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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

Owning Up

David Donoghue
After initial attempts to simply forget the past and focus on economic reconstruction, Germany’s record of coming to terms with Nazi-era crimes has been impressive. The same, regrettably, cannot be said of the US with regard to the history of slavery and racism in the American South.
Jan 30, 2020, 12:31 PM

Flash Fiction

There are things you can do when your husband sleeps with your sister. You can sit in your studio and imagine them together, the toad and the mouse. Him moving over her. Her on top of him. You can hear dark skin slap against honey skin; you can hear moans. But he is your toad and she is your mouse – your Diego and your Cristina – so you drown those thoughts because they bring more tears than a blood-letting.
Sep 14, 2011, 17:27 PM

The Kids Are Alright

Maurice Earls
The story of Minnie with her heart “as big as a whale” is the old story of the beautiful and somewhat innocent young woman who falls for a useless cad, one who gives her things that she ain’t needin’ and by whom she is thereby destroyed, or, as in the popular Betty Boop animated version, severely chastened. The Betty Boop version dealt metaphorically and indirectly with the issues the song disguised behind hepster slang. As a result both were huge successes and the gifted Calloway was the first artist to break the colour bar of the major broadcasters.
Sep 13, 2011, 17:21 PM

Mind And Mystery

Manus Charleton

In a BBC Four documentary (Pol Pot’s Executioner: Welcome to Hell – May 2011), a torturer said that the only way he could have tortured his victims was to regard them as animals, as he was required to do. The practice of dehumanising prisoners by relating to them only as a number was part of this process, as it was in the Nazi death camps. A torturer might be opposed to torturing prisoners but have justifiable fears of being killed and perhaps tortured to death himself if he refuses to do so, which presumably would set up conflicting signals in his brain patterns. But there are those, such as Duche, the notorious Non Pen camp commandant during the Pol Pot regime, who oversaw and implemented the extreme methods. His state of mind must somehow have been able to override a brain state of distress. Harris writes about understanding psychopathic behaviour in terms of brain pathologies. However, there is also Hannah Arendt’s phrase for the Nazi atrocities, “the banality of evil”, and Duche’s ordinariness comes across in the documentary.

Sep 12, 2011, 17:24 PM

Back To Basics

Enda O’Doherty
It is one of the weaknesses of Judt’s position – and a symptomatic one – that he never addresses the question of affordability. “Even in social democratic Norway”, he complains, failure to demonstrate that one is seeking work can be grounds for losing benefit. Judt obviously find this a deplorable state of affairs but has no interest in asking why some people might have felt it was necessary – even in social democratic Norway. Indeed throughout the book he exhibits all the fastidious distaste for questions of money one might expect from an old-school professor in the humanities, even going so far at one point as to suggest that the only conceivable purpose of teaching business studies to undergraduates must be to extinguish the naturally altruistic feelings of the young.
Sep 11, 2011, 17:18 PM

Back To The Reader

Carol Taaffe

In the opening interview, Enright expresses her impatience with endless questions about “Irishness”. And that leads her into a telling digression:

… I write very passionately for an Irish audience. I think that the Irish audience is ignored in all of these conversations about how Irish you can be if you publish abroad or are successful abroad. No one talks about the Irish readership, which is huge and extremely important to Irish writers. Too much credence is given to the mediators between the Irish writer and the Irish audience. I mean the commentators and critics.

Sep 10, 2011, 17:14 PM

Two Kinds of Life

Kevin Stevens
Salter’s entry into the literary world happened at a time when Jewish novelists were moving centre stage in the United States. Bellow, Malamud, Roth, Heller, Mailer – these writers not only dominated American letters in the early sixties but made a point of mining their ethnicity in ways that altered significantly the landscape of postwar American fiction. Exactly their contemporary, Salter never saw himself as Jewish, at least not in any public way. Like Mailer and Heller, he would write about war; like Roth and Bellow, he was a master of dialogue. But he did not, as Anthony Burgess said of Malamud, search for meaning in “the situation of a Jew in urban American society”.

Sep 9, 2011, 16:43 PM

What’s The Plan?

Michael O’Sullivan
... a near total absence of strategic thinking among politicians. The other is a blind willingness to accept the gifts of outsiders as a means of supporting our economy, with little thought as to the consequences of this policy. Two examples stand out. One is the very successful attraction of mainly US multinationals to Ireland, a side effect of which has been to leave policymakers and capital providers with a blind spot as to the importance of a strong domestic services/industry base. The other has been the ready adoption of the constraints required by the euro-zone, with very little accompanying organisation to deal with the imbalances likely to be produced.
Sep 8, 2011, 16:50 PM

Ill Prepared

Mary Jones
From the early months of the Influenza pandemic – in Ireland as elsewhere, attempts were under way in universities and laboratories in pursuit of a therapeutic vaccine for influenza.  They did not succeed: this influenza-type infection was undoubtedly lethal, and they knew that it was not a bacterium; but  they simply did not know, at this stage in the pandemic, precisely what order of  complexity they were dealing with.
Sep 7, 2011, 16:36 PM

My Words, Your Words

Tim Groenland
It seems simplistic, though, to view the work simply as the act of a bullying editor taking advantage of a struggling writer; the evidence suggests that Carver actively sought Lish’s input throughout his early career and considered much of his work to have been improved as a result. Editing itself is hardly a new phenomenon and has a noble place in literary history – Max Perkins’s paternalistic assistance was crucial to the careers of both Hemingway and Fitzgerald, for example (were it not for Perkins’s insistence, The Great Gatsby could have been called Trimalchio in West Egg), and the many fierce but friendly tussles between Frank O’Connor and New Yorker editor William Maxwell over the former’s short stories are recorded in the pair’s published letters. This kind of back-and-forth is not unusual in publishing, and is an accepted (and by many writers, valued) part of the creative process.
Sep 6, 2011, 16:33 PM


David Blake Knox
Throughout their captivity, the Irish seamen consistently refused to sign an agreement to become freie Arbeiter – voluntary workers ‑ for the German Reich. In early 1943 they were again segregated, and thirty-two of them ‑ including William ‑ were moved by the Gestapo to Bremen Farge ....
According to the survivors, they were beaten by SS guards when they arrived at Farge. They were told that, since they were civilians, they were not protected by the Geneva Convention, or the International Red Cross.
Sep 5, 2011, 16:28 PM

Visions of Europe

Fergal Lenehan
Many jobs in Germany are, compared to those available in Ireland in the first years of the new millennium, very poorly paid and usually contract-based. The younger middle classes were also well informed through newspaper and television reports about happenings in Ireland and the “Celtic Tiger” phenomenon. In 2007, a TV documentary on the Franco-German Arte channel on what was sceptically referred to as the “Irish economic miracle” featured a very young Irish banker who, speaking in front of the IFSC in Dublin, told his audience that Germany, and Angela Merkel, were jealous of Ireland’s economic performance.
Sep 4, 2011, 16:24 PM

Losing It

Tom Hennigan
Yet one measure of just how disorientating the global financial crisis has been for the world’s bien pensant elite is that Argentina’s economic history no longer just serves as a warning but simultaneously as an example for those countries in the developed world seeking to escape the wreckage left by of the crash of September 2008. For every commentator who finds toxic fallout from the South American country’s unprecedented sovereign default in December 2001 there is another ready to ignore it and laud strong economic growth since then as proof that there is indeed life after burning your bondholders.
Sep 3, 2011, 16:17 PM

Dandelions And Small Beer

Eoin Bourke
Over and over again Hutchinson, who always champions the cultures that are forced to the edge by the centres of power, makes the disappearance of the Irish language his theme. In the same poem an old man points to his glass filled with stout and says: ‘Is lú í an Ghaeilge ná an t-uisce sa ngloine sin.’ – ‘Irish is worth less than the water in that glass:’
Sep 2, 2011, 16:12 PM

Now About All These Women

Anthony Roche
She had the requisite beauty, but what made her both unique and compelling was that this was joined to a passionate involvement in Irish nationalist politics (his one real rival for Maud, as Yeats accurately recognises). They met, after all, at the house of the Fenian leader John O’Leary; and their relationship throughout the 1890s drew Yeats into an increased involvement in nationalist politics, best incarnated when Maud played the title role in Yeats and Gregory’s Cathleen ni Houlihan of 1902. The third element Yeats was attracted to, in Hassett’s view, was her Ascendancy pedigree, as strongly emerges when he berates her for converting to Catholicism in order to marry Major John McBride.
Sep 1, 2011, 16:03 PM