Short Stories, Novels and Spain. an Interview with Colm Toibin

By Fernandez, Jose Francisco | Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies, Annual 2009 | Go to article overview

Short Stories, Novels and Spain. an Interview with Colm Toibin


Fernandez, Jose Francisco, Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies


Colm Toibin (Enniscorthy, 1955) is the author of five novels, The South (1990), The Heather Blazing (1992), The Story of the Night (1996), The Blackwater Lightship (1999) and The Master (2004). This last novel won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Los Angeles Times Novel of the Year, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger for the best foreign novel published in 2005 in France, and it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Colm Toibin has a long career in journalism and was the editor of the magazine Magill from 1982 to 1985. He is also the author of several non-fiction books, including Homage to Barcelona (1990) and The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe (1994). He edited The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction (1999) and has recently published his first book of short stories, Mothers and Sons (2006). Colm Toibin attended the 10th International Conference on the Short Story in English, held at University College Cork on 19-21 June 2008, where this interview took place.

Colm Toibin (Enniscorthy, 1955) es autor de cinco novelas: The South (1990), The Heather Blazing (1992), The Story of the Night (1996), The Blackwater Lightship (1999) y The Master (2004). Su ultima novella gano el Premio Literario IMPAC Dublin, la Novela del Ano del Angeles Times, el Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger a la mejor novela extranjera publicada en Francia en el 2005, y fue preseleccionada para el premio Man Booker Prize. Colm Toibin cuenta con una larga carrera en el periodismo y fue editor de la revista Magill de 1982 a 1985. Tambien es autor de varios libros de ensayo, incluyendo Homage to Barcelona (1990) y The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe (1994). Edito el volumen The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction (1999) y recientemente ha publicado su primer libro de relatos, Mothers and Sons (2006). Colm Toibin asistio al 10[degrees] Congreso Internacional sobre el relato corto en ingles, que se celebro en University College Cork del 19-21 de junio de 2008, donde se desarrollo esta entrevista.

Q: There is an established myth about the Irish character and the telling of stories. Do you feel the oral tradition informing your stories or the stories of other Irish writers?

A: I wish I could say that it makes no difference at all, because I think it's overmentioned that somehow Irish people are naturally writers, because it comes somehow from the culture of story-telling in a way that, say, people who write in Germany or France or England are more civilised and their writing comes from a more literary source. But, and I think this is very important, when you are young in Ireland you learn very quickly not to bore people, and it's one of the great things to know as a writer, when the story must be interesting and when it must stop; how to manipulate the story. If you're a child in a large family and your aunt comes to visit, you would watch her doing it quite early, unless she is a terrible bore, and if she's a terrible bore that is the worst thing she could be. Her morals could be bad, and no one would mind that so much, or she could be smelly, no one would mind. But if she's boring, that would be really dreadful. I had a large extended family and some of them would come to the house and it wouldn't be formal story-telling, they'd just talk, but the talk would be interesting.

You learned that naturally, and you also learned that talk was a form of disguise. People often didn't talk at all about what was most important to them. So that you learned to know that talk wasn't a way of telling people about yourself, but it is often the way of disguising yourself and so I suppose then you began to read, and when I began to read Camus, or Kafka or Hemingway I couldn't work with the system which says all the time that those stories of Hemingway's are full of silences, full of what is not being revealed, and the end of the story is ambiguous. That's something I recognised and knew and couldn't work with, but I don't think it's true to say that there is a continuous line between an old Irish oral tradition and a current Irish literary tradition. …

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