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

Our Language, Their Babble

Michael Cronin
German concentration and extermination camps were run by the speakers of one language but inhabited by speakers of many others. Interpretation became necessary to both sides. Linguistic skills helped some inmates to survive, but the deployment of these skills could involve a cost.
Oct 6, 2017, 13:49 PM

The High Deeds of Fionn

Síle Ní Mhurchú
The historical institution of the ‘fían’, on which the Fianna tales are based, provided an outlet for young free-born men, allowing them to improve their hunting and fighting skills. It was, however, seen by the church as a disruptive force, given to robbery and plundering.
Oct 6, 2017, 13:46 PM

The Way It Is

Jon Smith
The Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard has admitted that he dislikes plots and feels oppressed by fictions. Writing, for him, is rather ‘a matter of trying somehow to reach the real life, how it tastes and feels. And there’s no story in real life. More than anything, stories stand in the way.’
Oct 6, 2017, 13:41 PM

The Republican Journey

Thomas Fitzgerald
A new study presents a largely sympathetic history of the Provisional Republican Movement as it has gradually moved away from violence and increased its electoral base. It also gives space – and sympathy – to the views of the dissidents, which is both a strength and a weakness.
Oct 5, 2017, 17:53 PM

So Many Haters

Michael Hinds
Plato did not hate poetry, though he wished to ban poets from the ideal Republic. In such a state you would not want to let it hold sway, even if in a real one it has its critical power and function. In an ideal Republic of course, you would not feel like a drink after a day’s work ...
Oct 5, 2017, 17:39 PM

Picking Up The Pieces

Joe Breen
Bruce Springsteen’s memoir pulses with intensity and insight born of hours on the psychiatrist’s couch, covering his blue-collar Catholic background, the gruelling tour schedules and recording sessions, the initial paltry returns, then the king’s ransom when luck and labour chime.
Oct 5, 2017, 17:34 PM

Ordinary Brutalities

Gavin Foster
A new study of the Civil War period argues that intimidation was a commonplace weapon deliberately employed by republicans, their supporters, and others to expel vulnerable ‘out-groups’. But how such victimised groups should be defined or categorised is not always clear.
Oct 5, 2017, 17:22 PM


Tom Wall
Many young Irishmen went to sea on British vessels in the 1930s. After the outbreak of war some were captured by the Germans, imprisoned and often harshly treated. Though eventually efforts were made to help them, for a long time they seemed to be an embarrassment to the Irish government.
Oct 5, 2017, 17:16 PM

The View from the Veranda

Eoin Dillon
Africa may be said to have two public spheres. In the air-conditioned office visiting officials from the World Bank or the IMF conduct their business. But the veranda is where most Africans do business, transact politics and live their lives. The elite is comfortable in both spaces.
Oct 5, 2017, 17:13 PM

A Study of Scarlet

Catherine Marshall
Michel Pastoureau’s account of the history of the colour red is in many respects fascinating. But what worked well for his previous studies of black, blue and green comes up a little short for red, a colour which is oceanic and in whose multiplicity of meanings one might well drown.
Oct 5, 2017, 17:08 PM

Mother of Invention

Mary Morrissy
Éilís Ní Dhuibne is a deceptive writer, deceptively light in tone, deceptively erudite in her references, deceptively irreverent in her treatment of form. Her literariness betrays itself when she pulls the narrative rug from under the reader and in her likeness for embroideries and yarns.
Oct 5, 2017, 16:55 PM

Making Waves

Patricia Craig
A novel set on Rathlin Island at the end of the nineteenth century takes as its subject the arrival of Marconi’s men to conduct an experiment transmitting sound across the sea. It derives its considerable force from the conjunction of archaism and modernity, the clash of material and immaterial forces.
Oct 5, 2017, 16:47 PM


Peter Sirr
Mark Granier’s poems are full of skies and hauntings, the missing, the dead, time’s erasures, ‘the slow shift of light’, the closely observing eye lighting on the city and where the city meets light and water and sky. He is, as one poem has it, an eternal ‘cloud watcher, seawatcher’.
Oct 5, 2017, 16:42 PM

Circuitry of the Snowflake

Florian Gargaillo
The late Elise Partridge’s poems dealing with her cancer note that blurred vision can be a side effect of treatment. Yet even blurred vision - the alphabet letters b and d made out as ‘beer-bellied cousins’ – can for a poet mean enhanced vision, and seeing anew through metaphor and analogy.
Oct 5, 2017, 16:32 PM

A Bhealach Féin

Ronan Sheehan
The writer and thinker Desmond Fennell has spent nearly seven decades searching for ways in which we – the Irish that is, but not just the Irish – might live a civilised and decent life. If we had already been close to being able to live such a life there would have been no need for the search.
Oct 5, 2017, 14:21 PM

Hunger Amid Plenty

Margaret Smith
By late 1846 there were 1,207 inmates in Tralee workhouse and families were being turned away, even though they met the admission criteria. In 1847 the famine worsened, yet the wealthy continued to celebrate festive occasions like the Tralee races with lavish dinners and balls.
Oct 5, 2017, 14:07 PM