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.

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A New Life

Paul Larkin
Much as William Shakespeare has entered into our language and discourse as “the Bard” who changed our understanding of art and life’s great philosophical questions, Henrik Ibsen should be the literary and dramatic icon of the modern age. Yet he is hardly talked about in literary circles and, more to the Irish point, has sunk without trace in a country which once regarded him with a mixture of awe and trepidation. This is a pity, since Ibsen continues to speak to our times. It can also be argued that we Irish have more in common with Scandinavians in general than most people might assume, or perhaps remember. Indeed the greatest Scandinavian writer has a particular relevance to modern Ireland. If two of or our most notable literary figures, James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw, felt Ibsen was important enough for them to write and campaign on his behalf we may reasonably assume that he was more than just a flash in the early modernist pan and that a revaluation of his works would be worth our while. Joyce went so far as to learn a passable Norwegian in order to be able to read Ibsen’s works and also entered into correspondence with him, or more accurately with one of his English translators, William Archer. He was in no doubt as to Ibsen’s central importance to literature and the world of ideas. As he wrote in an essay published in 1900 in the Fortnightly Review: It may be questioned whether any man has held so firm an empire over the thinking world in modern times. With his acute understanding of the historical role of an artist in society, Joyce admired Ibsen as a courageous freethinker who faced down a barrage of international condemnation to bring extraordinary new insights into life as it was lived in the early modern age. Ibsen was born in 1828 and died in 1906, but his productive period stretches from 1850 to 1899, say roughly from the bourgeois revolutions of 1848 to the onset of the Edwardian period. He was able to observe not only the helter-skelter development of the Industrial Revolution, the rise of an urban working class and the collapse of romantic idealism as an artistic genre but also the turn away from God. After the discoveries of Darwin and the materialist critique of capitalism offered by Marx and Engels, man as the new divinity took…

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