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.

POLITICS

Running out of Road

Protestant population decline and the political short-sightedness of unionism
The reality is that there will be no ‘majority community’ in Northern Ireland, if by majority we mean more than 50 per cent. There will be three groups: Catholics, Protestants and Others. A 40/40/20 division could be too neat: the Protestant community will be smaller than the Catholic. When that realisation sinks in there is likely to be a sense of existential threat to the community that, a hundred years ago, had a state created that was designed to make it a majority forever.

CULTURE

Against Mystique

National character: English decorum versus dreamy Celtic fecklessness A longstanding element of Seamus Deane’s critique has been his rejection of the idea of national character. His essay on the subject here is a tour de force which charts oppositions between ‘Irishness’ and ‘Englishness’ in a host of commentators over three centuries. Winding his way with fluency and intelligence from descriptions of the ideal English garden to the dreamy Celtic personality, he illustrates how the moral categories imposed on the peoples of these islands have been products of a deeper political intent.

Dublin Review of Books

POLITICS

Running out of Road

Paul Nolan
Protestant population decline and the political short-sightedness of unionism

CULTURE

Against Mystique

Richard Bourke
National character: English decorum versus dreamy Celtic fecklessness

MEMOIR

Witness to Revival

Emer Nolan
Mary Colum’s memoir of Ireland, literary revival and modernism

PSYCHOLOGY

Beyond A Joke

Kevin Power
A Tale Told by an Idiot: Jordan Peterson’s daring fictional gambit

CINEMA

The Authentic Voice

William Wall
An examination of Italian cinematic neorealism and its artistic antecedents

PHOTOGRAPHY

See Here

John Fleming
The great photographers caught through the lens of a playful semantics

LITERATURE

Comings and Goings

Pauline Hall
The ‘isolated and outlandish’ domain of the doomed Big House gentry

BIOGRAPHY

Guinness and Chips

Peter Kennealy
A diary of English high society that is high on snobbery but low on insight

POLITICS

Who’s for a U-turn?

Dennis Kennedy
Why unionists might be better off thinking, and doing, the unthinkable

RELIGION

The Inflection Point

Fergus O’Ferrall
Literacy in religious thinking may be necessary to tackle the world crisis

BIOGRAPHY

Rights and Wrongs

Katrina Goldstone
Hannah Arendt: witness and theorist of the advent of modern totalitarianism

FICTION

Brief Lives

Brandon C Yen
Lafcadio Hearn’s encounter with transience and crossing borders

FICTION

A Righteous Flame

David O’Connor
A gift for evoking simple things: light, heat, water, air; food and drink

FICTION

Design and Build

Neil Hegarty
Scenes of fleeting beauty captured in overlooked and unglamorous contexts

Boarding School Odyssey

Enda Wyley
Poems of youth recollected. informed by humour yet speaking of heartbreak

Blending In

Tadhg Hoey
Israel’s ‘first family’ reimagined in a hilariously conceived campus comedy

On the High Wire

Gerald Dawe
John Berryman: a university poet in a society not much interested in poetry

MEMOIR

Witness to Revival

Mary Colum’s memoir of Ireland, literary revival and modernism In writing about Yeats and revivalist Dublin, Mary Colum also revisits the most rewarding period of her own life. Her book is itself a distinguished contribution to a small but significant body of autobiographical writing by Irish women writers and activists, which includes Maud Gonne’s ‘A Servant of the Queen’ – the ‘Queen’, incidentally, is Ireland. Colum used autobiography not just as a miscellany of memories but as a mode of moulding the experience of belonging to a specific generation.

PSYCHOLOGY

Beyond A Joke

A Tale Told by an Idiot: Jordan Peterson’s daring fictional gambit
An ‘unreliable narrator’ is not so much one who deliberately misleads the reader as one who fails to make sense of the story he or she is telling. The device’s most spectacular recent success surely came with the satirical ‘psychological’ trilogy in which that splendid creation ‘Jordan Peterson’ reveals himself as an utterly un-self-aware, pompously precise, bewildered, helplessly erroneous student of human nature. The result is both hilarious and heartbreaking.

CINEMA

The Authentic Voice

An examination of Italian cinematic neorealism and its artistic antecedents
Italian neorealist cinema was inevitably left-wing and pride in its success ‑ prizes won at international festivals for example ‑ was tempered by political considerations. Showings were often boycotted or closed by right-wing authorities and funding was very difficult. Many neorealist films were made on a shoestring, or even by public subscription.

PHOTOGRAPHY

See Here

The great photographers caught through the lens of a playful semantics
There is a great chewy joy to reading Geoff Dyer – cheeky stretched conceits are applied to tasty ideas as he operates surgically on the heart of a concept with an apposite quote from someone relevant or learned. He can contract the long and insightful into the short and insightful: in his pithiness there is octuplet pregnancy.

FROM PREVIOUS ISSUES

The Chancer Debagged

Alan Titley
Frank McCourt’s Limerick: a place where the sun never shone

Toasted Heretic

Kevin Myers: a conservative failing to keep down his inner adolescent

Friends At War

John Mulqueen
Was the Irish Civil War really a struggle between social classes?

The Ascent of Women

Ann Kennedy Smith
Charles Darwin assesses the ‘mental power’ of men and women

LITERATURE

Comings and Goings

The ‘isolated and outlandish’ domain of the doomed Big House gentry
Elizabeth Bowen’s lover, Sean O’Faolain, the son of an RIC man and a former IRA volunteer, urged her to write of a Big House that ‘was at least aware of its surroundings and perhaps regretted the division’. She acknowledged that there was a problem: establishments like Bowen’s Court had been ‘ignobly gained’ and were sustained by privilege.

Blogs et cetera

The Book

Taking Pains

  Enda O’Doherty writes: The printer Robert Estienne (1460 or 1470-1520), whose shop was on the rue de l’école de Droit in Paris, was a man who believed in taking pains. According to the distinguished scholar of early modern publishing Anthony Grafton, Estienne, who was printer-bookseller to the University of Paris, employed ten “correctors” and is said to have hung up the proofs of editions of his Greek texts outside his shop, offering a reward to anyone who could find an error. Book publishing in the first century of mechanical printing could be a profitable business, but also a tricky one.... Ever since we have been publishing books, newspapers and reviews we have been making mistakes in the printed text. To err is human, universal, inevitable. That doesn’t prevent readers from getting very het up on the subject. But this irritation, and the cantankerousness and mutual antipathy of writers and editors, also have a long pedigree, going back at least to the dawn of printing.

RESPONSE

Big Questions in Irish History

Reading an issue of the drb is like splashing happily in a pool of ideas. Maurice Earls’s dash across several centuries of Irish history, “No Myth No Nation”, is an exhilarating exploration. At moments, it might seem like a ballon d’essai but the essay is written with serious intent. One could imagine a whole module in Irish history and historiography built round its provocative theses. It challenges and refreshes. I think it is wrong-headed at times, as we all are. Earls opens with the paradox that while Partition had “exceptional emotional heft” in Irish nationalist politics during most of the...
In our April issue, we published an historical essay by Maurice Earls, 'No Myth, No Nation'. Liam Kennedy has taken issue with some of its propositions, including the importance that was attached to economic development by nineteenth century nationalists and the level of public support there was for the independent state established in 1922. Maurice Earls's response follows.