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

Beyond the Laws

Robert Looby

Lovers of the plain, the spare, the rational should perhaps avoid Bruno Schulz, an apparently ‘modest teacher’ from a Polish provincial town in whose stories matter has infinite fecundity and we are invited to feel for a table hammered together from ‘alien races of wood that hate one another’.

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Your Tribe or Mine?

John Wilson Foster

Multiculturalism has encouraged a rollback from frank discussion, substituting carefully monitored speech in which the identity of the speaker, not the truth-value of what is said, is paramount: candid observation tends less to stimulate debate than fury and grotesquely exaggerated reaction.

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Too Dark Altogether

Angus Mitchell

The Congo Free State, a territory in which Belgium’s King Leopold II ran a hugely murderous regime of exploitation at the turn of the twentieth century, had been called ‘darkest Africa’. On this darkness, not of course innate, the campaigner ED Morel shone a strong light.

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Wilkommen go hÉirinn

Fergal Lenehan

Some people in the 1960s worried about Germans buying up Irish land. In the previous decade, however, an Irish government had set about seriously trying to attract German industry. If the immediate fruits were modest, an organisational model was established for future success.

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Rousing the People

Timothy King

Populist elements in UKIP and the Tory party in Britain have succeeded in engineering a dramatic decision the country will very probably live to regret. What would it take to get a successful populist movement in Ireland going, and what issues would it campaign on?

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Why not both?

Carmel Heaney

More and more people describe themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’. Yet perceptions of what it is to be religious have changed significantly and broadened over the last sixty years. Perhaps, for a good life, we need not just human rights culture but the Sermon on the Mount.

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A Reading from the Book of Drones

Kevin Hargaden

Marilynne Robinson is a great admirer of former president Barack Obama, and he of her. The gentle humanism they share, however, can only be accepted at face value at the cost of ignoring the civilian victims of America’s war on terror, poor people in faraway places, who it seems don’t count.

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The World I Like

Sean Finnan

Far from being a public space, the internet as shaped by social media and personalised search engines sets up a space of absolute closeness, eliminating the outside. Here one encounters oneself and one’s own life. Communal public action to effect political change could not be further away.

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The Master and his Men

Barra Ó Seaghdha

Conor Cruise O’Brien went off the rails towards the end of his career, adopting increasingly bizarre positions on Northern Ireland and uncritically supporting Israel. Few of his admirers followed him in these courses, yet for old times’ sake perhaps, they were reluctant to criticise their leader.

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Not by Brain Alone

George Sevastopulo

It is often suggested that humans’ large brains set them definitively apart from other animals. However, the most important factor in the success of Homo sapiens may well have been human culture, the ability to accumulate knowledge and adaptation skills over generations and to cooperate.

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Crossing Jordan

Bryan Fanning

Jordan Peterson argues that inequalities experienced under one political system are likely to be recreated in any alternative. Yet surely human ingenuity makes it possible to create institutions and invent social practices which allow us to depart from the determinist script.

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Nose Stuck in a Book

Siobhán Parkinson

A certain kind of child can be sceptical of the benefits of fresh air, sturdy play or hand-me-down versions of femininity or masculinity, especially when a vast and various world is within reach simply through knowing how 26 letters variously combine and which way up to hold a book.

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Not At Home

Dan A O’Brien

In Barracoon, Zora Neale Hurston’s documentary narrative from 1931 which has only now been published, the former slave Cudjo gives his children names for the old world they have left behind and the new one in which they now live. But like him, they are at home in neither.

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Dead Beat Descendants

John Fleming

Mark E Smith’s voice sounded like an anti-London weapon. The danger of his Manchester accent was quite distinct from the dense, literary ambition of his words and phrases; distinct too from the prevailing sneer of take-control-of-the-means-of-production punk and post-punk.

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Art Wars

Cormac Shine

With a new TV series and accompanying book, Mary Beard has thrown down a vigorous challenge to the late Kenneth Clark and his view of art. In fact both approaches, almost fifty years apart, have a good deal to recommend them and would benefit from being considered together.

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Greed and Good

Tom Hennigan

That Mario Vargas Llosa should champion liberal principles is scarcely surprising, given the damage wrought by rival doctrines in South America. His new study might have benefited, however, from considering the ways in which liberal politics seems to have come unstuck elsewhere.

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Them and Us

Martin Tyrrell

A classic experiment in social psychology and group antagonism now looks as if it was manipulated to produce the results required by the preceding theory. That doesn’t, however, mean the theory is wrong: if people grow up in a culture of us against them, that’s the society we will get.

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Mending, after the Fall

Enda Wyley

The idea that even if injured we keep going is at the emotional core of Mark Roper’s new collection – a book of poems which is persistent in laying bare both the pain and happiness of being alive, while always looking to the forces of the natural world for guidance.

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Home As Hell

Carlo Gébler

Tara Westover’s childhood was dominated by her father’s apocalyptic beliefs. She was born at home, and never had a birth certificate. She never went to hospital, or to a dentist, or school. Eventually she escaped, but realised that she knew nothing – or nothing that is true – about the world.

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Towards a Coalition of Hope

Fergus O’Ferrall

The Christian commitment to the core elements of a flourishing society is shared by civic republican philosophy ‑ the secular outlook which ought to underpin and shape the republic which is established in Ireland. It is time for the two to come together to provide an alternative to neo-liberalism.

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Through to Delight

Magdalena Kay

There is a sense of joy in Derek Mahon’s latest collection, which long-time readers may see as a hard-won peace with a world, and a life, that has all too often shown its undelightful side. The brightness of these visions has been earned.

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In Search of Richard Murphy

Benjamin Keatinge

Richard Murphy felt out of place in American universities, where his students equated poetry with self-expression. As Gerald Dawe has recently suggested, Murphy was always a poet of other people, whose poems are not about himself at all but about ‘others’ and their reality.

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Bleak New World

Carlo Gébler

Julian Gough’s new novel portrays a world that we are already well on the way to – one in which human concerns are very much outweighed by issues of the control of ‘tech’. It’s perhaps a problem that a certain kind of reader remains unmoved by tech and stubbornly interested in people.

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Memory and Echoes

Florence Impens

One of the delights of Leanne O’Sullivan stems from how cleverly she plays with Irish poetry, notably in her use of classical material. There are echoes here of Yeats, Longley and  Mahon, while other poems discreetly evoke Seamus Heaney’s work.

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The Ascent of Women

Ann Kennedy Smith

‘The average standard of mental power in man must be above that of women,’ Charles Darwin asserted. The opinion was perhaps surprising given the number of talented and active women he knew personally, as well as the wide-ranging social disadvantages they faced as a sex. Women working in the fields of botany, entomology and education often corresponded with the great scientist. 


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Not So Simple

Declan O’Driscoll

When a narrator declares her boredom and indifference, the danger is that this will be met with a responding yawn from an equally uninvolved reader. What maintains interest in Joanna Walsh’s work is the quality of the writing and the honesty of the insights.

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Let’s Shop

Caoilfhionn Ní Bheacháin

‘Consumer culture’ may not be as new as we think it is. Consider the ordinary Venetian oar-maker who left his widow forty-three shirts, twenty-five sheets, sixty-three tablecloths and napkins and 105 pewter plates in 1633.  And what does Harrods’ offering of a hundred models of briar pipe tell us about the consumption patterns of London gentlemen in the 1890s?

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Solace and Silliness

Keith Payne

As a poet, Iggy McGovern celebrates certainties - the certainty of the slow ticking of a public house clock, ‘a quarter-hour ahead’, the certainty of scientific exploration, of a life clearly recalled, the certainty of the BBC Home Service and of course, the certainty of ageing.

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Not So Very Different

Kevin Hjortshøj O’Rourke

There can at times be an attention-seeking particularism about Irish writing – look at us, we like to say, look how unique, and how very interesting, we are. When I was a boy, we were taught that post-independence Ireland was poor but uniquely virtuous. Today we are taught that it was poor and uniquely wicked. Both positions are misguided: we were never as different as people have made out. 

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Morsels for a Feast

Edward Clarke

Out of a few ‘crumbs’ - the greening blade of a crocus, a gnarly old olive tree, the chatter of finch, the clouds that drift aimlessly by - Mark Burrows has gathered in his new collection, like a busker in the subway or Christ in a desert place, enough to handsomely sustain us.

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Noises from Beneath

Angela Nagle

Cyberutopians promised us the Internet would bring the end of hierarchies, industry, nationalism and gender oppression. But its political claims have proven largely empty while it has continued to spawn a particularly vicious male geek culture of obscenity and misogyny. Nagle’s essay, published in 2013, introduced themes which were later to be developed in her very successful book Kill All Normies (2017).

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Oral Culture and Popular Autonomy

Brian Earls

William Carleton at times conceived of his great narrative enterprise as a form of naive ethnography, asserting that his stories contained more “facts” about Ireland than any previously published work. His sources were multiple, his sea of story extending from refracted folktales, via Victorian melodrama, to the most commonplace clichés of commercial fiction and, indeed, improving tales. At its heart are the narratives and other oral forms of the pre-famine Irish countryside. 

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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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Out of the Dark

The McGaherns lived in a poor, rickety house in the middle of a field. All that is left now is a rusty gate in a prickly hedge and an empty, rushy meadow. It is extraordinary to think that out of this remote and unpromising place came a great writer and literature of world renown.

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He'll Light the Fire

Graham Nash, transported from the 60s pop band The Hollies and the cold rain of Manchester to the sun of California and a role in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY), visits Dublin this week. His songs, well aged in the bottle, are like a shaft of sunlight into dark times.

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A Funny Old Game

English and Russian fans may have kicked and punched one another and smashed windows at the Euros in Marseille in 2016, but rival Irish and Belgian fans staged such a funny joint street party in Bordeaux that mayor Alain Juppé called them ‘a disgrace to hooliganism’.

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Every third thought will be my grave

Philip Roth once said of fellow writers Saul Bellow and John Updike: ‘[they] hold their flashlights out into the world, [and] reveal the world as it is now. I dig a hole and shine my flashlight into the hole.’ There is no hole that Roth digs better throughout his fiction than a grave.

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In the Double City

Dublin, says Peter Sirr, has never bothered much with Thomas Street; it seems to exist in a state of permanent neglect, many of its fine old buildings on the brink of collapse. Yet it survives, tough, resolute, working class, with a bohemian sprinkle of cafés near the art college like a daub of icing on a crumbling cake.

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Philip Roth: 1933-2018

After Bernard Malamud (d 1986), Joseph Heller (1999), Saul Bellow (2005), John Updike (2009) and JD Salinger (2010), the death of Philip Roth removes from the scene the last of those great postwar American novelists who combined huge literary credibility with a large popular readership.

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Heart and Head

Seventy years ago this week an important congress on the future of Europe was held in The Hague. Some of the fracture lines which then existed still operate today. Britain's role at the event was particularly interesting.

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Slipping the Mortal Coil

Mark O'Connell has won the Wellcome Prize for his book on 'transhumanism', a movement which seeks to harness technology to enable us to jettison our bodies of flesh, blood and bone and upload our brains to eternal life.

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What country, friends, is this?

All the world’s a stage, the words you are hearing may well mean more than they seem to do, and what looks like the battlefield of Agincourt in northern France in 1415 could just as well be Ireland in 1599 ‑ or even 1943.

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Why Marx? Why now?

Marx and Engels were represented on the banners of Soviet-era May Day parades as two imposing greybeards. But Marx, born almost 200 years ago, had a restless and revolutionary mind, schooled by ‘relentless erudition’. A conference in Maynooth next month celebrates his legacy.

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Pierre Milza, historian: 1932-2018

Pierre Milza was a specialist in the history of fascism, which he saw as a distinct form of political extremism and mass mobilisation, largely confined to a particular time and a particular set of circumstances.

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The human right to claptrap

If we want children to be told only things that are true, we have a lot of work ahead of us, particularly at this time of year. But can we find sufficient sustenance, as children or as adults, in a diet that confines our imaginations to what is demonstrably verifiable?

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A Servant of the State

Frank Callanan spoke recently in commemoration of the state’s first minister for justice, Kevin O’Higgins, who was murdered in 1927 by rogue members of the IRA and the dominant theme of whose career was the primacy of civil government.

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The Toad Work

The discovery of agriculture was the original curse that turned humanity away from its idyllic hunter-gatherer existence. No one is quite sure how it got started. Was it a series of unfortunate accidents or perhaps the work of some obsessive Mark Zuckerberg type?

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A Half-National Treasure

Jonathan Swift is regarded with some pride as being one of the most notable of Ireland’s long line of great writers. The man himself however would have preferred to have been considered an Englishman – though he did the Irish people some service.

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Art For All

In a long career as art historian and arts administrator, Kenneth Clark exhibited a constant commitment to the idea that ‘high culture’ should be available to the widest possible audience. His traditionalist approach did not please everyone, but that did not faze him in the slightest.

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Stroke City

Ireland’s fifth-largest city has many attractions – a broad river, a beautiful natural situation enclosed by hills, a resilient and humorous population, and two names, one for each section of the community.

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New Books

Irish Literature

Featuring a full chapter extract from The Abode of Fancy by Sam Coll and a poem from Paula Meehan's new collection, Geomantic.

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World Literature

Featuring 2016 Man Booker Prize winner Paul Beatty's The Sellout.

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Irish History & Politics

Featuring Hell at the Gates, in which Brian Cowen, the late Brian Lenihan, Eamon Ryan, Micheál Martin, Mary Harney and many others recount in their own words the inside story behind the government's infamous bailout.

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World History & Politics

Featuring Final Solution, David Cesarani's sweeping reappraisal challenging the accepted explanations for the anti-Jewish politics of Nazi Germany.

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Irish Culture, Philosophy & Science

Featuring Paul Howard's I Read the News Today, Oh Boy, the extraordinary story of the young Irishman who was immortalized for ever in the opening lines of the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life'.

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World Culture, Philosophy & Science

Featuring Loose Canon: The Extraordinary Songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin, an exploration of the lyrics and tunes that have won Clive James and his musical partner, Pete Atkin, a fanatical cult following.

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Ireland 1912 - 1922

Featuring Wherever the Firing Line Extends, Ronan McGreevey's study of the places where the Irish made their mark in World War I and are remembered in the monuments, cemeteries and landscapes of France and Flanders.

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More New Books ...