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

Giles Newington

Kevin Power’s new novel is both riotous rant and thoughtful coming-of-age tale. The punchy lyricism enables sympathy as well as laughter, a sense that the characters are moving along predestined paths that give them little chance of understanding either themselves or the society around them.

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No Myth No Nation

Maurice Earls

A state, no more than an individual, is at a loss if it does not know from where it came. Independent Ireland, having lost its connection with the nineteenth century, is such a case. There are many reasons for the disjuncture, not least the trauma of partition. 

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The Sly Masquerade

Kevin Stevens

For quality of output, for growth and longevity, for the honesty and intensity of his narrative voices and for the relentless quest for forms that would make sense of his and his country’s experience, Philip Roth has few rivals, during the long stretch of his career or at any other time.

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The Anti-Freud

Seamus O’Mahony

Dr Trotter challenged Freud, asserting that ‘all human psychology … must be the psychology of associated man, since man as a solitary animal is unknown to us’. Herd instinct, whether protective, socialised or aggressive, was a positive human quality, tending towards altruism.

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The Europeans

Enda O’Doherty

For Cees Nooteboom, the floating iceberg we call life is a moving-picture show going who knows where. The past is where the nourishment is. But does he really not feel at home in the present? No, that would be childish: it’s more a matter of discomfort with people who are happy to live only in the present.

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Webs and Networks

Caoilfhionn Ní Bheacháin

In popular imagination, the Arts and Crafts movement is indelibly linked to well-known figures like William Morris, John Ruskin and Edward Burne-Jones. One could be forgiven for thinking women featured only as muses and models to celebrity artists and intellectuals.

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Voices from the Chorus

George O’Brien

Given the historical amnesia into which many of the individuals and their works have fallen, Katrina Goldstone’s account of the activity of Irish left-wing writers in the Thirties, the numbers involved and the energy they brought to their causes all constitute something of a revelation.

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The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Tom Hennigan

It was once possible to regard the judge Sergio Moro as a zealous, perhaps overzealous, prosecutor of corruption. That all changed when he agreed to serve in Brazil’s current far-right administration, a decision that has retrospectively tainted everything that went before.

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Blood of Spain

John Mulqueen

In the first half of 1936 there were seventy political killings a month in Spain. This was really nothing new, rather the latest outbreak in a long war between ‘the ordered, timeless hierarchies’ of church, army and landowner and the urban proletariat and its peasant allies.

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Entangled

Tadhg Hoey

The internet was born around the same time as Roisin Kiberd herself. In ‘The Disconnect’, she traces its progress, from being ‑ just possibly ‑ an instrument for social good to its eventual emergence as just another way to make huge profits by exploiting our collective vulnerabilities.

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Hergé’s Adventures in Politics

Martin Tyrrell

Hergé, the creator of Tintin, was one of many Belgians to respond to an appeal from King Leopold to return to the country they had fled after its 1940 surrender and resume normal life. When the Allies landed in Normandy four years later some of them felt it wise to leave again.

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After the Deluge

Tom Inglis

People’s inability during the pandemic to behave morally and refrain from actions that threaten the common good has meant that in protecting the public states will have to rely more on law than persuasion. Legal enforcement is coming down the road ‑ as surely as it did with drink-driving.

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Lowly Things, Homely Folk

Patricia Craig

From the four-poster to the settle bed, the dresser set with delph to the chair made from tree stumps, Irish country houses were filled with a variety of now unfamiliar artifacts, lowly things perhaps, but imbued in Claudia Kinmouth’s scholarly treatment with pungency and romance.

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Foxing It Up

Farrel Corcoran

Later this year two new British channels will bring a decidedly right-wing flavour to the TV news sector in a move that will have implications for Ireland too. Both will target the BBC as ‘left-leaning’, employing a game plan that has been marinating for years in American news culture.

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The Streets of London

Kathleen Shields

To be ‘a citizen of nowhere’, as nativist politicians sometimes like to smear city dwellers, is a nonsense. The very idea of citizenship grew out of cities and city states. The Londoners of Linda Grant’s ‘A Stranger City’ belong in a place and time, but they also know what it’s like to be told they don’t belong.

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Taming the Past

John Swift

The terms ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’ are not mutually exclusive, in the present or in the past. History matters and cannot be ignored. But in trying to shape a peaceful future for Ireland we should be aware of the danger of too much history, in particular a one-sided obsession with past wrongs.

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Freefall in the Suburbs

Susan McKeever

In Danielle McLaughlin’s first novel brief moments of high drama intermingle with journeys into the complex, foggy territory of the past while a slow-burn reveal of several truths and satisfying introspection come together in layers to create a thought-provoking read.

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In Defence of the Gàidhealtachd

Seaghan Mac an tSionnaigh

Activists concerned to protect the oldest of all living Scottish languages have been wrongly accused of perpetrating a sort of nationalist essentialism. In fact Gaels are more likely to associate themselves with more than just one kind of Scottish identity than non-Gaels.

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Stalking Truth

Dick Edelstein

Geraldine Mitchell’s four collections have in part sprung from insights gleaned from a lifetime of covert observation and independently considered reflection, beginning at a very early age when she spied on adults, refusing to take their statements about the world at face value.

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Love Hurts

Tadhg Hoey

Megan Nolan’s debut novel, a refreshingly honest and often uncomfortable meditation on the relationship between desire, self-destruction and the female body, marks her out as one of the most daring and gifted writers of her generation.

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In Rothko’s Rooms

Deirdre Hines

Ekphrastic poems allow a poet to amplify and expand the meaning of the piece of art being viewed. Less common is the collection that is informed as a whole by one painter, creating an aural and an optical illusion that the depicted poet and poems exist in three dimensions.

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Against the Clock

Tim Murphy

In his new collection, Greg Delanty makes another valuable contribution to the poetry of environmental consciousness. His reflections on species of flora or fauna that are thriving, endangered, or extinct frame a political consideration of climate change and an ever more urgent call to action.

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Dream Time

Arthur McCaffrey

The pursuit of the common good, Pope Francis argues in a new book, needs societies to focus now on the urgent need for practical measures of fraternity with just as much determination as they have focused on equality and liberty since the late nineteenth century.

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They Heard the Call

John Horgan

A history of Ireland’s main Catholic seminary has a much wider focus than the merely institutional and provides a fascinating account of the vibrant, sometimes unruly, throng of students and teachers that left their mark on Maynooth, as it undeniably left its mark on them.

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Her True Face

Gerald Dawe

Sylvia Plath presented an image to the world – brilliant student, stellar emerging poet and active, outdoor girl – while within she was deeply troubled and prone to the swings of a disabling depression. A sparkling new biography does full justice to both sides of Plath, and to her blazing art.

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The Devil’s Disciple

Maura O’Kiely

As a person, Patricia Highsmith was simply vile: mean, cruel, hard, unloving and unlovable. But was she a good writer? Graham Greene, JG Ballard and Gore Vidal all thought so. She was more esteemed in Europe than the US, where her cynicism about human relationships didn’t go down well.

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Midwinter

Afric McGlinchey

In her second collection, Leeanne Quinn gives voice and presence to the Russian poets Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva and Osip Mandelstam. Like Tsvetaeva and Akhmatova, Quinn has experienced grief and loss; like them, she has an attraction for cemeteries.

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The Autonomy of the Past

Sarah O’Brien

Each past era, Maria Stepanova reminds us, has its own particular dust that settles in every corner. Those who conflate past with present or appropriate the memories of the dead for their own benefit move us further from the plains of memory and closer to the precipice of myth.

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Eyes Wide Open

Daniel Fraser

Many great novels, from ‘Lolita’ to ‘The Kindly Ones’, force our recognition through horror and disturbing conceptions of beauty we might seek to deny, but the proper defence of having written such works, the refutation of shallow moralistic attacks on them, is not the pained retort but the work itself.

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Writing as a Weapon

Tim Murphy

In his posthumously published final collection, ‘Shadow of the Owl’, Matthew Sweeney employs the weapon of writing to cope with terminal illness. The book marks the moving and triumphant culmination of Sweeney’s unique brand of ‘imagistic narrative’ poetry.

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Getting to Grey

Liam Hennessy

Bipolar disorder has been explained as an attempt to create a world in which everything is either black or white. The illness can only be treated, it is suggested, when the important third element is introduced.

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Astonished at Everything

Peter Sirr

Generosity and largeness of vision seem to meet happily in the poems of Uruguayan-French writer Jules Supervielle, which seem to cover great distances in short spaces.

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All or Nothing

Joschka Fischer

Those Germans who argue so vehemently against a so-called transfer union should realise that the EU has always been such a union. France got the CAP for its large rural economy and Germany the common market for its strong industry. Little has changed since.

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Birds, beasts and flowers

Gerald Dawe

DH Lawrence’s poetry offers a record of the powerful current of physical pleasure, the elusive joy of witnessing that which is different, and the kind of opinionated prickliness when things are not what they seem to be or should be.

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The Stilled World

Nicola Gordon Bowe

Unsentimental, sparing and unspecific, the painter Patrick Pye has sought figurative images to represent symbolically “the archetypes of our humanity” depicted in an alternative universe where expiation has been achieved.

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Forthcoming Events and News

A regularly updated diary of events of literary and artistic interest and news from the publishing and arts worlds

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Exporting the Poor

Given the level of enforced celibacy in newly independent Ireland, it is not surprising that there were many extramarital pregnancies. Yet the rate was low compared with other European countries. The consequences for the women involved, however, were extreme.

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Avoidance

Liam Kennedy responds to Emmet O’Connor’s review of his ‘Who Was Responsible for the Troubles?’ He restates his argument that as long ago as 1997 it was clear that very many Northern nationalists were prepared to look the other way when it came to killings, bombings and mutilations.

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A joyful sorrow

There is a word – schadenfreude ‑ for delight in another’s misfortune, but is there one for sadness in another’s joy? When Ed Vulliamy complained to American friends about Britain they replied ‘But we’ve got Trump!’ Trump, he responded, will pass – and now, joyously, has passed - but Brexit is forever.

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The Caning of Sumner

In a long-famous outrage in 1856 in the US Capitol, anti-slavery senator Charles Sumner was severely beaten by Congressman Preston Brooks. It is no coincidence that the mob that invaded the building this week carried the Confederate flag. More than anything else it is white supremacy that fuels American violence.

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How to Disappear

The writer and activist Stella Jackson was a woman well-used to be being cast into the shadows, or to being defined in relation to men ‑ her father, the communist historian TA Jackson, her lover, Ewart Milne, and less frequently Cork writer Patrick Galvin, briefly her husband.

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The Ignoramus ‑ In His Own Words

Almost 58 million Brazilians voted for President Jair Bolsonaro, a man who never hid his nastiness, illiberalism, backwardness and general political ignorance. There are many ways of studying ‘bolsonarismo’, but one of the simplest is just to let him and his cronies speak.

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Rupture Rapture

A hundred years ago this month Yeats published ‘The Second Coming’ in an American magazine. The poem, Joe Cleary argues, did not wait to reflect calmly on rupture and crisis but swallowed them hot. Art does not brood on historical events but aspires itself to be the event.

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Letter from Paris

I have met people, including some of my friends and their teenage children, who were proud to say, after the terrorist attacks, that they were definitely ‘not Charlie’. Many indeed felt that the cartoons led to Islamophobia and were an elitist insult to an oppressed and powerless minority.

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A Difficult Healing

Donald Trump’s exit is gratifying. The United States will now have a president who is decent, civil and honest. However, in a political society which has never been more divided and in which citizens have this year bought 17 million guns, uniting the people will not be easy.

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Derek Mahon, the poet

Although Mahon was the last poet one would accuse of naivety, he was attracted to an ideal of simplicity, writes Magdalena Kay. This correlates with a tacit conviction that feelings of insignificance can bring on ecstasy: ‘Such tiny houses, such enormous skies!’

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Derek Mahon: 1941-2020

Derek’s was a life characterised by a certain turbulence, dedication to his craft, a disputatious impulse and an inner reserve sometimes bordering on the stand-offish. But when the mood took him he was uproarious company.

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A Long Way Down

Brian Friel, in ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’, refers to the sudden disappearance from their Donegal home in the 1930s of two of his aunts, Rose and Agnes. The play is not wholly autobiographical, but the true story of what happened to these women is deeply sad but perhaps not so unusual.

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Likeability

Thirty years after the publication of the ‘Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing’ many critics still dismiss Irish women’s writing as lacking ‘seriousness’ and deride them and their female characters for a supposed lack of ‘likeability’. Could it be that they just don’t like women?

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John Hume 1937-2020

Two years ago, Michael Lillis published a review of two books about the former SDLP leader, enriched by his personal experience as an official of the Irish government in working with Hume in the diplomatic process which preceded the Belfast Agreement. We are republishing part of it here.

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Foclóir or Folklore?

Darach Ó Séaghdha’s bestselling book ‘Motherfoclóir’ developed from his successful Twitter project ‘The Irish For’. In the book he has been willing, keen even, to lay into scholarly lexicographers past and present. But the number of mistakes in his own work does not inspire confidence.

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When in Dublin …

A copy of the events magazine ‘In Dublin’ from 40 years ago, long filed away, reveals a city in which it was just becoming possible to publicise gay rights networks and when young whippersnappers like Fintan O’Toole and Colm Tóibín were starting to flex their intellectual and polemical muscles.

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This England

While it cannot be ruled out that Boris Johnson will execute a U-turn at the last minute and throw Gove and Cummings under the bus, hard Brexit talk has taken on a dynamic that will be difficult to stop. If this is the course that is taken, Britain is heading for a harsh collision with reality.

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IRELAND IN THE EUROPEAN EYE, GISELA HOLFTER AND BETTINA MIGGE (EDS)

A former minister for enterprise famously suggested that while Ireland was physically closer to Berlin it was spiritually, and economically, closer to Boston. As our neighbouring island prepares to push off into the North Atlantic, it is worth asking if this is still a tenable orientation for the state.

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FIVE IRISH WOMEN, BY EMER NOLAN

The following is an extract from Emer Nolan’s Five Irish Women: The second republic, 1960-2016, published this month by Manchester University Press.

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The Unstoppable Irish, by Dan Milner

The Irish in New York faced much of the same hostility from a Protestant establishment that wished to exclude them as they did at home. But eventually they came to belong, based on their service in the US army their role in maintaining law and order, their political skills, and, not least, their sheer numbers.

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Marriage and the Irish, Salvador Ryan (ed)

This fascinating miscellany comprises seventy-nine short pieces on marriage practices in Ireland over approximately 1,300 years. During this period the institution of marriage was organised around property, status, succession and, in the case of the elite, politics.

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Rogue States, by Fred Johnston

In Fred Johnston’s new collection the subject is the experience of cancer or suspected cancer. The prevailing mood is one of grim fatalism; there is no belief in the medical world doing good. This is a world without Ms Nightingales.

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A Narrow Sea, by Jonathan Bardon

A history of the interactions between Ireland and Scotland over two millennia, told in a series of 120 episodes, ranges entertainingly from the Roman governor Agricola’s plan to invade Ireland from Scotland to 21st century pitch invasions at Ibrox and Celtic Park.

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To Live Like a Moor, Olivia Remie Constable

The cultural absorption or lack of it of large immigrant communities may not have predictable outcomes. The relationship between culture and politics, it seems, is not straightforward and drawing political conclusions from cultural practices is an inexact business.

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The One Hundred Best Novels in Translation, by Boyd Tonkin

A new anthology of works of fiction translated into English is modest about its ambitions and disclaims any ambition to be ‘canonical’. Nevertheless it is a smartly executed work, which invites us to fill in some gaps in our literary education and ‘get out a bit more’.

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Revivalism and Modern Irish Literature, by Fionntán de Brún

Once independence was won, the question facing Irish ideologues and leaders was how to make revival real. It was then that the tenuous and tentative nature of the relation between the cultural and the political became clear. Those different spheres would never march in lockstep.

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Love Notes from a German Building Site, Adrian Duncan

In Berlin, an old building is being repurposed for use as a computer store. In the middle of a bleak winter, the construction workers have inadequate time, inadequate resources, speak many different languages and have managers fresh from the Celtic Tiger building boom. Nothing can go wrong.

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Pirate Queen, Tony Lee and Sam Hart

The indomitable Grace O’Malley, pirate queen, is the heroine of a new graphic novel that will entertain and inform children from nine years upwards.

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Nano Nagle, the Life and the Legacy, Raftery, Delaney and Nowlan-Roebuck

Nano Nagle’s emphasis on educating the Catholic poor had a political dimension and contributed to the integration of the several parts of Catholic Ireland into a whole which had the potential of politically focusing the majority. In this sense it is not too fanciful to see her  work as prefiguring that of O’Connell.

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A Short History of Drunkenness, Mark Forsyth

A Ukrainian proverb can be taken to illustrate our human attraction – and perhaps our occasional uneasiness about that attraction – to alcohol, its pleasures and dangers. “The church is near,” it goes, “and the tavern is far. It is snowing heavily. I shall walk carefully.”

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Monster Agitators: O’Connell’s Repealers, 1843 Ireland, Vincent Ruddy

O’Connell’s Monster Meetings came to an abrupt halt in October 1843 when the Viceroy  mobilsed four battalions of troops, some four hundred armed RIC and Metropolitan Police and moved three gunships into Dublin Bay 

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Then Again, Pat Boran

In a poem about O’Connell Street’s Spire, the monument becomes a dagger, a skewer, an extended middle finger. None of the names are inclusive of us, the citizens; the Spire is the ‘we’ reduced to ‘I’, which might be seen as the opposite of Boran’s project, to expand the ‘I’ to ‘we’.

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