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

Maurice Walsh

For Walter Bagehot, the best-known editor of ‘The Economist’, the prospect of workers organising to defend their interests represented ‘an evil of the first magnitude’. The paper’s first love, however, was always empire, British of course; but after that ran out of road American would do.

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Her Dance with History

Theo Dorgan

One might have expected of Eavan Boland’s posthumously published last collection a certain composure, poems that would speak at last of a history in which she could, finally, begin to feel at home, a history of inclusion, of comfort with contradictions. This is not that book.

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Il Miglior Fabbro

William Wall

Ezra Pound was a fascist and, even after the Holocaust, an unrepentant antisemite, yet he was also a brilliant poet, a great synthesiser of cultures and absolutely central to Modernism in English as an associate of Eliot and Yeats and a fierce champion of the young James Joyce.

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The Right People

Frank Callanan

It is offensive to regard true democratic values as the exclusive possession of classic liberalism. But perhaps we should all audit the prejudices we derive from our own political tribe and orientation and ask what in them might be inessential ‑ or even plain wrong.

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Getting it Straight

Sean Nam

After a crisis of faith in the early 1890s Paul Valéry abandoned poetry for some decades. He didn’t stop writing, however, getting up at dawn each day to work on his notebooks, 250 of them eventually, occupying 27,000 pages. This intellectual exercise he kept up for fifty years.

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Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

John Fanning

Many huge companies continue to ignore environmental and societal issues and carry on despoiling the planet and exploiting their workers in the name of profit maximisation. But such organisations – let us call them the ‘hairy bacon capitalists’ – are not immune to public opinion.

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All Together Now

John Toohey

Making a ‘national’ anthology of stories poses a problem: is there an essence that has to be captured? To be British in the 1920s was to believe that the national story had been progressive, from hut to glass tower, feudalism to universal suffrage, and that the future was a continuum.

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Endgame

Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado

In Elizabeth Bowen’s novel ‘The Last September’, the young heroine is on the cusp of independence, as indeed is, on a separate track, the country she lives in. Bowen masterfully portrays a social caste paralysed by its inability to either identify with the new or let go of the old.

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Defending the Union

Henry Patterson

The social democratisation of the Northern Irish state after 1945 transformed the life chances of working class children both Catholic and Protestant, yet the ruling party maintained its ethnic ethos and kowtowed to Protestant ultras on issues like the flag and the Orange Order’s right to march.

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Faith and Hope

Barry Houlihan

In Brian Friel’s classic play, the characters’ lives are inextricably intertwined by faith – faith in the healer, faith that they can escape their pasts, faith that they can survive. They are also driven by the blind hope that only true faith provides. But what happens when that faith threatens to break?

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Hungarian Connections

Martin Greene

The reasons for the presence of so much Hungarian-related material in ‘Ulysses’ are unknown, but Bloom’s foreign origins clearly facilitate his portrayal as an outsider, while the fact that some of Joyce’s closest associates in Trieste and Zurich had Hungarian family connections may also have been a factor.

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Friendly! Dynamic! Various!

Emer Nolan

Saluting progress in Ireland and the contributions of artists to liberalisation is not the same kind of action as analysis or evaluation. Can critics, while retaining the idiom of ‘excellence’, find themselves merely ventriloquising the boosterism of marketing managers and administrators?

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Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang

Enda O’Doherty

His indisputable genius ensured that William Shakespeare assumed the status of England’s chief literary emblem, in the same way that Cervantes was chosen to represent Spain, Dante Italy or Molière France. But why was it that he seemed so uninterested in writing about the place?

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The Seamus Heaney Experience

Patricia Craig

On a jaunt to Ayrshire, Seamus Heaney came upon the Robert Burns Visitor Experience. When friends joked that there might soon be a Heaney Experience he suggested ‘a few churns and a confession box’. Roy Foster’s impressive new study provides an alternative route into that experience.

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My Life and Triumphs

Tom Hennigan

‘I am not so much a writer who has died, as a dead man who has decided to write,’ the narrator tells us at the opening of a Brazilian classic which owes something to Laurence Sterne’s ‘Shandy’, but with the added psychological depth attained in the 19th century French novel.

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The Spirit of Cities

Leanne Ogasawara

Cities are smells: Cairo is mango and ginger, Beirut sun, sea, smoke and lemons. But in many of our cities the waters are rising. In Bangkok the water is inexorably reaching up and those familiar fragrances we have loved ‑ of noodles, tiger balm and teak – may soon be washed away.

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Remembering How We Stood

Declan Toohey

Peter Cunningham’s new novel recognises the centrality of femininity to the revolutionary period, while a subplot acknowledges that homosexuality existed beyond the pages of Roger Casement’s diary. The epilogue asks us to bring a critical eye to all things historical, fiction or otherwise.

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Scourging Buffoonery

Amanda Bell

Rita Ann Higgins’s new collection ranges from polemical pandemic poems to a meditation on the society which locked up its unwanted – ‘poor devils with leaky brains and acres galore’ – and a caustic satire on those Christian Irish who wish to offer asylum only to Christians.

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Imperial Warrior

Angus Mitchell

Kennedy Trevaskis was a colonial administrator for the British empire until, in 1964, he was sacked by a Labour minister he sneered at as ‘a Hampstead Socialist’. His memoir reminds us of a vanished world of empire in which, to those in charge, black lives didn’t greatly matter.

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Do not laugh, do not dance

Rosita Sweetman

Large numbers of Moroccan women confided to Leila Slimani, on a book tour to promote her first novel, their ‘sexual suffering, frustration and alienation’. Their stories, with a blistering commentary from Slimani, make for a frightening but fascinating account of her country’s repressive culture.

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A Female Text

Clíona Ní Ríordáin

Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s writing in her first prose work is as compelling and accomplished as in her best poetry. The book reveals her as a writer who is willing to take risks, to push back boundaries, refusing to let herself be hemmed in by the demands of genre, gender or tradition.

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Kiss Kiss Scratch Scratch

Maura O’Kiely

A huge and stately galleon, sailing slowly into harbour and slightly holed beneath the waterline, André Talley has a story or two to tell of his years in the highest reaches of the fashion industry. And for his readers’ amusement, he has a great big axe to grind too.

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Whatever You Say

Michael O’Loughlin

The narrator of Alice Lyons’s novel, an American of Irish stock raised in New Jersey, finds on a second visit to the auld sod that she has to learn to speak the language ‑ which is not as easy as she thought, as the true native language, she finds, is not Irish but silence.

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Under the Still Skies

Rohan Maitzen

The rain never seems to stop at the Scottish cabin park of Summerwater, where the population of holidaymakers reveals itself as representative of the larger nation of which it is a sodden subset, looking for scapegoats to blame for its own constricting discontent.

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The Procrustean Bed

Gerard Smyth

Since her remarkable debut, ‘The Heel of Bernadette’, Colette Bryce  has shown both variation and range in her work, developing a distinctive poetic personality that places her outside of and beyond the ‘Northern thing’.

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Women with a Movie Camera

Veronica Johnson

A new volume of critical essays aims to analyse and challenge the processes that can foster and normalise the exclusion of women in the Irish film industry, in the hope that the experiences of women in the industry will be recorded and not lost to future film histories.

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Into Africa

Eoin Dillon

An account of a young Oxford graduate heading to Addis Ababa in 1961 to teach in a prestigious school geared to servicing the needs of expatriate and privileged Ethiopian mixed-sex youth might bring to mind Evelyn Waugh. But no. This is a serious and realistic novel.

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The European Way

Fionn Ó Gráda

The last volume of Liam Mac Cóil’s seventeenth century historical trilogy brings to life a period in Irish history when its Gaelic leaders had allied with supporters in Spain and Rome in the hope of forging a future in which Ireland would cease to be a colony of its powerful neighbour.

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A Sharp Eye in the Wild

Seán Lysaght

Writing with passion and precision, the young naturalist Dara McAnulty combines an astonishingly high and precise level of knowledge about wildlife with a passion for the educative potential of discovering, through experience, how we fit into the natural world.

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A World of Tears

Leanne Ogasawara

The Dionysian horde that Nietzsche surely imagined battering the walls of the besieged city of Wörth in 1870 was the same horde that devastated Europe in the Thirty Years War in Rubens’s time. One war begets another, taking Europeans all the way back to the walls of Troy.

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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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Forthcoming Events and News

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

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Derek Mahon, the poet

Although Mahon was the last poet one would accuse of naivety, he was attracted to an ideal of simplicity, writes Magdalena Kay. This correlates with a tacit conviction that feelings of insignificance can bring on ecstasy: ‘Such tiny houses, such enormous skies!’

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Derek Mahon: 1941-2020

Derek’s was a life characterised by a certain turbulence, dedication to his craft, a disputatious impulse and an inner reserve sometimes bordering on the stand-offish. But when the mood took him he was uproarious company.

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A Long Way Down

Brian Friel, in ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’, refers to the sudden disappearance from their Donegal home in the 1930s of two of his aunts, Rose and Agnes. The play is not wholly autobiographical, but the true story of what happened to these women is deeply sad but perhaps not so unusual.

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Likeability

Thirty years after the publication of the ‘Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing’ many critics still dismiss Irish women’s writing as lacking ‘seriousness’ and deride them and their female characters for a supposed lack of ‘likeability’. Could it be that they just don’t like women?

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John Hume 1937-2020

Two years ago, Michael Lillis published a review of two books about the former SDLP leader, enriched by his personal experience as an official of the Irish government in working with Hume in the diplomatic process which preceded the Belfast Agreement. We are republishing part of it here.

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Foclóir or Folklore?

Darach Ó Séaghdha’s bestselling book ‘Motherfoclóir’ developed from his successful Twitter project ‘The Irish For’. In the book he has been willing, keen even, to lay into scholarly lexicographers past and present. But the number of mistakes in his own work does not inspire confidence.

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When in Dublin …

A copy of the events magazine ‘In Dublin’ from 40 years ago, long filed away, reveals a city in which it was just becoming possible to publicise gay rights networks and when young whippersnappers like Fintan O’Toole and Colm Tóibín were starting to flex their intellectual and polemical muscles.

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This England

While it cannot be ruled out that Boris Johnson will execute a U-turn at the last minute and throw Gove and Cummings under the bus, hard Brexit talk has taken on a dynamic that will be difficult to stop. If this is the course that is taken, Britain is heading for a harsh collision with reality.

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That’s far enough!

The Dutch were told they could have a ‘sex buddy’ during lockdown but Boris Johnson appears to have ruled that sex can only take place between cohabiting couples. Fear of infection in fact has had a long history of affecting romantic relationships.

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James Dalton – ‘an innocent man’?

IRA intelligence-gathering was highly functional during the War of Independence, but the threshold of guilt and the criteria for punishment could be capricious. Instances of putative informing could be shrouded in spite and the designations ‘spy’ or ‘informer’ sometimes no more than a label of convenience.

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Apocalypse No

Predictions of apocalypse tend to situate the ultimate hour within the lifetime of the predicter. Unsurprisingly, since the notion is essentially a metaphorical transference of our individual mortality. And in both biblical and secular versions it is profoundly anti-political, distracting us from what we must do.

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Leopold Locked Down

Had he set it in March or April 2020, Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ would probably have been a much shorter novel. Some of the episodes would have been ruled out by confinement measures, while others simply couldn’t be allowed to have happened, being quite politically incorrect.

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On the Make

A major book prize has been won by David Hayton for his biographical study of the historian Lewis Namier, who believed that in the 18th century a man never entered parliament to benefit humanity any more than a child would dream of a birthday cake so that others might eat it.

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Escaping Lockdown with WB Yeats

From his Galway tower, amid the bitterness of civil war, Yeats looked out his window at an empty starling’s nest and imagined that bees might come to settle there. A timely image, for replacing bitter dissension with bee-like co-operation is surely the path to sweetness and light.

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Sunningdale: Trundling On

Was the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973 undermined by the fundamental opposition of many unionists to sharing power with nationalists? Or was it the threat that the Council of Ireland might be a slippery slope towards a united Ireland that was decisive?

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Memories of Eavan Boland

Richard Bourke recalls meetings with Eavan Boland as a young man in the 1980s. Being in her company opened a window on intellectual life, albeit one with a quite narrow view. The culture she esteemed was exclusively literary, with pursuits like history or philosophy relegated to the margins.

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Italian Diary X

As Italy enters a new phase of its response to the coronavirus crisis, John McCourt has decided to park his diary and return to his Joyce book. Meanwhile, medics and scientists, the very people who are trying to save our lives, are being increasingly portrayed by a noisy minority as the enemy.

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IRELAND IN THE EUROPEAN EYE, GISELA HOLFTER AND BETTINA MIGGE (EDS)

A former minister for enterprise famously suggested that while Ireland was physically closer to Berlin it was spiritually, and economically, closer to Boston. As our neighbouring island prepares to push off into the North Atlantic, it is worth asking if this is still a tenable orientation for the state.

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FIVE IRISH WOMEN, BY EMER NOLAN

The following is an extract from Emer Nolan’s Five Irish Women: The second republic, 1960-2016, published this month by Manchester University Press.

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The Unstoppable Irish, by Dan Milner

The Irish in New York faced much of the same hostility from a Protestant establishment that wished to exclude them as they did at home. But eventually they came to belong, based on their service in the US army their role in maintaining law and order, their political skills, and, not least, their sheer numbers.

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Marriage and the Irish, Salvador Ryan (ed)

This fascinating miscellany comprises seventy-nine short pieces on marriage practices in Ireland over approximately 1,300 years. During this period the institution of marriage was organised around property, status, succession and, in the case of the elite, politics.

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Rogue States, by Fred Johnston

In Fred Johnston’s new collection the subject is the experience of cancer or suspected cancer. The prevailing mood is one of grim fatalism; there is no belief in the medical world doing good. This is a world without Ms Nightingales.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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 

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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’.

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