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.



The Trump Enigma

Kevin Stevens
The pervasive national mood of cynicism makes it easier for a Republican or independent who dislikes Trump to vote for him. If all politicians are liars, the reasoning goes, and if Democrats are bent on creating a socialist state, I may as well support the liar who will uphold conservative values. Take the unbudgeably loyal MAGA, add in conservatives willing to vote holding their noses, and the possibility of a Trump majority becomes real.


Orwell: The Rewrite

Martin Tyrrell
Anna Funder finds that George Orwell’s previous biographers, in neglecting the role of women in his life, have been guilty of ‘fictions of omission’. To compensate for these perceived failings she has interpolated a number of imagined episodes into her own study, most of them showing Orwell in a bad light. While these are clearly signalled in the text, their long-term effect could be to confuse the readers as to which elements of her narrative can be taken as fact and which have been invented.


Beyond Revisionism

Richard Bourke
Intellectual life is not beholden to any specific constituency. Given this freedom, academics in the Irish context should extend the framework of their inquiry, moving beyond asking which of two unions – a United Ireland or the United Kingdom – best caters to national allegiance. Nationality should not determine the remit of government. The legitimacy of a regime depends on the quality of its administration, not the principle of nationality as such.


The Third Man

Luke Gibbons
Reversing the standard model of a progressive metropolitan centre modernising a backward rural periphery, struggles in the Irish countryside ushered in the modern, but with a notable difference: instead of producing ‘economic man’ or homo economicus, the ‘land for the people’, in the eyes of figures such as Andrew Kettle, redefined proprietorship itself as part of a wider, collective political project of national self-determination.


Heaven Can Wait

Tom Inglis
Maybe the best guides to living ‘the good enough life’ are the Greeks, like Socrates, who while interested in the nature of the world and how we know it, and the nature of right and wrong, did not obsess but mostly got on with living, happy to hang out at the gym, staying healthy and taking pleasure in talk and company. He might have been happy in Skerries, being, in Miller’s words, ‘a philosopher who fully understood the principle of good craic’.


Hatred’s Underground Streams

Farrel Corcoran
We may be entering an era of post-democracy, a malaise linked to pessimistic nostalgia, where a manipulative minority claims to speak for vaguely defined ‘ordinary people’, who can be induced to want whatever their leaders need them to want. Current developments on the far right may well be the seedbed for future digital post-democratic parties who hammer home a number of populist messages using the best organisational and user-surveillance techniques of the Internet age.


A Hyphenated Identity

Michael Neill
The problem with the compound term Anglo-Irish is that it too readily assumes that it is easy to be both. Yeats hoped for a spiritual union in a new Ireland of the peasantry and ‘country gentlemen’. Casement first served the empire, and then, following his conscience, Ireland. Others found no solution and were left stranded as the floorboards of their once comfortable ‘Big House’ existence began to rot beneath them.


Sweeney Astray

David O’Connor
She had had enough of those young women ‘who blame everything on their parents’ generation and cry if they see a dead fox on the road’. Yet there was her own daughter, with all that ‘entitled suburban comfort … calculated self-presentation, advertised commitment to abstractions, unchecked hypocrisy, reflex sentimentality and a pitiless moral arrogance’.


Confusio Linguarum

Luke Warde
The great Italian semiotician Umberto Eco understood Europe as a product of difference, going so far as to write in his 1993 book ‘The Search for the Perfect Language (Making of Europe)’ that before the confusio linguarum, the confusion of languages, ‘there was no European culture, and, hence, no Europe’.


Nobel Noir

Terence Killeen
Fosse’s characters – perhaps not the right word – are constantly reaching out for something transcendent but just as constantly confronting realities of ageing, death, poverty and deprivation that cannot be and are not wished away. Sex, too, is a reality, though it is hard to discern whether it is a force for good or a distraction.


A Smiling Public Man

Patricia Craig
Seamus Heaney’s letters, many of them related to his escalating responsibilities as he became increasingly celebrated, amply demonstrate his personal kindness and the scale of his generosity to friends and others. They also reveal his fear of the effects of being just too visible, of becoming ‘a mascot’, or even, as he delicately phrased it, ‘conniving in the overstatement of my own meaning’. For all his amiability, indeed, he was always prepared to put his foot down whenever it came to overtures which he felt overstepped the mark.


Just Live

Galen Strawson
But what are ‘objectively worthwhile pursuits’ anyway? There’s a danger here of being too restrictive. We mustn’t set up a hard ranking that places one kind of pursuit – let us say art – inflexibly above another – say farming or fishing. We shouldn’t rule out intensely hedonistic lives. For any human activity, there are some who have an extraordinary gift for it. Some are brilliant at pleasure, indefatigable pleasure virtuosos.


A Bodyguard of Lies

Aaron Edwards
As a former MI5 officer observed in a 1992 newspaper article, it was essential that deep penetration agents join enthusiastically in the activities of the organisation even if they are seriously criminal. A deep-cover agent must be the ultimate method actor, firmly believing in the organisation penetrated while also remembering who he really works for. Dedication to both sides has to be absolute.


Pétain’s Gift

Enda O’Doherty
In essentially political trials like Pétain’s, various factors are at play, including revenge for the formerly persecuted – now the victors – and some degree of consolation or closure for victims’ families. They are also exercises in national pedagogy, enabling the new authorities to assert their particular version of history. For de Gaulle the kernel of the lesson to be delivered was that the Vichy regime was an aberration and that active collaborators with the occupiers had never constituted more than ‘a handful’ of the French people.


Double Exposure

Ed Vulliamy
Émile Zola was not just a minute recorder of French life through his novels. He was also an enthusiastic photographer. But he seems to have felt that when it came to close-range Naturalist realism, he had ‘done that’ with his pen, and there was no need to do it again with a camera. Here, in his evocations of the visual textures and timbres of urban life, he is trying to achieve something different.


Endgame in Paris

Enda O’Doherty
The extreme right in France in the 1930s lacked electoral support but pursued their enemies with a constant stream of scurrilous attacks in the press. Carried to power in 1940 on the backs of the invading Germans, they harassed their opponents and were complicit in the deportation of Jews to extermination camps. After the war they had to pay, but even here some were more fortunate than others


The First of a New Genus

Ann Kennedy Smith
Johnson also published books by women, and included them socially at a time when the dining clubs, literary societies and coffee houses of the printing district excluded them. His most celebrated author and friend was Mary Wollstonecraft, whose first book he published while she was still working as a governess. He wrote to her, promising to stand by her if she wished to forge a path as a writer. This she did. He recorded that ‘Mary came from Ireland in 1787 … having determined to try to live by literary exertions & be independent’.


Big House to Little House

Luke Gibbons
Ireland’s precarious position both outside and inside modernity presented, to conservative sensibilities in England, the appeal of a pastoral retreat from the modern world, but to more progressive minds it was a means of re-imagining the modern itself, retrieving it from the catastrophes of two world wars. In some London socialist circles the Irish rising was hailed as ‘the first crack in the as yet undisputed rule of the imperialists’.


The Conditions of Liberty

Adam Coleman
For classic liberals and neo-liberals, freedom is understood largely as freedom from constraint. In its active aspect it is the ability to make choices as ‘consumer’. But this ignores the myriad social constraints that conspire to inhibit various groups of nominally sovereign consumers from actualising their potential, or the circumstances whereby certain individuals, given their pre-existing disadvantages arising from legal status, ethnicity, sexual identity, gender or class, must submit to some capricious authority out of desperation and thereby forgo their rights to participate in political, social, and cultural life.


Whole Lotta Shakin’

George O’Brien
Nothing in the essentially manufactured nature of the Stones’ presence speaks of, or directly derives from, actual experience or personality. Stylised sneering doesn’t count: it’s no more than, at best, contrarian affectation. Jagger’s campness and Richards’s outlaw posture are just two raised fingers from a speeding Caddy, naughty gestures surely not be taken at face value.


A Life of Journeys

Sean Sheehan
His recall of the fog rising from the Severn and mingling in a golden glow with the lights of the school Houses wraps his account of Shrewsbury in nostalgia. He reads Hill’s ‘Lenin and the Russian Revolution’ but finds it a ‘stupid, cruel, futile story’. Oxford’s cloisters and crenellations appeal more to his imagination.


There Will Be Blood

Paul O’Mahoney
Popular immiseration comes about because of ‘the wealth pump’, the funnelling to elites of an ever greater proportion of wealth. Where wages stagnate, the money produced has to go somewhere. Since the proportion taken by the state in the US has remained relatively constant, this has meant increasing profits for the very wealthy.


The Two Milan Kunderas

Alena Dvořáková
Kundera presents his communist past as a youthful aberration, mostly in the vaguest of terms, in metaphors and through figurative shortcuts. These metaphors fail to capture what long-term communist loyalties entailed in practice – from sitting in meetings where policies were adopted and people denounced and sacked, to skilful negotiation with censors; from enjoying privileges only granted to prominent communists, such as travel abroad and stays in subsidised writers’ resorts, to receiving exorbitant fees for poetry serving communist propaganda.


Up Mount Improbable

Johnny Lyons
Why write a biography of a philosopher? The pattern of Derek Parfit’s life became increasingly fixed and ascetic from the early 1970s: he spent the vast majority of his time in hermit-like isolation, punctuated only by annual teaching stints in the US. Apart from the show taking place between Parfit’s ears, few noteworthy events took place in his life.


First, the Struggle

Thomas Earls FitzGerald
Liam Lynch’s commitment to the Republican cause was an unyielding one, which viewed with hostility and suspicion anything seen as too ‘political’ or removed from the military side of the project – indeed for Lynch the republican project seems to have fundamentally amounted to military resistance alone. His death opened up a path for de Valera, enabling him to take republicanism in a democratic direction.