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 Issue 11, Autumn 2009

Issue 11, Autumn 2009

A House Built on Sand

The RTÉ programme ignored most of the relevant documentary sources. It later claimed that its argument – that the Coolacrease incident was sectarian murder in pursuance of a land grab in a context of widespread sectarian ethnic cleansing by the Irish independence movement – was proven by Land Commission documents which it had in its possession. The authors of Coolacrease examined the Land Commission records and there are no such documents in existence. The programme’s thesis is wholly unsupported by the available evidence.

Increments of Uncertainty

As Updike’s word count mounted, so did the rancour. The New York Times’s Michiko Kakutani, considered by many the most powerful literary critic in America, regularly savaged his work. Over the last decade she accused successive novels of being “bogus in every respect”, “shopworn”, “cringe-making” and “claustrophobic”. Indeed the regularity of her vitriol was such that that when she gave the posthumously published My Father’s Tears a favourable notice, literary blogger Shane Barry commented: “We now know what Updike had to do to get a good review out of Kakutani.”

Not Altogether Fool

Add to this the fact that James is a polyglot – he reads in eight languages – a rock lyricist – frequently touring with musical collaborator Pete Atkin – and a tango enthusiast – he has converted the upstairs of his London flat into a ballroom so he can feed his passion – and one can see why Julian Barnes, in an introduction to a Best Of volume of James’s essays, observed that he was “a brilliant bunch of guys”.

The Clergyman’s Daughter

Aldous Huxley, the first to adapt Austen for the screen, produced a script for Pride and Prejudice in 1939, but the producers insisted on simplifying the plot (“Five Gorgeous Beauties on a Mad-Cap Manhunt!” the publicity read), dismissing parts of the dialogue that were “too literary” and inserting additional material. Even the period of the action was moved forward forty years.

Light Thickens…

It seems, to the mild irritation of both Prussian sages, that the women in the Marx and Engels households went into collective mourning following the hangings. In a letter to Engels, Marx described his daughter’s response: “Jenny goes in black since the Manchester execution, and wears her Polish cross on a green ribbon.” “I need hardly tell you that black and green are the prevailing colours in my house too,” Engels replied, perhaps feeling he had had enough of Irish woes for the time being.

The Genesis of Macroeconomics

The circumstances of his birth, some time between 1680 and 1690, and the ambiguities surrounding his death, circa 1734, provide an aura of mystique around the deeply enigmatic Richard Cantillon from Ballyheigue in Co Kerry. A contemporary, friend and later bitter opponent of John Law, he was an economic genius. In the only known publication by Cantillon, the Essai sur la nature du commerce en général, published in 1755, twenty-one years after his death, he provided a brilliant analytical framework or model of an economic system which traced the progression of an economy from a barter, command and closed economy to its development as a market-based, monetised and entrepreneurially driven economy open to international trade and capital flows.

God as Poem and the Poem of God

A good poem renews the language in restoring its truthfulness, its honesty of expression, avoiding the false and honeyed words of the courtier and the exploitation of the advertiser or lobbyist. It restores it further in re-exposing its beauty in combinations, vibrant and fresh, at times reviving words too long ignored or inventing new and true words.

A Bit of the Same

Mulligan’s insinuations link up with one of the novel’s main themes, the convergence of Bloom and Stephen, when he tells the company how he saw “the sheeny” at the entrance to the library eyeing the backside of a nude female statue. Bloom’s interest leads him to jump to the conclusion, “I fear me he is Greeker than the Greeks.” Mulligan has also picked up on Bloom’s interest in Stephen, which he also misinterprets and, in a conflation of his underlying anti-semitism with the homophobia displayed in the National Library scene, warns his friend, “Did you see his eye? He looked upon you to lust after you … thou art in peril. Get thee a breechpad.”

At Ease With Elsewhere

If Brian Moore’s work seemed “outsiderish” to the young Heaney in 1962, what must he have made of Hutchinson? He had been “outside” Ireland for well over a decade at this point, learning the languages of greater Europe – Catalan, Galician, Galaico-Portuguese, as well as French, Dutch-Flemish, and Italian – and forming his poetic identity in relation to poets such as Carner and other Catalan poets like Pere Quart (1899-1986) and Salvador Espriu (1913-1985), to name only a few of the non-Irish and non-Anglophone writers whose work had a major impact on the development of his distinctive poetic voice in the early decades of his career.

Saving the Past

More recently, pundits close to the Kremlin have intoned about “memory wars”, mainly in reaction to the critical views of Stalinist history advanced by Ukraine and the Baltic states in what is seen in Moscow as an attempt to denigrate not only Stalin but also the Russian state, and to move away from the Russian sphere of influence. Implicitly, the attacks on Stalin’s record are resisted as an attack on the power and prestige of Russia.