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

A Moment of Slackness

Pauline Hall

The characters in a 1946 collection of Mary Lavin’s stories, now republished, are cramped by the pressure to be respectable, to be of account in a narrow world, heavy with judgement. Power relations are overturned, usually irrevocably, between colleagues, siblings, husband and wife.


An Unsinkable Woman

Robert O’Byrne

In 1922, the 50-year-old Katherine Everett was despatched to see if anything could be saved from her godmother, Lady Ardilaun’s, property Macroom House. The story of her journey, the last 70 miles of it by bicycle, serves as a counterpoint to the blustery narratives of Ernie O’Malley and Tom Barry.


Our Gods and Theirs

Patrick Claffey

Religious belief has the power to define, but also to divide peoples. While it can be seen as in some respects a retrogressive force, there is no basis for the secularist view that it is on the way out. As Régis Debray put it, ‘we can no more disinvent religion than we can the atom bomb’.


The King's Man

Deirdre Serjeantson

As with the Easter Rising, there was in the early modern period more than one vision in play of Ireland’s destiny. Walter Quin, born in Dublin about 1575, was to die in 1640 “an ancient servant to the Royal family” – but in his case the royal family meant the Stuarts rather than the Habsburgs or Borghese, with whom O’Neill had lodged Ireland’s hopes. 


Head Stuck in a Book

Angela Bourke

Images of women reading offer an edge: it might be rooted in a child’s anxiety about a mother whose attention is elsewhere, but often it’s an eroticised, voyeuristic feeling that we have caught the subject unawares. Writing culture assumes “the reader” to be male.


Nordy Noir Knocks at the Door

Sharon Dempsey

Anna Burns’s Booker success drew attention to fiction about the Troubles. What irked a little, says one writer, was the ignorance of the literary establishment, as if no one had written on the topic before. Much of that writing was done in genre fiction, which may be why they were unaware of it.


Funny Ah! Aah!

Michael Hinds

To write comic fiction in a context where everything seems risible, to orchestrate chaos in the necessary fashion, you have to be incredibly smart, in the sense of that term as both verb and adjective. To be smart, your words also have to smart; to give pleasure, you must also bring pain.


The Quest for the Celt

Michael Gibbons

A major archaeological study in 1930s Ireland carried out detailed measurement of a wide range of features from a representative sample of the population, with a particular focus on the shape and size of the Irish skull and its relationship to prevailing theories of racial descent and intellectual ability.


Stoker’s Surprise Package

Martin Greene

The ‘Dracula’ author’s penultimate novel, published in 1909, is a rollicking tale of adventure, an excursion into science fiction which presciently foresees the future development of aerial warfare, an exercise in political utopianism and a vampire story which turns out to have no vampire.


Crushing Democracy

Philip O’Connor

Probably no independence movement in history, anywhere, enjoyed the overwhelming democratic mandate of the First Dáil, which was suppressed by Britain. Yet curiously the meaning of that election and of its consequences continues to be raked over and disputed.


Care and Control

Joseph Harbison

A comprehensive new history of Ireland’s largest hospital gives an account of its medieval beginnings and development through a period when the sick, who were also very often the poor, represented a category who should be cared for, but who were also often perceived as a threat.


‘Noble’ Nations, ‘Plebeian’ Nations

Andreas Hess

A comparative survey of the history of Catalonia, in its relations with Spain, and Scotland, in its relations with the United Kingdom, is erudite and eloquent, yet it fails to provide a balanced or convincing account of the recent rise of nationalist movements in either territory.


Dublin in the Wars

Padraig Yeates

Before 1914 recruitment to the British army from Belfast was often less than half that of Dublin, although the Northern city had a larger population. But Belfast was an industrial powerhouse, not a sleepy provincial backwater dependent on the production of beer and biscuits.


A Girl, Undaunted

Patricia Craig

A body in the coal hole of the Carlton Club; a strangulation with a Hermes scarf: Kate Atkinson has written a sophisticated and witty espionage novel which plays with the genre’s conventions while being partially based on a WWII spy’s memoir, a book with an unusual Irish dimension.


Flying the Net

Joseph M Hassett

Wilde, Yeats and Joyce were important to each other, and the importance of their fathers was not lost on the sons either. Yeats later wrote that Wilde ‘knew how to keep our elders in their place’. For all three writers, the appropriate place, if one wanted to breathe, was somewhere else.


Paris Destroyed, Paris Surviving

Seamus Deane

Paris has always been a moveable feast. There are many people, Parisians and others, who think the city was destroyed long before Hitler ordered it to be burned in 1944 and others who think it has been repeatedly destroyed since, in the name of renovation, development, restoration.


The Sorry Earthmen of Bohemia

Alena Dvořáková

Three recently published Czech science fiction novels – all representations of worlds that by definition do not exist –are nevertheless best understood as a more or less realistic reflection of recent Czech history and politics with a collectivist moral, albeit not a straightforward one.


Return and No Shame

Keith Payne

Maureen Boyle gives us portraits and poems of our social history, the most democratic of histories, showing us yet again –and yes, it needs to be repeated, especially to the Minister for Education – the importance of history and how it offers among so much else, a perspective, empathy and a future.


Games with the World

Catherine Ann Cullen

Poets, Ailbhe Darcy has written, should invest monstrously in their own personal mythology. Novelists build a fictional world for the space of a volume or several volumes, but the poet builds a fictional world across an entire life.


Sunny Days, Fairy Nights

Lillis Ó Laoire

A new anthology of children’s literature in Irish asks what we can learn from a study of this field on the experience of childhood in Ireland. Secondly it asks if there are any distinctive aspects of childhood to be discerned from this study that are different from those to be found in English language literature.


Though Lovers be Lost Love Shall Not

Jean O’Brien

For a writer who says she writes poetry as an aside, Anne Haverty sure packs it in; her journey takes us on a coruscating ride, tumbling with deftness, humour, irony and precision through history and Eastern Europe, with poems about vodka, life, love –and back to earth with a bump in Tipperary.


Notes from the Other Island

Patrick Duffy

The collected reports of a former Irish correspondent for British media depict a country that is notably less prosperous than it is today but one in which it seems there was always time to talk. Many things have changed since, and some, like rural depopulation, have not.


Chained to the Wheel

Colin Dardis

Louis Mulcahy is a master ceramic sculptor, and his poetry too focuses very closely on this art and craft. He wants us to understand the detail behind the obsession as well, and there are hints of regret over what it has cost him in terms of absence from the lives of others.


The Word as Trampoline

Maeve O’Sullivan

James Finnegan is a poet concerned with ideas and with ecological matters. His observant eye can zoom in to pick up details about birds, dogs, cats, horses, reindeer and even penguins. There is some dark humour at work too, as in an imagined reversal of the human-pet relationship.


Love in the Time of Austerity

Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado

An artful, nuanced take on life in post-Tiger Ireland, Sally Rooney’s Normal People is a breathtaking reflection on love and unequal exchange between two people seeking equilibrium in a time of perilous instability.


High Jinks and Down to Earth

Gerard Smyth

A poetry collection by broadcaster John Kelly is flush with acute observation and understanding, as well as sparkling felicities of imaginative detail and linguistic invention. The references range from popular culture to the natural world, with the poems marked by both gravity and wit.


A Book of Discomfort

Enda Wyley

Many people say they turn to poetry for comfort. They would be advised to avoid Jessica Traynor’s work, where death and the dead are a restless, persistent force and witches direct vicious and violent magic at men in payment for their transgressions.


Mystics and Villagers

Thomas Goggin

The Indian poems of Gabriel Rosenstock’s latest collection are populated by saints and stics and interspersed with allusions that reinforce an image of timelessness and transcendence, many exploring the no-man’s-land separating the known and the metaphysical world.


Charging Ahead

Ronan Sheehan

Kevin Kiely’s poetic aim is to manufacture insight, create a visionary moment, by hurling the elements of language together, by creating a linguistic explosion. This system works often enough to make the effort worthwhile, and more than that, a pleasure, rewarding.



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.


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.


Mind The Language

Austria became a republic in late 1918, but its democracy collapsed in the 1930s. The director of Vienna's new contemporary history museum, asked what can be learned from the First Republic, says its history teaches us that democracy is a perishable good and can be fatally weakened by a coarsening of public language.


Noises Off: Dublin’s Contested Monuments

Peter Sirr takes a walk about Dublin, looking up, sometimes looking down, at the ways in which the city has tried to commemorate its notable citizens, historical and imaginary. Statues, he finds, may be moving, may be moved elsewhere, and in extreme cases be removed by explosives.


If Brexit became ‘Lexit’

Jeremy Corbyn, who dreams of a left-wing Brexit - a ‘Lexit’ - may not share the imperial nostalgia of the Tory Brexiters but his thinking belongs to an age when the white male working class was the basis of progressive politics. That age has passed and the history that made it possible has also gone


Come back to Erin?

James Joyce’s strategy was to write as an exile from Ireland. That this exile should follow him into eternity was not part of the plan. In the early years after his death the Irish authorities displayed great hostility towards him. That has changed. Is it time to think of bringing his body home?


Liberalism Under Threat

If politics continues on its present path discourse will become entirely populist and practice increasingly totalitarian, the charismatic leader ubiquitous, elections irregular, their outcomes predictable and the concept of society invoked only in terms of security rather than social justice.


In the Beginning was the Word

Frank Hugh O’Donnell’s 'The Ruin of Education in Ireland', published in 1902, interpreted the Catholic church’s control of education as a British conspiracy to keep the Irish intellect stunted.


Out with the old, in with the new

The Irish Party, being purely a vehicle to obtain Home Rule, was much more circumscribed than a modern political party, free to champion a diversity of issues. All its eggs were in one basket. From 1900 that gave it an appearance of intellectual jadedness and left it open to competition.


Not Just Kooky

David Lynch spent five years getting Eraserhead made, from a screenplay of just twenty-one pages. One might think that only an extreme eccentric would make such efforts, but the image of Lynch as simply a kooky man is one that a new book sets out to dispel.


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.