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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Beneath the Surface

Deirdre Ní Chuanacháin
Winesburg, Ohio was first published in 1919 by the small New York firm of BW Huebsch. Ben Huebsch was also the first US publisher of DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers (1913) and James Joyce’s Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (both 1916) In his book of twenty-four loosely related short stories, Winesburg, Ohio (A Group of Tales of Ohio Small Town Life), the American writer Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) made arguably his most significant contribution to both American and world literature. It has had an immense influence on generations of readers and writers, from William Faulkner (1897-1962) to Amos Oz (1939-2018). Faulkner said of him in an interview in 1956: “He was the father of my generation of American writers and the tradition of American writing which our successors will carry on. He has never received his proper evaluation. Dreiser is his older brother and Mark Twain the father of them both.” Oz recalled in 1985: I had a Hungarian teacher at Kibbutz Hulda who never set foot in America but who told me to read ‘Winesburg, Ohio’ after it was translated into Hebrew. She knew I was a secret poet and wanted me to write prose. I had thought the real world was outside ‒ in Jerusalem or New York or Paris. ‘Winesburg’ showed me that the real world is everywhere, even in a small kibbutz. I discovered that all the secrets are the same ‒ love, hatred, fear, loneliness ‒ all the great and simple things of life and literature. Almost three decades later, in 2011, Oz said of Winesburg, Ohio: “That book inspired me to be a writer, perhaps more than any other.” Philip Roth’s 2008 novel Indignation is set in part at Winesburg College in Winesburg, Ohio. His protagonist holds a part-time job as a waiter at the “New Willard House”, evoking the protagonist George Willard and the fictional location of Anderson’s book. Still, as Anderson helped to influence the writing of his successors, so his own writing in Winesburg was influenced by the books he read and admired, like Ivan Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Sketches (1847-51) and George Borrow’s autobiographical Lavengro (1851) and his tales of gypsy life in England, The Romany Rye (1857). Through these writers and in writers like his fellow mid-American Mark Twain, Anderson found points of reference for writing about love, loss, loneliness, longing, desire, desolation and death in his Winesburg stories. In his own time Anderson was influenced by the Kansas-born poet,…

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