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.

Home Uncategorized Tales from Bective

Tales from Bective

Jana Fischerova
Mary Lavin, by Elke D’hoker (ed), Irish Academic Press, 304 pp, €22.45, ISBN: 978-0716531814 Mary Lavin was undoubtedly one of the most significant Irish writers of the twentieth century. Yet her work has, in the last few decades, attracted very little interest from either readers or scholars. As Elke D’hoker, the editor of Mary Lavin, states in her introduction, Lavin received significant recognition in the 1970s – when she had already been writing for some thirty years – but since then only a dozen scholarly articles concerned with her work have appeared and her books have largely gone out of print. The recent centenary celebrations of her birth have sparked some renewed interest in her writings, and two of her short story collections (Happiness and Other Stories and Tales from Bective Bridge) have been reissued, suggesting that a change may finally be under way. Mary Lavin has been conceived in that same context, seizing the moment and looking to contribute towards rectifying the neglect of Lavin’s work. The publication’s expressed aim is “to offer a comprehensive overview of her oeuvre, which spans almost half a century”. To this end, eleven scholars from various backgrounds have been brought together to discuss her work. The question of neglect of Lavin’s work forms one of the book’s recurrent topics. Some authors address it directly, suggesting possible reasons for the slippage into obscurity; others engage with it indirectly through analysis of the writing – presenting new angles of inquiry, shedding light on overlooked aspects of Lavin’s work, showing how she was only partially understood, or in some ways completely misunderstood, in the past. One of the acknowledged strengths of Lavin’s writing lies in the way in which she captures in it the structures and atmosphere of mid-twentieth-century Irish society. As she grew up on a different continent, in the United States, her perspective on Irish reality is intrinsically comparative, and this gives her narratives a unique texture – at once intimately familiar and detached. Because her stories are so firmly rooted in the Ireland of a certain time, they have often been reduced to the status of well-written social commentaries. A number of the essays in Mary Lavin draw attention to this issue and focus their energies on demonstrating how Lavin did more than just put up a mirror to Irish society – how her works in fact offer a deliberate artistic stand. These essays make a very good case for Lavin…

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