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 Literature


Orwell: The Rewrite

Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life, by Anna Funder, Viking, 464 pp, £10, ISBN: 978-0241482728 Eileen O’Shaughnessy married George Orwell in 1936 and remained married to him until her unexpected and untimely death in 1945. Anna Funder’s Wifedom is primarily an analysis of that nine-year marriage, which Funder concludes as having been throughout to Eileen’s disadvantage, […]

A Hyphenated Identity

Like the optimistic white rectangle in the Irish tricolour, with its promise of conciliation between the Orange and the Green, the hyphen in ‘Anglo-Irish’ serves to obscure a dangerously intractable anomaly; and the career of Roger Casement, loyal servant of empire turned nationalist rebel, readily epitomises that contradiction. In the last of three tributes to […]

Nobel Noir

The award of the 2023 Nobel Prize for Literature to the Norwegian writer Jon Fosse did not come as a surprise. Fosse (born 1959) has long been a leading contender for the honour, which remains the most prestigious in world literature, despite recent controversies. First there was the decision (in 2016) to give it to […]

A Smiling Public Man

The Letters of Seamus Heaney, Christopher Reid (ed), Faber & Faber, 848 pp, £40, ISBN: 978-0571341085 Seamus Heaney was a steadfast and indefatigable letter-writer – though how he kept up the practice alongside his escalating activities and responsibilities, literary, academic, domestic and international, is a mystery. It wasn’t just a matter of dashing off missives […]

The First of a New Genus

Dinner with Joseph Johnson: Books and Friendship in a Revolutionary Age, by Daisy Hay, Vintage, 528 pp, £10.99, ISBN: 978-1784701079 The Garrick Club in the West End of London was founded in 1831, making it one of the oldest gentlemen’s clubs in the world; for almost two hundred years women have been allowed in only […]

Big House to Little House

Ireland, Revolution and the English Modernist Imagination, by Eve Patten, Oxford University Press, 228 pp, £65, ISBN: 978-0198869160 When Karl Marx looked to the militancy of the Fenian movement, and the émigré Irish in industrial centres, to awaken the English labour movement from its political slumbers, he could hardly have foreseen the parodic turn this […]

The Two Milan Kunderas

There have for a while now been two Milan Kunderas, characters so different as to suggest Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. There is Kundera the good European, celebrated as an eminent writer, a defender of freedom of speech, a voice of remembering against the politics of forgetting, and a spokesman for a mythical entity called […]

The Moment in the Rose-Garden

The Hyacinth Girl: T.S. Eliot’s Hidden Muse, by Lyndall Gordon, Norton, 496 pp, 2023, $47, ISBN: 978-1324002802 British edition: Virago, 512 pp, £25, ISBN: 978-0349012117 From its very first sentence, this book gives a jolt to Eliot studies. The poet is a master of disguise, writes Lyndall Gordon, who has proven herself more than capable […]

Hounding Oscar

Oscar Wilde on Trial: The Criminal Proceedings from Arrest to Imprisonment, by Joseph Bristow, Yale University Press, 672 pp, £65, ISBN: 978-0300222722 This is certainly not the first book to be devoted to the trials of Oscar Wilde. As early as 1912 there was Christopher Sclater Millard’s Oscar Wilde: Three Times Tried. The word has […]

Making Us Good

                                     1 ‘How do I become a good person?’ is a boring question, because we already know the answer (be kind; don’t make other people responsible for your suffering; don’t be responsible for other people’s suffering), and because […]