors, among whom women featured particularly strongly.


Yeats at Ballylee

Rarely read and barely performed, Yeats’s plays are mostly forgotten by theatre companies – despite considerable virtues of portability, adaptability and cheapness. A recent performance at Thoor Ballylee in Galway of ‘The Only Jealousy of Emer’ marvellously shows what can be done.


A pase around old Dublin

John Speed’s 1610 Dublin map is one of the best-known images of the city, a picture of an intimate medieval town which was soon to embark on its modern expansion. Speed himself, writes Peter Sirr, may never have visited Dublin, rather having, as he cheerfully admitted, ‘put my sickle into other mens corne’.


Tuam Excavation

Ninety writers and artists call for a complete excavation and enumeration of the victims of Tuam. Memorialisation is not enough.


Out of the Dark

The McGaherns lived in a poor, rickety house in the middle of a field. All that is left now is a rusty gate in a prickly hedge and an empty, rushy meadow. It is extraordinary to think that out of this remote and unpromising place came a great writer and literature of world renown.


He'll Light the Fire

Graham Nash, transported from the 60s pop band The Hollies and the cold rain of Manchester to the sun of California and a role in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY), visits Dublin this week. His songs, well aged in the bottle, are like a shaft of sunlight into dark times.


A Funny Old Game

English and Russian fans may have kicked and punched one another and smashed windows at the Euros in Marseille in 2016, but rival Irish and Belgian fans staged such a funny joint street party in Bordeaux that mayor Alain Juppé called them ‘a disgrace to hooliganism’.


Every third thought will be my grave

Philip Roth once said of fellow writers Saul Bellow and John Updike: ‘[they] hold their flashlights out into the world, [and] reveal the world as it is now. I dig a hole and shine my flashlight into the hole.’ There is no hole that Roth digs better throughout his fiction than a grave.


In the Double City

Dublin, says Peter Sirr, has never bothered much with Thomas Street; it seems to exist in a state of permanent neglect, many of its fine old buildings on the brink of collapse. Yet it survives, tough, resolute, working class, with a bohemian sprinkle of cafés near the art college like a daub of icing on a crumbling cake.


Philip Roth: 1933-2018

After Bernard Malamud (d 1986), Joseph Heller (1999), Saul Bellow (2005), John Updike (2009) and JD Salinger (2010), the death of Philip Roth removes from the scene the last of those great postwar American novelists who combined huge literary credibility with a large popular readership.