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

Directions to the Undiscovered Country

Paul O’Mahoney

We may, rather prosaically, describe death as an adverse health outcome. Or we may prefer to think the deceased has gone on the way of truth, ‘ar shlí na fírinne’. Whichever view we embrace, it’s something that will happen to us all.


Believe in the Movement

Marc Mulholland

The young Eric Hobsbawm was intoxicated by the ‘stern discipline’ the revolutionary organisation demanded of its adherents. ‘Ground yourself in Leninism,’ he admonished himself in his diary. The communist militant had to be ‘totally unscrupulous and outrageously flexible’.


Freezing and Melting

Patricia Craig

More women than you might think have seen fit over the centuries to wander out, in good thick skirts or other climate-appropriate attire in the most far-flung of places. Most of the rest of us have preferred to stay at home, cosy and safe, reading of the savage beasts and strange peoples they encountered.


The Fire Next Time?

George O’Brien

When Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, and Hunter S Thompson were in their prime a type of writing flourished that called to account the complacencies and evasions of public life. Since the Reagan years, it seems, it’s been bedtime for gonzo. But now Ben Fountain renews our hope.


A Little More Than Religion

Mary Jones

Catholic and Protestant are routinely employed in Northern Ireland as labels denoting ethno-nationalist divisions which date back centuries. But the divisions have little enough to do with theology, deriving more from distinct relations to land, power and political legitimacy.


Betrayal as an Act of Faith

Sean Sheehan

Gerard Manley Hopkins’s rejection of Anglicanism to seek truth in the teachings of the Roman church shared many features with another ‘betrayal’ which happened seventy years later, that of the so-called Cambridge spies, who abandoned capitalism for the ‘alien creed’ of communism.


Resisting Populism

Breandán Mac Suibhne

Actor, journalist, Fenian activist, historian, victim of police brutality, and, latterly, lawyer and lobbyist Gus Costello wrote with sympathy of the plight of African Americans in the ‘draft riots’ of 1863, a conflict featuring Irishmen on both sides, as police protectors and as members of the mob.


Loving and Losing

Ann Kennedy Smith

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne has written a moving memoir of her affair and subsequent marriage with the Swedish folklorist Bo Almqvist, who died in 2013. Life with a divorced man old enough to be her father might not have been the story she would have written for herself, but it led to a long and happy marriage.


What’s Hecuba to Him?

John Wilson Foster

In his polemic on Brexit, Fintan O’Toole offers a biographical caricature of a political decision as a man ‑ a white man, a middle-aged or elderly man, an angry man, a racist man, finally a straw man. What lies behind the anger and scorn? Could it be a fear of losing something?


#MeToo is Nothing New

Casey Lawrence

James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, published nearly a century ago, featured the themes of sexual harassment, both in Leopold Bloom’s possible relationship with the servant Mary Driscoll and in Molly’s adultery with Blazes Boylan, which seems more motivated by his power over her career than affection.


Hating Jonathan Franzen

Kevin Power

Privileged, pretentious, arrogant, self-indulgent, mediocre, male, white. Those who dislike Franzen certainly don’t hold back. Is it the writing, or that he serves as a handy embodiment of a currently popular bogeyman: the smug elitist who disparages mass culture in the name of a snootily exclusive ‘tradition’?


Where Yesterday Haunts Tomorrow

Alena Dvořáková

A lively account based on the fluctuating fortunes of one Russian-Armenian family illuminates the varying impact of large-scale historical developments in specific locations and on people of different ethnicities, religions and cultures. The Soviet Union, it becomes clear, was far from an undifferentiated monolith.


Of Gardens and their Spirit

Brandon C Yen

Apart from the appeal of beauty and the medicinal or alimentary uses of plants, gardens reflect humanity’s attempt to understand its place in the world and to regain an edenic sense of belonging. As such, gardening is a pursuit that crosses national, cultural, ethnic and linguistic boundaries.


From Now to Then

Siobhán Parkinson

A narrative structure which inverts fiction’s usual propulsion from a ‘then’ towards a point of closure that seems to be an inevitable consequence of events resembles our habits of reminiscence, which start with the vivid ‘now’ and look backwards towards a more sketchily remembered past.


Rotters in Brexitland

Giles Newington

Jonathan Coe’s strengths as a writer – his humour, his clarity, and particularly the deft way he can sketch in the political background – make him well-equipped to sustain a state-of-the-nation novel that is credible and wide-ranging yet avoids being dragged down by the weightiness of its theme.


Mistaking Identity

Tom Inglis

We are inclined to think of social identities as traits that are common to all members of a group, that a person cannot help acting like ‘a woman’ or ‘a Frenchman’. But identities are fluid and dynamic. People perform their identities, playing up, or down, their social roles and positions.


Gorgeous and Sinful

Catherine Marshall

Harry Clarke’s work in stained glass can be read in a variety of ways – as modernist, late Victorian, political, even apolitical, but whichever way one argues about interpretations it is hard to question his achievements.


Active Recovery

Marie Rooney

We first meet the author when he is twenty-eight, an aspiring writer resigned to suffering a bout of depression every summer since his mother’s death nine years earlier. He is diagnosed as bipolar but is reluctant to accept this, a position in which he is encouraged by a therapist.


Big and Little Lies

Henry Patterson

A new book argues that those who criticise the Good Friday Agreement for not creating a framework for dealing with the past or for not addressing the deep divide in the North, are missing the fundamental purpose of the accord, which was simply to deliver an end to violence.


The Deep Music of the World

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Michelle O’Sullivan’s three collections, but especially this new one, will convince many that her work should find its way to attentive readers, who it is hoped will not try to fit her into any boxes other than the big one marked ‘poets’, who will appreciate her skill with language and her alertness to the world’s music.


A Marlowe from Mayo

Pauline Hall

In the rural Ireland of the 1920s memories of the War of Independence and Civil War are still strong. The Garda Síochána stands at the forefront of efforts to normalise life in a traumatised society, yet they too, both as individuals and as a force, have problems winning trust.


Symphony in Blue

Declan O’Driscoll

Yelena Moskovich’s new novel develops depth and passion as it progresses, while never losing a sense of humour. All its early connections develop and entwine. No character is central, because the novel is multi-voiced and unconcerned about the insistence of plot.


The Patriot Game

John Paul Newman

Far-right parties in formerly communist Europe tend to both inflate their opponents’ links with the communist period and their own links with the historical political blocs of the pre-communist period. It is a tendentious game whose odds are always stacked in favour of the right.


An Unconventional Haunting

Megan DeMatteo

The elderly illustrator Daniele is called from his work on a deluxe edition of a Henry James ghost story to go to his childhood home in Naples and temporarily babysit his four-year-old grandson, the only flesh-and-blood creature that can haunt with the same relentless audacity as an actual ghost.


Affinity with Far Away

Amanda Bell

A bilingual collection of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s poems contains some new poems and many previously published. The decision to use new versions, suggesting that there is no definitive way of translating a poem, will no doubt give food for thought to students of translation studies.


Disturbing a Mighty Ghost

Bernard O’Donoghue

No figure in Greek myth is more ambiguous than Orpheus, who is both the musician who can charm wild beasts and the uxorious husband who wins his wife, Eurydice, back from the underworld. Theo Dorgan has brought something new and marvellously achieved to this rich nexus of story.


With Proust Down Memory Lane

Dick Edelstein

Ciaran Berry’s ability to move mercurially between simplicity and complexity, between a soufflé-light surface and deeper levels redolent of the rich complexity of a figgy pudding, makes his verse amenable as well as substantial.


Out of his Depth?

Thomas Earls Fitzgerald

Cathal Brugha, a brave soldier but an inept politician, is probably best known for his tense relationship with Collins and his refusal to surrender during the fighting in O’Connell Street in the early stages of the civil war. He preferred to die fighting, charging his opponents head on.


Return and No Shame

Keith Payne

Maureen Boyle gives us portraits and poems of our social history, the most democratic of histories, showing us yet again –and yes, it needs to be repeated, especially to the Minister for Education – the importance of history and how it offers among so much else, a perspective, empathy and a future.


Games with the World

Catherine Ann Cullen

Poets, Ailbhe Darcy has written, should invest monstrously in their own personal mythology. Novelists build a fictional world for the space of a volume or several volumes, but the poet builds a fictional world across an entire life.


Sunny Days, Fairy Nights

Lillis Ó Laoire

A new anthology of children’s literature in Irish asks what we can learn from a study of this field on the experience of childhood in Ireland. Secondly it asks if there are any distinctive aspects of childhood to be discerned from this study that are different from those to be found in English language literature.


Though Lovers be Lost Love Shall Not

Jean O’Brien

For a writer who says she writes poetry as an aside, Anne Haverty sure packs it in; her journey takes us on a coruscating ride, tumbling with deftness, humour, irony and precision through history and Eastern Europe, with poems about vodka, life, love –and back to earth with a bump in Tipperary.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Forthcoming Events and News

A regularly updated diary of events of literary and artistic interest and news from the publishing and arts worlds


Housing Crisis

Ireland is dependent on inward investment, which is hostile to regulation of the market. At the same time our history is one of above average social integration and consensus. With the housing crisis, which will not be solved without huge state intervention, these two elements are headed for a clash.


Digging In

An architectural competition for a design for a new church in Clonskeagh in Dublin attracted 101 entries. The winning entry, from a young architect with the OPW, was modernist in style. But the archbishop of Dublin wasn’t having any of it. Instead a ‘monstrous barn’ was built.


WS Merwin 1927-2019

The much-decorated American poet – he won two Pulitzers and a National Book Award – was known for conveying ‘in the sweet simplicity of grounded language a sense of the self where it belongs, floating between heaven, earth and underground’.


Ernest Blythe and the Irish Language

Ernest Blythe, a south Antrim Protestant, appeared as the only Gaeilgeoir in his parish in the 1911 census. In this heavily Church of Ireland district, even the McCarthys and the Dohertys were Protestant.


What about us?

In an international survey of outstanding cultural achievement, can the author make judgments about what is excellent and must be included and what can be left out? Or should criteria of proportionality, even-handedness and, above all, inclusivity come into play?


Running on Empty

Asked why they are leaving, the Venezuelans crossing into Colombia reply that it’s because at home there is nothing – non hay nada. Venezuela’s collapse was not caused, as some have claimed, by the US, yet perhaps it is US backing for the opposition that most stands in the way of resolution.


Dublin honours classic O’Brien trilogy

In 1960 the Irish state banned Edna O’Brien’s novel ‘The Country Girls’. By that time O’Brien was living in England, where her books did not escape moral scrutiny and attempts at censorship either. Now she is equally honoured in her lands of birth and of adoption.


Winding Back the Clock, Part II

Right-wing politicians have always liked to tell women where their place is - at home with babies at their feet. Mussolini wanted them to breed soldiers, while his political inheritors today want European women to produce white babies, rendering immigration unnecessary.


Winding Back the Clock, Part I

Hungary proposes tackling population decline by offering tax-free status to mothers who produce four or more children. Is this a practical idea? Or is the thinking that underscores it perhaps just another facet of the conservative social vision of a defiantly confident traditionalist politics?


Let’s Hear it for Rousseau

In the wake of the death of a young American missionary, whose good news was apparently unwelcome to the tribesmen of a small island in the Bay of Bengal, might it be time to give up on the monotheistic imperative, a compulsion to root out the false gods of ‘primitive peoples’?


Appalling Vista

The UK may be currently on the back foot, but there are conceivable circumstances where we might witness a weak Europe being manipulated from the east by Russia and China and from the west by Britain, with enthusiastic cousinly assistance from the US.


‘O commemorate me where there is water’

Peter Sirr sees ‘literary Dublin’ as having been characterised by the famous remark, the ultimate put-down, the libel trial, products all of a particular kind of competitive maleness. Behind the posters and brochures aimed at the tourists was a male kind of city, hard-drinking and cordially vicious.


The Tenth Circle of Hell

European Council president Donald Tusk wondered if there should be a special place in the infernal regions for those who promoted Brexit without any idea of how it had to be negotiated. In the long run, the fools seem unlikely to be pardoned.


If you gotta do it do it right

The newspapers have gone to the dogs completely. No one can spell or punctuate and the young people working there now obviously think grammar is just some kind of weird obsession of elderly fascists out to oppress them. But hold on, is it really as simple as all that?


The Author of Himself

In his semi-autobiographical fiction James Joyce was not afraid to occasionally portray himself in a less than flattering light. But when the facts of his early life did not please him or suit his fictional purposes he was also very ready to edit them.


Involuntary Icaruses

Before Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth in 1961 it was deemed advisable to test out the operation with an animal. The dog Laika became famous, but did not survive. An earlier test flight by balloon, in Dublin in the 1780s, also featured an unwilling passenger, a cat who sadly remains anonymous.


Power to the Imagination

In the context of the controversy over commissioning policy at the Abbey we should be reminded why theatre matters and the degree to which it is a barometer of a nation’s psychic health. Plays, musicals and other performances are manifestations of the imagination in its most live, energising and present form.


The Sex Economy, Monica O'Connor

Is prostitution, or ‘sex work’ as it is increasingly called, simply a market transaction, perfectly legitimate as long as the sale is voluntary? Or is it something which is inherently harmful, which sustains criminality and undermines the very idea of gender equality?


Why Nationalism, Yael Tamir,

But why should there be just two forms of nationalism? There is Trump’s “America First”, there is Viktor Orbán’s quite dour Hungarian nationalism, there is French nationalism, which is arguably based on a notion of cultural and intellectual superiority; there is Irish nationalism, there is Scottish nationalism and there is English nationalism, 


Europe’s Fault Lines: Racism and the Rise of the Right, Liz Fekete

Perhaps what most of us currently want to know about the extreme right is how dangerous is it? To which the answer might vary from country to country. And is it likely to become more dangerous? Will it be isolated, will it be contained, or will it be conciliated, comforted and brought in from the cold. 


Lotharingia: Europe’s Lost Country, Simon Winder

Pity the poor continental children who must grapple with Charles the Bald, Charles the Bold, Charles the Fat, Charles the Simple, Philip the Bold, Philip the Fair and a good dozen of Henrys. To all of this complexity, Winder is a perpetually good-humoured guide.


The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells

It’ll be forty degrees today in Alice Springs, in Australia’s Northern Territory, but it’s likely to go down to thirty-eight around midweek and then plummet to thirty-two in a fortnight’s time as autumn takes hold. But hey, what do I care? I don’t live in Alice Springs, I live in Dublin.


Show Them a Good Time, Nicole Flattery

It is not the standard quest for love. One woman hears her husband whisper “I love you” while they lie together under crisp ironed sheets as she frets about cockroaches. “She blinked anxiously in the dark, as if trying to identify something. ‘Go easy on that stuff’ she advised him.”


Who Killed My Father, Édouard Louis

“You’ve changed these past few years… We’ve talked a lot. We’ve explained ourselves.” Eddy’s father becomes proud of his gay son, the writer. He wants to know about the man his son loves. He is no longer afraid Eddy’s politics will get him in trouble, telling him “You're right, what we need is a revolution.”


Happening, Annie Ernaux

Perhaps the most striking thing about Annie Ernaux’s autofictional account of finding herself pregnant in Rouen in 1963, desperately wanting an illegal abortion but having no idea of how to go about it, is its cool and removed tone.