I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.


What ‘everyone knows’ about Catholic Ireland, and the more complex reality
Catholics were inferior in law and in fact. Worship was permitted, but it was muted. The Irish Catholic inferiority complex which took root during Penal Times has yet to disappear, its most subtle effects being found amongst the lapsed, who often experience a ‘non-specific’ inferiority, since they don’t know why they feel compelled to constantly measure themselves so negatively in comparison with other social groups and other countries.


I’m Dangerous, Me

Kevin Power
Shriver’s irritation: a pose that doesn’t add up to a set of ideas If the polemicist is to be convincing, we must glimpse, beneath the opinions, a deeper coherence – of self-knowledge, emotional stability, awareness of context perhaps. If this isn’t there, all we have is style, tricks of rhetoric. The incoherent polemicist, therefore, must be a virtuoso of style ‑ Shaw might be a good example. But Lionel Shriver is no virtuoso. She is by turns flippant, clumsy, shouty, preachy and glib. Under such conditions a tone of desperation rapidly obtrudes. The reader feels hectored. The reader grows annoyed.

Dublin Review of Books


A Place for the Arts

John McAuliffe
In 1921, the second Dáil innovatively nominated a minister for fine arts, Count Horace Plunkett, and two staff. In his nineteen weeks in office, Plunkett organised one public event, a sexcentenary celebration of Dante. Then his ministry was subsumed into a department of education. Plunkett’s appointment was the first of many false starts, as the state, like many others throughout the twentieth century, struggled with the idea of supporting the arts as a good in itself.


A Restless Imagination

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Frank McGuinness is a writer of openness and adventure. Openness to form: while best known as a playwright, while highly regarded as a poet since the 1990s, he has made forays into other genres, writing short fiction in the early 1980s and publishing two novels in the last decade; openness to varying manner and textures, which can range from tightly focused social realism to fantasy. The list of his stage and film adaptations suggests a keen literary appetite, eager to try anything.


Inventing the Republic? II

Joe Cleary
As might be expected, the immediate response to the Rising of those that were or would soon become the leading Irish writers was probably as complex as that of the Irish public more generally. If a generalisation might be risked, the letters and other early writings of 1916 suggest a sense of stunned incomprehension, this sooner or later modulating in some cases into a grudging respect for the executed leaders.


Murder Most Foul

Patricia Craig
The achievement of a great entertainer, ‘queen of crime’ Agatha Christie Agatha Christie wrote of her fictional mystery writer alter ego Ariadne Oliver that ‘she was a lucky woman who had established a happy knack of writing what quite a lot of people wanted to read’. This may be too modest, and there’s an element of tongue-in-cheek about it. Christie took the orthodox detective story as it existed during the First World War and earlier and raised it to a new level of playfulness and intrigue. Murder in her novels is treated as a game, magnified to the point of narrative plenitude, and often garnished with a decorative and macabre overlay.


The short but productive life of Joseph Roth, elegist of Habsburg Austria
Roth was not the first or last of the literary big drinkers, but it is striking that for a man with such a destructive thirst he was so astonishingly productive. Thirteen published novels plus a slew of unpublished manuscripts, thousands of newspaper articles, novellas. He had enjoyed a brief early period of affluence as a highly-paid journalist, but even when hard-up he was often generous to those less fortunate than himself.


The unconsidered perils of the nationalist rush to Irish unity
The republican teleologists have liberated themselves from the need for debate and are now fixating on ‘implementation’. It’s like one of those video games where you build cities and states from scratch. Will we go for federal or unitary? And who will we get to deal with the loyalists? For a unionist, reading such blueprints is like being present at one’s own elaborate funeral.


The second Irish cultural revival of the late 1950s and early ’60s
Kinsella was for a time Whitaker’s secretary. Kinsella and Ó Riada were close friends. But the conceptual thread that provides the core of this book is how each, in his own sphere, changed Ireland’s perception of itself, and how their cognate intellectual and artistic energies created a ‘second revival’ in the years 1956-1963, in succession to the original ‘Celtic Revival’.


Mean Street USA

George O’Brien
From the novel of manners to the crime novel of bad manners

The Big D

Seamus O’Mahony
Christopher Hitchens enlists science in the face of death

Tales from Bective

Jana Fischerova
Mary Lavin was not banned, but did she leave things out?

Down the Rabbit Hole

Alex Bramwell
A Russian-Irish writer in the tradition of Bulgakov


The presidential, and subsequent legislative, elections in France earlier this year told us a number of things about the changing nature of the nation’s politics. First, that the main contest is now, and has been since 2017, not that between left and right but that between centre and far right
The La France Insoumise movement won a creditable third place in this year’s presidential election. But with a scandal involving a possible future leader, it seems to have hit the skids.


Brian M Walker writes: The recent TG4 documentary Marú...
Open-mindedness and compassion might usefully be applied to thinking around the killings of thirteen Protestant civilians in West Cork in April 1922.


A fascinating and at times unflinching autobiography from Paul Brady
The way I describe it, Paul Brady wrote, is that inside yourself there’s lots of rooms and some of them you haven’t been in. So I went into another room and found myself wanting to write songs and to write music which would have been a synthesis of all my influences up to that, from pop, blues, rock, jazz, trad and folk.


Percy at the Wake

Flicka Small
The troubadour who mangled ‘Moore’s Melodies’ and inspired Joyce We’ve all heard of Percy French haven’t we? An accomplished songwriter, painter, author, and entertainer, we have all come across him somewhere – for many it is his songs, from the nostalgic Mountains of Mourne to the humorous Are ye right there, Michael? about the West Clare Railway. For me it was his understated presence in Eugene McCabe’s Death and Nightingales, and my mother owned a watercolour painted by him.


The arrival of Christianity in Ireland and the unhelpful notion of ‘paganism’
Donnchadh Ó Corráin’s Key to What the Irish Wrote appeared in three volumes in 2017. The Irish wrote a very great deal during Ó Corráin’s chosen period. The surviving materials are vast. Making his way through the mass of writings, Ó Corráin first of all gives the bare details of the particular work and its editions, offers some brief description, and lists the secondary literature. He needs close on 2,000 pages to do this.


The triumph of liberal Britain, which survived the eclipse of the party
So seriously did Britain take international law a century ago that when Germany failed to comply with an ultimatum issued in response to the invasion by the deadline of 11.00 pm on the 4th (midnight Berlin time), Britain sent a junior foreign office official, Harold Nicolson, around to the German embassy at 11.05 pm in the foreign secretary’s Rolls Royce in order to deliver a written declaration of war and also to retrieve a hastily written declaration of war that had been delivered by mistake about an hour earlier.


Shipyard Radical

Henry Patterson
The life of Belfast trade unionist and revolutionary socialist James Baird “Rotten Prods” were defined so by their unionist opponents, who accused a spectrum of dissidents from Presbyterian tenant farmer radicals to, in the case of James Baird, a trade union militant with syndicalist views, of being part of a traitorous fifth column undermining the communal unity which was the bedrock of Ulster Protestant resistance to Home Rule and later to Sinn Féin. As Emmet O’Connor points out, there were hundreds of such working class radicals in the heartlands of Belfast’s engineering and shipbuilding industries in its glory days from the 1890s to the end of the First World War.