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

Silver Linings

Patricia Craig

Michele Roberts, the acclaimed author of twenty-five books, was rather put out when her new novel was rejected. For a year, she wrote a diary as an exercise in recuperation. The result is more joyous than jaundiced, something bright and exhilarating wrested from discomposure and dismay.

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The Unknown Eileen

Martin Tyrrell

Had Eileen O’Shaughnessy not taken up with George Orwell, she might have found success, if not fame, in her own right, possibly as an academic or a child psychologist. Her loss was to be his gain, something neither he nor most of his biographers have properly taken on board.

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A Modern Utopian

Bryan Fanning

Dominic Cummings favours government guided by experts trained in mathematics and scientific thinking. This idea of epistocracy, rule by those who know, is emerging at a time when the right no longer trusts global free markets and politics have considerably dumbed down.

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You Lose Again

George O’Brien

If country music is three chords and the truth, that truth seems to be couched in a comprehensive, many-shaded rhetoric of subjection, filled with stories of misguided departures, wrong turnings, the weakness of the flesh and, especially, how bad it hurts to feel alone.

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The China in Us

Alena Dvořáková

Is ‘pragmatism’ toward China really a permission Europeans give themselves to revert to uses of power that are an inherent part of European history? Can the economic exploitation that produces clusters of infection in meat-processing plants and the suicides at Foxconn factories be linked?

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The White Raven

Pádraig Murphy

Carl Schmitt, close to the authoritarians von Schleicher and von Papen, may have thought he would become indispensable in the new Germany as a useful legal expert. But Hitler, once in power, cared nothing for its legal basis, and still less for the intellectuals who trafficked in such matters.

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The Struggles of Old Zeus

Gerald Dawe

Is art predicated upon the artist’s psychology? Is the cost of high achievement inevitably a compromise with mental health and the destruction of human bonds? Robert Lowell believed his creativity was inevitably tied to feelings of drowning, that there was some ‘flaw in the motor’.

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The Political Anatomy of a Crime

Alice Stevens

Every conflict in Latin America is, at the heart of it, about land. Land tenure is vital in a region where such a large portion of the population is comprised of small farmers. Without much of a social safety net, land ownership is often the only security against starvation.

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Freedom’s Just Another Word

Joe Cleary

There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that rock music was foundationally both socially liberal and economically neoliberal from the mid-70s onwards. The social liberalism may have been most evident in the music, the neoliberalism in the media infrastructures that carried it.

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Roads Both Taken

Sean Sheehan

Novelist William Gibson likes to throw you into the narrative and semiotic deep end of two worlds in which history has bifurcated. Learning to navigate involves slow reading and getting your head around new concepts and associated lexicons, but it is worth the effort.

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Succeeding in Solitude

Luke Warde

In 2014, the French writer Sylvain Tesson fell some ten metres while trying to scale the side of a friend’s home. The accident not only left him with lasting physical ailments; it also transformed him from enthusiastic global tourist to philosopher and aesthete of solitude.

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The Hard Life

Ann Kennedy Smith

When he agreed to allow her to be his biographer Samuel Beckett told Deirdre Bair that his friends would help her and his enemies would also surely seek her out. She was to find that while Beckett was honourable if elusive, it could be hard to tell his friends and enemies apart.

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Talk about a Revolution

Kevin Power

Fresh from Leaving Cert English, I wondered why so many of my university lecturers seemed more interested in overturning bourgeois liberalism than in reading novels. If what you really wanted was to be a revolutionary, why had you become a professor of English?

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Time to Strike Out?

Rory Montgomery

That the EU functions as well as it does is an everyday miracle, made possible by an ingrained culture of compromise and commitment to ‘a shared Europe’. But from a basis of cautious pragmatism, there have also been times when the Union has deemed it essential to take a major step forward.

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History in a Shoebox

Katrina Goldstone

The fashion writer Hadley Freeman came upon a shoebox when rummaging through her grandmother’s wardrobe. The past it hinted of led her on a hunt through the archives that eventually uncovered the tragic and inspiring history of her Jewish family’s experiences in wartime France.

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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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Great Upheavals, Small Triumphs

Amanda Bell

John McAuliffe’s work is often associated with domestic spaces. In his new collection a number of poems are focused on gardens and interiors, and seem wary about what is going on elsewhere - even a robin in the garden, ‘tussling with something … small for practice’.

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Ordinary Romance

Brenna Katz Clarke

Anne Tyler’s twenty-third novel is her shortest to date, a concerto rather than a symphony, she has conceded. Her hero, brought up in a chaotic family, values order and routine and thinks social contact unimportant, but he discovers that it is more important than he thought.

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Into the West

Susan McKeever

From Killary to Barna, Salthill to Inisbofin, a collection of twenty short stories gathered from Galway city and county evokes the unique spirit, atmosphere and salty tang of the western city and county perched on the windswept edge of the Atlantic.

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Not Gone Away

Peter Hain

While many commentators would argue that Sinn Féin should be awarded the prize for actually advancing traditional republican objectives over recent decades, the ‘purists’ or ‘dissidents’ who call them traitors are still with us. And will be for some time to come, a new study argues.

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Colour Coding

Brian Cosgrove

In Cauvery Madhavan’s novel, May Twomey and her brother Gerry are the ‘Anglo-Indian’ descendants of an Irish soldier in the British army. A little like the Anglo-Irish – neither one thing nor the other – they feel somewhat outside society, once not white enough and now not brown enough.

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Death By Water

Ross Moore

As poet laureate of Amsterdam, Menno Wigman took part in a scheme to memorialise in verse those in the city who had died alone. It seems an apt scheme for a poet whose work is marked by a particularly humane and democratic sensibility.

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Narratives Real and Surreal

Tim Murphy

The poems in Miriam Gamble’s new collection show her to be a truly imaginative writer: in ‘Plume’, the creamy-white heads of meadowsweet are compared to the ‘creamy wigs’ of the 18th century, to ‘the shape of Scotland’, and to fat gathered in the top of old-school milk bottles.

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Light, Dark

Neil Hegarty

In the world of Baret Magarian’s short stories, the consumption and commodification of late capitalism are examined coldly and found wanting. His characters crave worldly success, but there is a lesson to be learned: such contexts of luxury are invariably revealed as unstable.

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The Dying of the Light

Maura O’Kiely

After months of being diminished, pared away piece by piece, the young French woman in the hospice is brought into the garden, where she is replenished by nothing more technical than honeysuckle, bees and a blue vault of sky. She is growing while dying, before her doctor’s eyes.

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From Little Marseille

Afric McGlinchey

A generation of poets in Cork in the 1970s came under the charismatic influence of John Montague. Although he had the holy status of an ‘Ulster poet’ he was to direct his students’ attention towards American, British and European models rather than the domestic product.

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For the Desert Air

Thomas McCarthy

Was Ethna MacCarthy intimidated by brilliant male friends? Or was she, as an haut bourgeois Catholic, simply too well brought-up to follow her own literary ambition in this rollicking tide of masculinities? The posthumous publication of her verse shows how much we have been missing.

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Rue For You

Amanda Bell

Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel historical novel is set in Shakespeare’s England, in a time of plague, a time when the playwright himself suffered bereavement with the death of his son Hamnet. The novel interprets the tragedy ‘Hamlet’, written a few years later, as a study in loss.

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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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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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Truth Above Everything

He was a champion sprinter, a member of the Irish Volunteers and a gun-runner, a supreme court judge, a translator of Immanuel Kant, a playwright and the author of a whimsical novel in which a group of intellectuals discuss philosophy and Irish politics and communicate by radio with Mars.

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Sunningdale and the Council of Ireland: an Exchange

Hugh Logue takes issue with a recent review by John Swift which he says misrepresents his views, as a prominent SDLP representative at the time, on the function of the Council of Ireland, part of the Sunningdale settlement of 1973. John Swift responds.

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Italian Diary IX

What we are all missing at this time is not so much the extraordinary ‑ those occasional escapes from the rhythms and habits of our daily lives ‑ but the ordinary and the everyday. When, for example, will we next sit down with friends in a pub and make a hole in a pint of stout?

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Blighted

The disease which arrived in Ireland in the 1840s did not attack humans, yet it led to the death of one million individuals. It was politics, not natural causes, which brought about this catastrophe. A grim twelve decades of consequence followed.

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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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