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

Made to Measure?

Paul O’Mahoney

Data-gathering and metrics have come to rule modern medicine, with the results of the former often being sold on to the ‘medical-industrial complex’. Meanwhile real doctoring, like life, is messy and uncertain. And surely humans are about something more than their value as data and a desire to live as long as possible?

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The Necessary Details

Kevin Stevens

As Robert Caro tells us in what may be the greatest political biography of modern times, President Lyndon Johnson marshalled incredible resources, including a willingness to lie, cheat and steal at the highest level, in the service of an ambitious and noble programme of reform.

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The Cat’s Pounce

Catherine Marshall

Linda Nochlin considers one interpretation after another of Courbet’s ‘The Painter’s Studio’. Teasing her prey, she draws out successive meanings, delivering stylish and brilliant asides on the social, intellectual, political and art-historical context, until finally she moves in for the kill.

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Fit to Print

Maurice Walsh

The catastrophic fall from a golden age when reporters valiantly pursued truth to the web’s current indifference to falsehood is a favourite journalistic trope. But the moral decline goes back a long time, to when newspapers first embraced ‘lifestyle’, abetting the transformation of citizens into consumers.

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The Spring-Time of the World

Brandon Yen

In 1792 Tom Paine wrote that whatever shape summer might take it was ‘not difficult to perceive that the spring is begun’. If the French Revolution did not fulfil the radicals’ hopes, these early years left an enduring legacy to Wordsworth, making him the great poet of feeling and hope.

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Rory of the Hill

Kerron Ó Luain

Ribbonism was more resourceful and endured longer as a tradition than any other Irish secret society during the nineteenth century. With their Catholic and conspiratorial composition, the Ribbon societies played constantly on the minds of British officials and much of Protestant Ireland.

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That Damnable Invention

James McNaney

The British feel a certain detachment from the North, born of distance. At worst this is antipathy: Diarmaid Ferriter cites Thatcher’s famous disdain for both sides. Even when Conservatives attempt a revival of the old ‘conservative and unionist’ tradition, it comes across as a bit clunky.

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What Was Lost

Jim Smyth

‘Declinist’ accounts of English history are not always consistent, but the outlines are clear: a once ‘organic’ community succumbed to commerce, scientific rationalism and, most corrosively, industrialisation. A vital common culture gave way to a cheapened mass society.

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Sipping from the Honey-Pot

Fergus O’Ferrall

Oliver Goldsmith was ‘an enlightened anti-imperialist’ grappling with the emerging modernity of the industrial and agricultural revolutions. His ethical universalism did not preclude cultural diversity or respect for diverse cultures existing on their own terms.

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Prologue to Forgetting

Sarah O’Brien

The willingness to dream, to give herself over to a flood of memories is ultimately what distinguishes the inevitably innocent memoir of Nora O’Connor, who left Ireland in 1907, from Ian Maleney’s masterfully doubtful essays. For at the base of Maleney’s anxiety is a mistrust of memory.

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Taking Liberties

Ross Moore

Ciaran Carson’s work has developed from the well-crafted poetry of his first collection to the digressive, long-lined collection The Irish For No. His explorations of liberty in The Twelfth of Never took their own liberties with temporal, conceptual and even grammatical sense.

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Buried Treasures

Patricia Craig

Belfast’s Balmoral Cemetery was once a gloriously dishevelled and spooky playground favoured by the more adventurous among neighbourhood children. But after many complaints it was cleaned up, and it’s now as straight-lined and ‘Protestant-looking’ as anyone could wish.

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The Botplot

Kevin Power

Ian McEwan’s novels tend to set up a clash between opposing worldviews, with the authorial thumb pressed heavily on one side of the scales. His latest, a humanist exploration of posthumanist ideas, is a hugely pleasurable read, but might the author not have tried to surprise us a little more?

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The SS’s Bargaining Chips

David Blake Knox

As World War Two drew to an end, a number of prominent prisoners of the Germans were moved to South Tyrol in the Italian Alps. Among them were veterans of the Great Escape, two former European prime ministers and a handful of Irishmen who had served in the British army.

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Struggling towards Citizenship

Tom Hennigan

For all Brazil’s great size and demographic weight, and the economic and social progress marked up since the return of democracy in the 1980s, the country continues to be the champion of social inequality and is still struggling to construct true republican values and true citizens.

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Urban Myths

Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado

There are – at least – two sides to everything. Jan Carson’s new novel skilfully blends magic realism, absurdism and surrealism to explore the complexities of Northern Ireland’s ‘post-conflict’ society, and how this hyphenated existence holds the past and present in dangerous tension.

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When All This is Over

Lucy Collins

Jane Clarke has written a sequence of poems exploring the First World War, using letters and photographs drawn from the Auerbach family archive. She has produced a book of great concentration and intelligence, which captures the life of a young soldier and his sister and asks fundamental questions about empathy.

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Followed by Silence

Kerri ní Dochartaigh

Seán Hewitt’s work takes the natural world and unearths it from the places in which we so keenly try to entomb it. He brings us that little bit closer to ourselves, the deeper into the work we go; in doing so we are more in the world than when we entered.

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Fernweh, Sehnsucht, Brame

Amanda Bell

Solitary travelling in remote places can be dangerous, particularly for a woman. But what is the alternative? Stay at home and never go anywhere? ‘It’s that thought,’ writes journalist and traveller Rosita Boland, 'the one of involuntary stasis, that has always filled me with genuine fear.’

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What’s That Racket?

Declan O’Driscoll

A Croatian dog writes about the loud love-making that is repeatedly heard in his apartment block at night, ‘the little acoustic scandal that has been rocking our neighbourhood’. But really he wants to talk about love and loyalty. No creature feels rejection more than a dog.

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Time’s Factory

Fintan Calpin

Ali Smith’s novels have always been interested in deviant temporalities and ‘unexpected afterlives’. Her narratives are never singular or isolated, but a gathering of threads and she has also pushed at the formal boundaries between the novel and the essay.

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Where Do the Dead Go?

Marie Rooney

Freud saw ‘Trauerarbeit’, literally grief work, as a work of breaking the bonds that tied the survivor to the deceased – ‘letting go’ and ‘moving on’. Current thinking however would be more open to the idea that while death may end a life, it doesn’t necessarily end a relationship.

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Deadly Precision

Amanda Bell

A particular feature of Rita Ann Higgins’s new collection is the use of juxtaposition: essays appear side-by-side with poems tackling their subject from a different angle. It is fascinating to see this process, with the background which informs a poem laid out in prose form.

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More than a Small Glow

Neil McCarthy

Moya Roddy presents us with poetry that is straight out of the ordinary, a refreshing reminder that not every poem needs to be an epic, complicated, deep analogy of something or another; the kind that make open mics up and down the country the stuff of nightmares.

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Teenage Kicks

Susan McKeever

A group of youngsters from Derry is interested in the same things that many youngsters elsewhere are interested in – sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll. But this is 1981, Bobby Sands is getting closer to death and to the normal trio of pleasures is added another experience, war.

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Silence is Part of the Problem

Enda Wyley

Sarah Henstra’s novel about rape culture in the fraternity of an American Ivy League college can at times be a messy, difficult and violent read, but ultimately it is an important book, one that demands to be read and is not easily forgotten.

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Elliptical Obit

Daniel Fraser

In Ann Quin’s fictional world acts of finality or resolution repeatedly come undone. A dead bird is buried and then dug up. Plans of escape are formulated and then abandoned. A corpse is disposed of and returns. Tissues of falsehood are constructed and destroyed. Business is always left unfinished.

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How Perfectly the Parts Fit

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Michael Coady’s poems revolve around his home town of Carrick-on-Suir, where the river and the countryside are as essential to living as the air, but it is the presence of people, alive and dead, their relationships, memories, agreements and disagreements that fills them with life.

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Beyond Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Frank Callanan

The thesis that there are no real differences between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael does not hold water. The two parties have significant differences of attitude and approach, and to a limited degree of ideology. If this were not the case they would surely govern together rather than in alternation.

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Stepping Into The Light

Susan McKay

Sinéad Gleeson is already known as a generous literary critic and anthologist, who has rescued the work of some shamefully neglected writers and whose perceptive author interviews are celebrations of the imagination. Now she has stepped out to shine with a luminosity all her own.

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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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Forthcoming Events and News

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

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Shop Girls, High and Low

The arrival of the department store at the end of the nineteenth century gave birth to a new social actor, the shop girl specialising in sales. Exploitation, of more than one kind, remained, but here was a figure with more pride and independence than the traditionally heavily oppressed grocery employee.

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First catch your hare

Strangely bored on a weekend in the country in the late 1940s with an old lover rediscovered, Elizabeth David’s thoughts turned to apricots and olives, lemons, oil and almonds. In grey, rainy, puritanical England one didn’t mention such things. Hell, they were dirty words!

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War is peace, freedom is slavery ... left is right?

Seventy years ago Fred Warburg published 'Nineteen Eighty-four', which he saw as a deliberate attack on socialism and socialist parties generally and 'worth a cool million votes to the Conservative Party'. He can't have known George Orwell all that well.

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The French Are Different

In Ireland we like to have a good bunch of Independents, on top of the usual political parties, to choose from. In France they like having a huge variety of parties, and behind them any number of political clubs, currents, think tanks and factions. It’s the ideas, you see: they’re mad for the ideas.

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The Politics of Good Intentions

The ‘shared community’ that Alliance champions in Northern Ireland is unlikely to come into being, but the existence of divisions provides a fertile ground for a politics of good intentions that, while it cannot alter fundamental political differences, provides the basis for a third form of identity politics.

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The Costs of Technology

A tradesman’s demand for a fee that seemed exorbitant led ‘The Irish Penny Magazine’ back in 1840 to muse on the relative value of slaves in America and the children of the poor in Ireland.

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LP Curtis Jnr: 1932-2019

Lewis Perry Curtis, one of the leading twentieth century historians of modern Ireland, taught at Princeton, Berkeley and Brown universities and published important books on land reform, landlordism and eviction and racial stereotyping of the Irish, both in Britain and the United States.

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Why the long face?

He was one of the richest men in Venice. His ships were everywhere on the seas, bringing silks and spices from the east home and then on to the markets of northern Europe. He had money, he had respect, he had friends. So why wasn’t he happy?

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Who are the Irish?

In the nineteenth century many Irish Protestants, like Barack Obama’s ancestor Fulmouth Kearney, a shoemaker from Co Offaly, continued to emigrate to America. Others with a Catholic background became Protestant, such as Ronald Reagan, brought up in the faith of his Presbyterian mother.

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A Timely Death

The great Austrian writer Joseph Roth fled Germany in 1933 to take refuge in Paris, from which haven he never tired of attacking the Nazis. He was fortunate enough to die, eighty years ago today, before German forces and their repressive apparatus entered the city.

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Sleeping with the Enemy

The party system of European states, George Soros argues, continues to reflect the capital-labour divisions that mattered in the 19th and 20th centuries. But the cleavage that matters most today is the one between pro- and anti-European forces. Well up to a point, Mr Soros.

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Eastward Ho!

Peter Sirr prowls the tangled history and contemporary reality of Dublin’s Docklands.

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Sharp Right Ahead

European social democracy has lost ground in recent years, in spite of a notable success in Spain last month. Social democrats in Denmark, which goes to the polls next month, are offering ‘muscular’ policies on immigration and integration, making them sound very like the populist far right.

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Omani novelist wins Man Booker International

Jokha Alharthi's novel 'Celestial Bodies' provides readers with 'access to ideas and thoughts and experiences you aren’t normally given in English', according to the judges. The £50,000 prize money will be shared equally between Alharthi and her translator, Marilyn Booth.

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Men at Arms

The differing attitudes of Irishmen in the period from 1914 to 1922 and beyond can be seen through a brief history of three men. One of them, Emmet Dalton, served with distinction alongside Michael Collins. He had previously been in the British army, and he wasn’t ashamed of that.

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Earning Death

Jean Rhys disappeared off everyone’s radar for fifteen years after the critical success of her pre-war novels, eventually emerging from poverty and obscurity to produce ‑ in spite of ill health and alcoholism ‑ her masterpiece, published to great acclaim in her late seventies.

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Can Spring be far behind?

Percy Shelley felt, in winter’s grip, a presentiment of coming spring. It’s true there is a certain inevitability to these things and the leaves have never failed to return to the trees yet. But the wait can sometimes be a bit tedious.

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Rogue States, by Fred Johnston

In Fred Johnston’s new collection the subject is the experience of cancer or suspected cancer. The prevailing mood is one of grim fatalism; there is no belief in the medical world doing good. This is a world without Ms Nightingales.

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A Narrow Sea, by Jonathan Bardon

A history of the interactions between Ireland and Scotland over two millennia, told in a series of 120 episodes, ranges entertainingly from the Roman governor Agricola’s plan to invade Ireland from Scotland to 21st century pitch invasions at Ibrox and Celtic Park.

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To Live Like a Moor, Olivia Remie Constable

The cultural absorption or lack of it of large immigrant communities may not have predictable outcomes. The relationship between culture and politics, it seems, is not straightforward and drawing political conclusions from cultural practices is an inexact business.

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The One Hundred Best Novels in Translation, by Boyd Tonkin

A new anthology of works of fiction translated into English is modest about its ambitions and disclaims any ambition to be ‘canonical’. Nevertheless it is a smartly executed work, which invites us to fill in some gaps in our literary education and ‘get out a bit more’.

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Revivalism and Modern Irish Literature, by Fionntán de Brún

Once independence was won, the question facing Irish ideologues and leaders was how to make revival real. It was then that the tenuous and tentative nature of the relation between the cultural and the political became clear. Those different spheres would never march in lockstep.

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Love Notes from a German Building Site, Adrian Duncan

In Berlin, an old building is being repurposed for use as a computer store. In the middle of a bleak winter, the construction workers have inadequate time, inadequate resources, speak many different languages and have managers fresh from the Celtic Tiger building boom. Nothing can go wrong.

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Pirate Queen, Tony Lee and Sam Hart

The indomitable Grace O’Malley, pirate queen, is the heroine of a new graphic novel that will entertain and inform children from nine years upwards.

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Nano Nagle, the Life and the Legacy, Raftery, Delaney and Nowlan-Roebuck

Nano Nagle’s emphasis on educating the Catholic poor had a political dimension and contributed to the integration of the several parts of Catholic Ireland into a whole which had the potential of politically focusing the majority. In this sense it is not too fanciful to see her  work as prefiguring that of O’Connell.

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A Short History of Drunkenness, Mark Forsyth

A Ukrainian proverb can be taken to illustrate our human attraction – and perhaps our occasional uneasiness about that attraction – to alcohol, its pleasures and dangers. “The church is near,” it goes, “and the tavern is far. It is snowing heavily. I shall walk carefully.”

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Monster Agitators: O’Connell’s Repealers, 1843 Ireland, Vincent Ruddy

O’Connell’s Monster Meetings came to an abrupt halt in October 1843 when the Viceroy  mobilsed four battalions of troops, some four hundred armed RIC and Metropolitan Police and moved three gunships into Dublin Bay 

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Then Again, Pat Boran

In a poem about O’Connell Street’s Spire, the monument becomes a dagger, a skewer, an extended middle finger. None of the names are inclusive of us, the citizens; the Spire is the ‘we’ reduced to ‘I’, which might be seen as the opposite of Boran’s project, to expand the ‘I’ to ‘we’.

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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?

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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, 

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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. 

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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.

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