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

Ourselves Alone

Frank Callanan

As the scale of Labour’s defeat became clear, a succession of Corbynists emerged to insist that the voters’ rejection of their policies was not a rejection at all and that nothing need change: a strange product of a new ‘leftism’ that exists not to seek power but largely for its own sake.


Ins and Outs

Martin Tyrrell

Psychologist Henri Tajfel was an argumentative man and he encouraged similar aggressive attitudes in his colleagues and students. He tended to make up his mind early, a colleague wrote, if you were on the side of the angels or not. And he never changed his mind.


The Poet and the City

Kathleen Shields

Austin Clarke, who started his writing career during the Celtic twilight years and adapted some Irish language poetic forms and themes, has suffered from falling on the wrong side of the nationalist/modernist divide, a contrast partially built on critical essays by Beckett.


For the Cause

John Mulqueen

In the mid-1930s, 40,000 men enlisted in the International Brigades to fight fascism in Spain. Many died, while the recollections of some who returned, like those published in a moving memoir from the mid-1970s, do not cast much credit on the organisers of the resistance.


There Will Be Order

Alena Dvořáková

László Krasznahorkai’s new novel, ‘Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming’, reveals the kind of dynamic, both economic and emotional-spiritual, that has facilitated Viktor Orbán’s Hungarian ‘koronadiktatúra’, a form of rule which also appeals to other central European would-be autocrats.


Grá Don Domhain

Alan Titley

Cathal Ó Searcaigh’s love poems are part of a bigger picture in which quite simply love of life is the driving force. This love of life can be furled down to love of place, and love of nature, and love of language, more simply, love of the world.


End Games

Liam Kennedy

More than one future is foreseeable for Northern Ireland. We could have a united Ireland, as Protestants lose their numerical majority. Or we could have a continuation of the link with Britain, not unpopular with all Catholics. But there’s one thing we can be sure of: the future is not Orange.


Booms and Busts

Timothy King

Declines in human fertility have been attributed to ‘moral and cultural relativism, multiculturalism and political correctness’, but in fact political, social and cultural attitudes seem to play very little role, fertility decisions being both decentralised and private.


A Different Kind of Republic

Andreas Hess

While it is part and parcel of a ritual reaffirmation of identity, republicanism in Ireland has no practical significance in everyday life: it does nothing to alleviate burning problems in areas such as housing, health, transport or pollution. The concept once had other, more fruitful, meanings.


The Thin Crust of Civilisation

Eoin Dillon

Thomas Piketty describes himself as a socialist, but he is much closer to Keynes than perhaps he would like to admit. He is the more confirmed democrat, but both thinkers have a faith in technocratic systems of redistribution administered by disinterested experts for the common good.


Who Will Save Us?

Kevin Power

As ‘end of the world’ scenarios assume increasing plausibility, the canonisation of Greta Thunberg becomes completely intelligible. It’s just one of myriad ways in which the religious imagination continues to shape the secular world, like a restless sleeper disturbing a thin blanket.


A Gratuitous Assault

Maureen O’Connor

Because Edna O’Brien’s family had a nice enough house and the children got educated, her circumstances couldn’t have been all that bad, a ‘New Yorker’ profile argues. This betrays a startling ignorance of the economic, social and ideological conditions of mid-twentieth-century Ireland.


Brilliant Youths

Joseph Leahy

The key to understanding the appeal of Sally Rooney’s fiction lies in her ability to conjure generational concerns that are instantly recognisable but still transcend cliché. This is harder than it sounds: cliché forms at an accelerated rate in our hyper-saturated media environment.


The Capital of Modernity

Terence Killeen

When James Joyce chose exile he opted not for England, where the Irish writer was an entertainer, but Paris, the epicentre of a ‘Europe’ that was utterly different from the Anglo-Irish world in which he had grown up, a world full of possibilities, openness and experiment.


The Long Road to Peace

John Swift

On whether strategic thinking in peace negotiations should outweigh moral considerations, Bertie Ahern’s mind was clear. Isolating the extremes and supporting the moderates would not solve the problem: the challenge was to make peace with your enemies, not your friends.


Nobody will see us

Neil Hegarty

Out of bleak contexts and grey ingredients, Conor O’Callaghan creates a spare, emotionally fraught story of home, homelessness and unsettlement. Yet there is no absence of emotion: the approach is to strip away the fat – to permit a wide view, while withholding much by way of detail.


A Plump Pillow

Leanne Ogasawara

Japanese poets have traditionally taken pilgrimages to locations of great scenic allure, seeking out wondrous places that are so inviting, so lovely, that poems wish to settle in them. A German professor wakes from a disturbing dream and journeys to such a site. Why? He has no idea.


Time and the Woman

Declan O’Driscoll

Eimear Mc Bride’s new novel presents us with a woman, or maybe a series of women, at various stages of life, presented within the confines of a hotel room, but on each occasion in a different city. There is a twist at the end. But it’s not a plot twist, because there is no plot.


Found Again

Enda Coyle-Greene

Towards the close of Gerard Smyth’s quietly impressive collection, a sequence of elegies acts as both an act of creative solidarity and a defiant rebuttal of creativity’s all-too-inevitable cessation. The poems, rather like memory itself, call out to and answer each other.


The Joys of Fieldwork

Ailbhe Nic Giolla Chomhaill

The eloquence and elegance which often emerge from folklore archives is a thread which connects each of the essays in a new collection in honour of Ríonach uí Ógáin. Each of the authors gives his/her own insight into the ‘doing’ of fieldwork, which can be both a vocation and an addiction.


Time Fallen Away

Marie Rooney

Hilary Fannin’s beautifully written debut novel follows the lives of Ruth and Robin from London in 1995 to Dublin in 2018. An air of sadness pervades the novel – perhaps a sense of wasted time, of lack of fulfilment. In the end their relationship comes full circle. Or does it?


Remembering Lyra

Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado

‘We were the Good Friday Agreement generation,’ wrote the journalist Lyra McKee, shot dead by the New IRA while working  in Derry a year ago, ‘destined to never witness the horrors of war but to reap the spoils of peace. The spoils just never seemed to reach us.’


The State of Us

Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado

Elaine Feeney combines linguistic verve, biting irony and unflinching commentary on modern Ireland to produce a tragicomic tour-de-force. Shocking, exhilarating and life-affirming, ‘As You Were’ is a masterful debut by a fresh new voice in Irish fiction.


Getting Away

Caitriona Clear

A necessary literary device to throw characters together in unfamiliar settings, communal family/friend away-events feature a lot in genre and popular fiction. If fiction teaches us anything it is that we should steer well clear of attempting anything similar in real life.


Into Us to Keep

Magdalena Kay

Seamus Heaney’s Virgil translation was one of a number of posthumous publications, but now it seems there is no more to come. As Auden wrote in memory of Yeats, the poet has become his admirers. And of course there are the poems, on offer here in a new selection by Heaney’s family.



Anna Benn

For Michael, the engineer protagonist of Adrian Duncan’s new novel, lovers’ entwined arms are a reminder of the connections of girders on a suspension bridge. For readers sated with sensitive literary heroes, Duncan analytical and oblique approach to relationships could come as a relief.


Daddy’s Girl

David O’Connor

Laura wants to be a big-time sharp-talking actress like those in the ’40s films noirs she watched with her father. She has loads of parts in her: ‘easy-to-see parts and long forgotten parts and parts I encounter in my problematic dreams. I have shadow parts. They do not wish me well.’


The Ring of Truth

Theo Dorgan

There are things you ‘know for a fact’ but perhaps cannot prove. Sometimes the frustration of such situations can drive a journalist to turn to fiction, as Frank Connolly has done with a compelling story set against the background of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974.


The God in the Attic

Fintan Calpin

The astonishing achievement of Marieke Lucas Rijneveld’s writing is its construction of a world of metaphor and simile which is punctured and disrupted by the real. Her novel is the work of a poet, for whom the sensuousness of the material world is a reminder that to compare is to distort.


In Deep Doodoo

Alan O’Farrell

Scandals which cause huge political ripples and even topple governments can result from both political and civil-service incompetence. A special adviser to Arlene Foster said that during his entire time in Stormont he never once saw minutes of a meeting involving his minister.


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


Escaping Lockdown with WB Yeats

From his Galway tower, amid the bitterness of civil war, Yeats looked out his window at an empty starling’s nest and imagined that bees might come to settle there. A timely image, for replacing bitter dissension with bee-like co-operation is surely the path to sweetness and light.


Sunningdale: Trundling On

Was the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973 undermined by the fundamental opposition of many unionists to sharing power with nationalists? Or was it the threat that the Council of Ireland might be a slippery slope towards a united Ireland that was decisive?


Memories of Eavan Boland

Richard Bourke recalls meetings with Eavan Boland as a young man in the 1980s. Being in her company opened a window on intellectual life, albeit one with a quite narrow view. The culture she esteemed was exclusively literary, with pursuits like history or philosophy relegated to the margins.


Italian Diary X

As Italy enters a new phase of its response to the coronavirus crisis, John McCourt has decided to park his diary and return to his Joyce book. Meanwhile, medics and scientists, the very people who are trying to save our lives, are being increasingly portrayed by a noisy minority as the enemy.


Truth Above Everything

He was a champion sprinter, a member of the Irish Volunteers and a gun-runner, a supreme court judge, a translator of Immanuel Kant, a playwright and the author of a whimsical novel in which a group of intellectuals discuss philosophy and Irish politics and communicate by radio with Mars.


Sunningdale and the Council of Ireland: an Exchange

Hugh Logue takes issue with a recent review by John Swift which he says misrepresents his views, as a prominent SDLP representative at the time, on the function of the Council of Ireland, part of the Sunningdale settlement of 1973. John Swift responds.


Italian Diary IX

What we are all missing at this time is not so much the extraordinary ‑ those occasional escapes from the rhythms and habits of our daily lives ‑ but the ordinary and the everyday. When, for example, will we next sit down with friends in a pub and make a hole in a pint of stout?



The disease which arrived in Ireland in the 1840s did not attack humans, yet it led to the death of one million individuals. It was politics, not natural causes, which brought about this catastrophe. A grim twelve decades of consequence followed.


Eavan Boland 1944-2020

As editor and translator she contributed immensely to the cross-currents of poetic and intellectual exchanges between Ireland, the UK and the US. Her poetry encompasses a view and vision, precarious, troubled, yet also calm, which is also found in the numerous poets she celebrated.


Italian Diary VIII

And so on he goes, peddling ‘cures’ like some medieval travelling salesman. Let’s not forget the man who died in March in Arizona after consuming fish tank cleaner because Trump had claimed the chloroquine that was in it could be a ‘game-changer’. It was.


SF and violence: an exchange

John Swift argued in a review in the current issue of the drb that the IRA campaign was a failure. Philip McGarry disagrees, pointing to the current political prominence of Sinn Féin, which he sees as a clear outcome of its strategy of violence. John Swift responds.


A Timeless Fable

Albert Camus said that Kafka obliges us to read his books twice: once for the literal narrative, and twice for the figurative or allegorical. By that token, writes Ed Vulliamy, his own La Peste cannot be read less than thrice, for it spoke, and still speaks, on three levels: literal, allegorical and universal.


Friendly Enemies

Colum Kenny, author of a new study of Arthur Griffith, says Yeats was wrong about Lavery’s portrait of Sinn Féin’s founder, whom he described in a poem as staring with ‘hysterical pride’. When it came to personal pride, the poet indeed would have left many others standing.


Italian Diary VII

When somebody is the president, Donald Trump has said, the authority is total. Does he really believe this? As New York governor Andrew Cuomo reminded him: ‘The president doesn’t have total authority … We don’t have a king.’ But if he were a king, might he be Macbeth?


Recollections in Tranquillity

Today, April 7th, marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the English poet William Wordsworth. He and his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge, with their book of poems ‘Lyrical Ballads’, were instrumental in launching the Romantic period of English literature.


Italian Diary VI

‘Red Noses’, a play about the Black Death first performed in London in 1985, featured a team of players touring the plague-affected villages of 14th century France, offering an unusual remedy – ‘peacocks, not ravens, bright stars, not sad comets, red noses, not black death’.


Cast a Cold Eye

In 1948, at the request of WB Yeats’s widow, George, and with support from Maud Gonne MacBride, an Irish Navy vessel was dispatched to France to bring the body of the poet back for burial in Co Sligo. And there now it lies - or perhaps it may be the body of the Englishman Alfred Hollis.



A former minister for enterprise famously suggested that while Ireland was physically closer to Berlin it was spiritually, and economically, closer to Boston. As our neighbouring island prepares to push off into the North Atlantic, it is worth asking if this is still a tenable orientation for the state.



The following is an extract from Emer Nolan’s Five Irish Women: The second republic, 1960-2016, published this month by Manchester University Press.


The Unstoppable Irish, by Dan Milner

The Irish in New York faced much of the same hostility from a Protestant establishment that wished to exclude them as they did at home. But eventually they came to belong, based on their service in the US army their role in maintaining law and order, their political skills, and, not least, their sheer numbers.


Marriage and the Irish, Salvador Ryan (ed)

This fascinating miscellany comprises seventy-nine short pieces on marriage practices in Ireland over approximately 1,300 years. During this period the institution of marriage was organised around property, status, succession and, in the case of the elite, politics.


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.


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.


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.


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’.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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 


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’.