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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War in Words

Carlo Gébler
Of War and War’s Alarms, Reflections on Modern Irish Writing, by Gerald Dawe, Cork University Press, 194 pp, ISBN-9781782051763 Ireland is small. Writers not only know of each another but often they actually know each another socially too. So in the spirit of glasnost let me start with a disclosure: I know Gerald Dawe, the author of the book here under review. I know him well: he’s also a colleague when I work at Trinity where he teaches, which I do occasionally. You’ve guessed where this is going: can this review be trusted? Well I could say I never allow friendship to cloud my critical judgment but I doubt if you’d believe me. So how about this? Had I not liked Of War and War’s Alarms I’d have passed on reviewing it (I only review what I like, you see, as reviewing what I don’t like makes me peevish and sullen) and frankly, passing on reviewing it would have been easy as well as preferable because then I wouldn’t have been obliged to write this long fumbling paragraph which tells you not whether my judgment can be relied upon but that my favourable opinion preceded the invitation to describe it in writing. In other words, all you’re getting here is what I’d already concluded, expressed with a bit more clarity and rigour than would have been the case if I’d been talking to you in person in the pub, say, about this book. In 2004, Gerald Dawe gave the Francis Ledwidge Annual Lecture in the poet’s home village, Slane, Co Meath. Ledwidge, born in 1887, was a nationalist, a trade unionist and, I think, a socialist. He joined the British army in 1914 and was killed on the Western Front in July1917. During his difficult life, he never had much money. He wrote poetry mostly and though he did not produce an enormous quantity (he hardly had the time) what he did produce was remarkable. He was also an Irish artist (which is why he is so interesting today, to us) who embodied and lived with contradiction. He believed in Ireland yet served in the British army, and he did not see these two things as mutually exclusive. In the course of his lecture Gerald Dawe noted “that, as a result of my reading around Ledwidge’s life and times, it had struck me as strange that there was not a collection of…



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