Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Reflections on Irish Writing in 2014

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Reflections on Irish Writing in 2014

Article excerpt

The context for the literary scene in Ireland in 2014 has been as follows: the recession still continues with the focus in the past few years on the introduction of two new taxes, that on property and especially that on water supply. It could seem that the latter is the last straw for many people, and the tax has led to much public agitation and position-taking by politicians. For some people it seems ludicrous, as in this climate water just keeps cascading down out of the skies, summer and winter; it is not surprising that one 2014 novel is called History of the Rain.

In spite of the recession, there is no shortage on the literary front. 2014 saw no let-up in book publications, book awards, literary festivals and conferences. The combined ACIS/CAIS (American Conference for Irish Studies/Canadian Association for Irish Studies) conference in UCD, for example, attracted a record number of participants and lovers of Irish literature from all over the globe as well as Ireland.

2014 also came in the middle of the years commemorating the founding events which led to Ireland's achievement of independence as a post-colonised state. This is proving to be a major fact of life for the citizens of Ireland, not just its historians, arts lovers and literati. John O'Callaghan describes the situation wryly: "The commemoration circus is in town and it is unlikely to break for an interval until the end of Ireland's so-called 'decade of centenaries', 2013-23" (see below). His review looks at two famous incidents of gun-running which supplied ammunition for the 1916 Rising. 2014 was also the centenary of the First World War, but I was unable to get a reviewer for books on Ireland's participation in this world-shaking combat. A 2013 novel based on the events of Ireland's War of Independence, A Nightingale Falling (PJ Curtis), was in 2014 adapted for a movie of the same name, and seen in our cinemas. It featured the events which followed the arrival of a badly-wounded Black-and-Tan officer at the home of two sisters who were the last scions of an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family, and was thus a new interpretation of the Big House motif in Irish literature.

The year also saw the millennial anniversary of a major medieval event which put a limit to the Viking invasion of Ireland: the victory of combined forces under Brian Boru in 1014 over the invaders. What was once regarded as a straightforward engagement of Irish versus Vikings we now know to have been much more complicated, as Colin Ireland's review of Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf shows.

A literary centenary, that of James Joyce's short story collection Dubliners, was commemorated in the similarly-named collection, Dubliners 100. The editor's project was to get "fifteen contemporary Irish authors 'covering' the fifteen original stories of Dubliners to mark the collection's centenary" (Morris viii). Another contemporary Dublin author, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne, here reviews the book, which adds another layer to the commentary. As the collection includes so many different authors, it seems fitting that the review should be extended.

Aside from centenaries, Joyce will always be in fashion, and the reviews include one by Tim Conley on the contemporary burning issue of the environment in his regard: Eco-Joyce. Other reviews on non-centenary topics look at the work of contemporary women poets, of a novel by a woman writer, of a critical assessment of the work of dramatist Brian Friel, and the music of the Celtic rock band Horslips.

The contributors to this work come from Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Spain, and the USA, thus showing the extent of international interest and participation in Irish literature.

To end on a optimistic note, there are many new books by well-known Irish authors due to appear in 2015: for example, works by Belinda McKeon, Christine Dwyer Hickey, John Connolly, Gavin Corbett, Kathleen MacMahon, Paul Murray, and last but far from least, Anne Enright (RTE Guide, January 3-9, 2015: 30). …

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