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

Alarms and Excursions

Sean Sheehan

John Ruskin may be little known today, but his warnings about the effects of industrial pollution in the Victorian age still read well, while his writings and observations on art on his trips to Italy, and particularly Venice and Padua, have been hugely influential.

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The Valley Has Decided

Farrel Corcoran

Big tech sees a future in which ‘applied utopistics’ will monitor, and monetise, every human activity. With their deep pockets and considerable political clout, nothing will stand in their way, not governments or regulators, and certainly not any old-fashioned notions of privacy or human dignity.

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On the Side of the Angels

Patricia Craig

Polly Devlin was raised in rural Tyrone, on the shores of Lough Neagh. But at twenty she was wafted into British high society by way of a job with ‘Vogue’. Her latest, splendidly written collection, treads judiciously between candour and reticence in what adds up to a kind of oblique autobiography.

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Think first, then act

Eddie Lewis

It is unlikely that we will find any single solution to Ireland’s housing crisis. The aim of the decision-makers in the short term should be to do what they can to manage the current crisis while at the same time preparing a way for a longer-term reform of the housing system.

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Enter MacMorris

Patricia Palmer, David J Baker, Willy Maley

A new project underwritten by the Irish Research Council seeks to fill in blanks in our knowledge of early modern Ireland and to provide a full-screen, surround-sound account of a rich and complex culture on the brink of transformation in all its linguistic and cultural complexity.

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Don’t Look Up

Kevin Duff

A resort to high-rise has been suggested as a means to solve Dublin’s planning and housing problems. But there are better solutions, including the conversion of free space above city centre shops and the reconfiguration, for greater population density, of the twentieth century suburbs.

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The Limits of Empathy

Henry Patterson

A historian specialising in political violence argues that understanding terrorism requires empathetic analysis. But scepticism over the claims of the creators of victims to be ‘working for peace’ need not derive from a desire for vengeance: it could as easily signal a respect for truth.

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Life Without the Neighbours

Daniel Keohane

Brexit is potentially a triple existential challenge for Ireland: for the peace process, for UK-Ireland relations and for our EU membership. This combination of factors might help explain why the other EU governments have not ‘thrown Ireland under a bus’ despite all the noise at Westminster.

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The Polariser

Frank Callanan, Niall Meehan, Philip O’Connor

He was the most important Irish intellectual of the twentieth century, though he got many things wrong, some of them in the pursuit of consistency. Or he was a renegade who went back on every progressive view he had championed in his earlier life. Two views of Conor Cruise O’Brien heard at a recent debate.

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We’re All Hot Now

Caroline Hurley

In April 1986, reactor No 4 at Chernobyl in north Ukraine exploded, spewing radioactive flames and gases high into the air. An estimated dispersal of 50 million curies of radiation was later revised upward to 200 million, equivalent to releases from four bombs like the one dropped on Hiroshima.

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The Second Time as Romance

Thomas Earls FitzGerald

The Crimean War increased Napoleon III’s prestige but France gained nothing from it in the long term. His invasion of Mexico was a ridiculous and pointless fiasco. If Bonaparte can be regarded as a child of the eighteenth century Enlightenment, his nephew was the child of nineteenth century Romanticism.

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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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Made to Measure?

Paul O’Mahoney

Data-gathering and metrics have come to rule modern medicine, with the results of the former often being sold on to the ‘medical-industrial complex’. Meanwhile real doctoring, like life, is messy and uncertain. And surely humans are about something more than their value as data and a desire to live as long as possible?

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The Necessary Details

Kevin Stevens

As Robert Caro tells us in what may be the greatest political biography of modern times, President Lyndon Johnson marshalled incredible resources, including a willingness to lie, cheat and steal at the highest level, in the service of an ambitious and noble programme of reform.

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The Cat’s Pounce

Catherine Marshall

Linda Nochlin considers one interpretation after another of Courbet’s ‘The Painter’s Studio’. Teasing her prey, she draws out successive meanings, delivering stylish and brilliant asides on the social, intellectual, political and art-historical context, until finally she moves in for the kill.

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Well Bless Your Heart!

Maura O’Kiely

If you want to be a Southern lady and reach the summit of flowery femininity and thoughtful, gracious manners, there are a few things to master: how to bestow a sharp-edged compliment and when not to wear pearls. But above all never be seen chewing gum, because that’s just cheap.

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Collateral Damage

Enda O’Doherty

Thomas Niedermayer was a German factory manager whose plant brought much-needed jobs to West Belfast. A new book tells the story of his death at the hands of the IRA, and places it in the context of an armed campaign which was certain it would prevail but eventually had to settle for a lot less.

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Waiting to live

Dan A O’Brien

The Nigerian-Irish writer Melatu Uche Okorie writes from a situation between two worlds, the migrant’s ever-present dilemma of here and there, but with the added complication that many of her stories are set in that particular purgatory the direct provision centre.

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Endings and Beginnings

Enda Wyley

Patrick Deeley’s poems highlight mankind’s wilful destruction of the natural world, and yet he is also able to see the lark, hatching a clutch of scribble-marked eggs, in the rusted exhaust of an old tractor in a sawmill.

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Putting Flesh on the Archive

Keith Payne

In a world of interminable newsfeeds and yet also of historical amnesia, there is perhaps no more defiant an act than remembering. Rachael Hegarty’s thirty-three ballads give each of the victims of the Monaghan and Dublin bombings of 1974 a poem where they can live again.

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With Cú Chulainn, against democracy

Proinsias Ó Drisceoil

Standish O’Grady wanted the Ascendancy – both gentry and aristocracy ‑ to take on a role of leadership in Ireland, modelling themselves on the Gaelic heroes. Later he was to embrace syndicalism ‑ anything to block an emerging democracy with peasant proprietorship at its core.

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Out of the Frying Pan

Tony Flynn

Kevin grows up in a harsh world. His father died when he was just four, and he can see his brother being dragged into a life of crime, yet for all this, he has a grounding in empathy that protects him. He may be in a hot spot, but he will not in the end succumb to the fire.

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Urban Myths

Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado

There are – at least – two sides to everything. Jan Carson’s new novel skilfully blends magic realism, absurdism and surrealism to explore the complexities of Northern Ireland’s ‘post-conflict’ society, and how this hyphenated existence holds the past and present in dangerous tension.

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When All This is Over

Lucy Collins

Jane Clarke has written a sequence of poems exploring the First World War, using letters and photographs drawn from the Auerbach family archive. She has produced a book of great concentration and intelligence, which captures the life of a young soldier and his sister and asks fundamental questions about empathy.

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Followed by Silence

Kerri ní Dochartaigh

Seán Hewitt’s work takes the natural world and unearths it from the places in which we so keenly try to entomb it. He brings us that little bit closer to ourselves, the deeper into the work we go; in doing so we are more in the world than when we entered.

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Fernweh, Sehnsucht, Brame

Amanda Bell

Solitary travelling in remote places can be dangerous, particularly for a woman. But what is the alternative? Stay at home and never go anywhere? ‘It’s that thought,’ writes journalist and traveller Rosita Boland, 'the one of involuntary stasis, that has always filled me with genuine fear.’

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What’s That Racket?

Declan O’Driscoll

A Croatian dog writes about the loud love-making that is repeatedly heard in his apartment block at night, ‘the little acoustic scandal that has been rocking our neighbourhood’. But really he wants to talk about love and loyalty. No creature feels rejection more than a dog.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Wisdom Builds Itself a House

Sitting at a laptop, for all that our curious fingers flit across cyberspace, confines us to our private space. We need the opportunity to wander and discover and be let loose among the materiality of paper and physical buildings. Peter Sirr writes on libraries, theft and the clutches of Hades.

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On not being reached

It is more than twenty years since the mobile phone first burst - or brrred – its way into our lives. Initially, in Dublin at any rate, it was not regarded as a marvel. Rather it was customary for everyone else in the pub to stare coldly at the recipient of the call, who if he had any decency would blush and hurry towards the exit.

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Elephant? What elephant?

Jeremy Corbyn does not recognise the nature of the Brexit national division, nor does he see that it cannot be understood in the language of class division. This failure is hardly surprising, as he comes from a tradition where pretty much everything can be explained in that language.

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What’s your problem?

There are characters, George Eliot wrote, who continually create collisions for themselves in dramas of their own imagination which no one is prepared to act with them: ‘their susceptibilities will clash against objects that remain innocently quiet.’ It’s called unrequited love.

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Shop Girls, High and Low

The arrival of the department store at the end of the nineteenth century gave birth to a new social actor, the shop girl specialising in sales. Exploitation, of more than one kind, remained, but here was a figure with more pride and independence than the traditionally heavily oppressed grocery employee.

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First catch your hare

Strangely bored on a weekend in the country in the late 1940s with an old lover rediscovered, Elizabeth David’s thoughts turned to apricots and olives, lemons, oil and almonds. In grey, rainy, puritanical England one didn’t mention such things. Hell, they were dirty words!

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War is peace, freedom is slavery ... left is right?

Seventy years ago Fred Warburg published 'Nineteen Eighty-four', which he saw as a deliberate attack on socialism and socialist parties generally and 'worth a cool million votes to the Conservative Party'. He can't have known George Orwell all that well.

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The French Are Different

In Ireland we like to have a good bunch of Independents, on top of the usual political parties, to choose from. In France they like having a huge variety of parties, and behind them any number of political clubs, currents, think tanks and factions. It’s the ideas, you see: they’re mad for the ideas.

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The Politics of Good Intentions

The ‘shared community’ that Alliance champions in Northern Ireland is unlikely to come into being, but the existence of divisions provides a fertile ground for a politics of good intentions that, while it cannot alter fundamental political differences, provides the basis for a third form of identity politics.

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The Costs of Technology

A tradesman’s demand for a fee that seemed exorbitant led ‘The Irish Penny Magazine’ back in 1840 to muse on the relative value of slaves in America and the children of the poor in Ireland.

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LP Curtis Jnr: 1932-2019

Lewis Perry Curtis, one of the leading twentieth century historians of modern Ireland, taught at Princeton, Berkeley and Brown universities and published important books on land reform, landlordism and eviction and racial stereotyping of the Irish, both in Britain and the United States.

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Why the long face?

He was one of the richest men in Venice. His ships were everywhere on the seas, bringing silks and spices from the east home and then on to the markets of northern Europe. He had money, he had respect, he had friends. So why wasn’t he happy?

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Who are the Irish?

In the nineteenth century many Irish Protestants, like Barack Obama’s ancestor Fulmouth Kearney, a shoemaker from Co Offaly, continued to emigrate to America. Others with a Catholic background became Protestant, such as Ronald Reagan, brought up in the faith of his Presbyterian mother.

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A Timely Death

The great Austrian writer Joseph Roth fled Germany in 1933 to take refuge in Paris, from which haven he never tired of attacking the Nazis. He was fortunate enough to die, eighty years ago today, before German forces and their repressive apparatus entered the city.

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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.

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Eastward Ho!

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

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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.

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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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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?

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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, 

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