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

Not So Equal

Patricia Craig

They lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles, Dorothy Parker is supposed to have said. Bloomsbury continues to fascinate, sexual intrigue and intellectual hauteur being only part of the appeal. An absorbing new study focuses on the interrelated lives of five women.

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Little Women and their Pa

Maurice Earls

Louisa May Alcott’s father was a man of advanced views, a deist, vegan and ‘transcendentalist’. But, as is often the case with those of a theoretical and discursive bent, his practical abilities, as well as his appetite for the hard labour his utopian schemes required, were limited.

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Torturing for Democracy

Farrel Corcoran

Kurt Blome was a minister of Hitler’s Reich, directed its biological warfare programme and oversaw experiments on prisoners. He was not one of the seven Nazi scientists sentenced to death at Nuremberg; instead he was enabled to continue his research for the benefit of US military intelligence.

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Real Life is Literature

Catherine Toal

Responding to the claim that writers today draw increasingly directly on their own lives, Jonathan Franzen argued that nobody ever wrote a more autobiographical story than Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’: the most purely autobiographical fiction requires pure invention.

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Acts of Hope

Peter Sirr

Poets can be parochial, powerful languages encouraging the sense that there is no need to look beyond their borders. Set against that, there is Osip Mandelstam’s ‘nostalgia for world culture’, a kind of alert openness, a feeling of being at home in an enlarged world of the spirit.

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There and Then

Dawn Miranda Sherratt-Bado

Violence begets violence, Darran Anderson reflects. Those immersed in it know it; those who profit from it at a distance know it even more. What his father – that ‘man of few words’ – had given him, he comes to realise, was to have broken the cycle of violence for his own family.

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Drawing Death’s Sting

Dick Edelstein

In ‘Origami Doll’, the poems of Shirley McClure’s entire career whisper to each other as the newer ones shed light on the earlier ones and vice versa. The whole represents a sort of ongoing conversation, underpinned by a stable philosophical view.

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‘It’s all bullshit’

Luke Warde

For trolls, politics is insuperably Manichaean. It is governed by enmity and the notion that things could be otherwise is a saccharine fiction that should be derided. In this regard they share something of the worldview of Nazi jurist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt.

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Irish Modernism: Still an Oxymoron?

John Greaney

A new history of Irish modernism sees its development as following the trajectory of national history, while centralising the achievements of Yeats, Joyce and later Beckett. This is unsurprising as many of the contributors have long been working in the field of Irish studies.

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Enemies of the Nation

Enda O’Doherty

In late 19th century France, the propagandists of the far right warned that the nation faced a mortal enemy, a parasitical stranger who could not be assimilated. This was the Jew. Today the far right sees an almost identical foe, who is with us but not of us. This is the Muslim.

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Seeking Hardy’s Thrush

Joseph M Hassett

It was Thomas Hardy’s ‘darkling thrush’, who flung his soul upon the gloom of the dawning 20th century, that brought Seamus Heaney to Dorset as the 21st began. Heaney’s dedication to all the voices and languages of the archipelago may be an inspiration in the years ahead.

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Waiting for Big Brother

Martin Tyrrell

Most biography of Orwell carries the assumption that his whole writing life was a preparation for his final work. This may well be so: the heroes and heroines of the earlier novels tend to be placed, alone or friendless, at the centre of a hostile world from which there is no escape.

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Red Shift

Tom Wall

The Soviet Union was happy in the 1980s to forge links with a party that was acquiring more than its fair share of young intellectuals, many with influence in the Irish trade union movement. Nevertheless, Sinn Féin the Workers Party’s hostility to the IRA was a problem for Moscow.

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Scholarship, snobbery, skulduggery

Jim Smyth

Sir John Harold Plumb was a prodigious historian and journalist. a tireless networker, a professor, master of Christ’s College, a member of the British Wine Standards Board. He collected porcelain, paintings, wine, acolytes, enemies, dowager duchesses and other people’s wives.

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Washing the Nation’s Dirty Laundry

Ursula Quill

The women interned in mother-and-baby homes not only did forced penance for other people’s sins. They also quite literally washed the laundry of the state, including that of institutions like hospitals, the National Library, Áras an Uachtaráin and the ESB.

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Blue Notes

Catherine Kelly

Cathy Sweeney’s characters are sometimes bored to death but the stories they inhabit are never boring. Sweeney’s writing offers neither solutions nor relief. Instead, her stories are like splinters, getting under your fingernails and leaving little bloody marks.

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Hell-bent

Leanne Ogasawara

Imagination is essential for human understanding and compassion. But in Hannah Arendt’s words, the human heart must go visiting, otherwise we lose our power to be moral. The ability to look at the world from another’s point of view in an imaginative way.

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Neither West Brit nor Little Irelander

Gerald Dawe

Irish Protestant identity  has always been a more complex and various business than is suggested by the image of a Big House aristocracy enduring terminal decline. Post-Brexit, the Republic will be forced to think more on this subject. Its past record has not always been inspiring.

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Manufacturing Victimhood

Clare O’Dea

First create a movement – not a party – which speaks up for ‘the real people’ and promises to punish their oppressors. Then proceed to the infantilisation of political language ‑ outrageous statements help ‑ and turn up the level of aggression, eventually creating a public sphere where shame no longer exists.

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From Head to Toe

James Peake

We have all internalised vast quantities of popular culture and carry around long-term what was intended to passingly divert. The disposable has almost conquered the internal, and Conor Carville’s achievement is to show us this in poems that are by turns vivid, horrifying, clever, funny and visionary.

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An Ornery Beast

Byron Williston

Our world is organised by boundaries. Those people, those animals, that kind of weather, those diseases belong down there, not up here. But now these boundaries, from which our sense of who we are, individually and collectively, has been drawn, are beginning to look very porous.

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Putting it on

Catherine Kelly

Katherine O’Dell’s acting fame is based on being Hollywood-Irish, particularly in her role as a nun in the hugely successful ‘Mulligan’s Holy War’. Cinema, of course, trades in yearning and, as her daughter remarks, Katherine could miss the old sod standing in her own kitchen in Dublin.

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Saturated with Light

Thomas McCarthy

Another perfect volume from Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, the poet of sunlight and cloisters. The collection is a joy to read, and a reminder, yet again, that poets are sent to amaze us, to bring us all nearer to the light.

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Glimmering in the Dark

Ross Moore

In his artfully constructed second novel, which displays a fine ear for dialogue and a sharp eye for the workings of relationships, Neil Hegarty has conflated patriarchy, religion, violence and family in a manner that is both exactingly specific and utterly convincing.

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Moving from the Familiar

Catherine Phil MacCarthy

Change, Anne Enright tells us, is chiefly what the short story is about, with something known at the end – or nearly known ‑ that was not known before. Many of Pat O’Connor’s stories begin in a place that is familiar to us but soon move to somewhere strange and unsettling.

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Shandy, Anyone?

Tadhg Hoey

Imagine a ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ for the 21st century, except that the kitchens and flophouses have become nightclubs and galleries and the immigrant dishwashers and angry chefs have been replaced by vagabond writers and stoned conceptual artists.

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A Place to Stand

Sean O Hogain

Poems whose titles use the word ‘against’, like ‘Against Despair’, ‘Against Anxiety’ and ‘Against Earnestness’, are not Groucho Marx-inspired (‘whatever it is I’m against it’) but rather resemble small prayers, personal ones rather than those out of the churches’ lexicon.

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Mina’s Lair

Neil Hegarty

Bram Stoker is standing at his window, peering out anxiously at a figure below. The young Oscar Wilde wishes to whisk him away on a healthy, liberating seaside constitutional – but Stoker will have none of it: it wouldn’t do to be seen in the company of such a one, not in gossiping Dublin.

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A Fog from Reykjavik

John Fleming

A participant-observer study of the making of The Fall’s 1982 album ‘Hex Enduction Hour’, recorded in Iceland and at a cinema in Hertfordshire, drips decency and likability. It could be profitably patented as a pragmatic template for art memoirs or biographies.

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Questions of Balance

Peter Robinson

It is the balancing act of drawing transitory subjects from the experiences of a life, presenting them with a deftness and lightness of touch that still delivers a weight of implication, while shunning overt claims to attention, that is so captivating and enabling in Enda Wyley’s new collection.

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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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The Prememory of the Pandemic

The world has been taken entirely by surprise by the coronavirus pandemic. It appears as if nothing within living memory could have prepared us for such an unprecedented upheaval. But is that really the case?

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Italian Diary III

The beautiful city of Bergamo in northern Italy was once perhaps best known as the birthplace of opera composer Gaetano Donizetti. Now it is known as the epicentre of the corona virus, with a death registered every half-hour in recent days. Yet even here, there is some hope the tide may soon turn.

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Italian Diary II

Some ask if it is right for the State to shut down its economy because people are dying of a virus. Here in Italy #Covid-19 is killing 8 per cent of those who contract it. What kind of a state or State would we be in if we decided to just attempt business as usual in these circumstances?

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While you’re waiting

If you find you have some time on your hands over the next weeks –or even months – you might take some solace in literary works which deal with crisis and cataclysm, fears of the end of the world or ‘the end of civilisation as we know it’.

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Italian Diary

The number of deaths is increasing daily and although the vast majority of people in Italy are just staying put, working from home as best they can, there are still too many people out and about, going for walks and runs, especially in the cities.

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An Old Man’s Dreams

Whatever we have done, and perhaps even more so whatever we have failed to do, may pursue us through restless nights for many decades after our conscious minds have forgotten all about it.

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Such Beasts

Fables, Seamus Heaney has written, that corpus of tales of innocent or treacherous beasts and birds, were once part of the common oral culture of Europe, a store of folk wisdom as pervasive and unifying at vernacular level as the doctrines of Christianity were in the higher realms of scholastic culture.

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Beyond the Pale

The fraternisation of elements of the traditional right with figures from the new far right raises important questions. Is this just opportunism or is it a serious attempt to move mainstream conservatism further right and win respectability for opinions, attitudes and policies formerly considered beyond the pale?

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George Steiner: Paris, 1929 – Cambridge, 2020

George Steiner, who has died aged 90, was one of the pre-eminent critics and literary intellectuals of the twentieth century. He defended the European canon, which he saw as deriving from traditions which could be traced back to both Jerusalem and Athens, and practised a criticism that was based on admiration.

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THE SEAMUS MALLON I KNEW

He condemned every IRA and loyalist killing in the harshest terms, writes Andy Pollak. He also denounced collusion, harassment and sectarian bias by the RUC and UDR. In the face of government and unionist hostility, he demanded justice and equality from the security services and the courts.

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Death of a Cosmopolitan

Being European, for Ed Vulliamy, was not a matter of some pragmatic economic calculation. It was a thing of passion, of love for the old continent’s languages, customs and beliefs, its football, food and firewater. A European citizen no longer, he experiences the loss as a wrench and a violation.

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Don’t mention the Grandfather

A tricky manoeuvre to expand Ireland’s diplomatic effectiveness in international forums involved liaising with a senior international official with important Irish connections. Stephen James Joyce, who died last week, had a reputation for being ‘difficult’, yet in this matter he proved anything but.

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Out with the Old

Ireland’s population declined from over eight million in 1841 to 4.5 million in 1901, 2.9 million in 1931 and 2.8 million in 1961. It had long been suggested that self-government was the key to tackling decline, but clearly it was not sufficient, the real upward swing coming only after entry into the EEC.

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The Electability Obsession

Those supporting centrist candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination suggest that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are not electable in a contest with Donald Trump. But there is really no evidence that any of the four leading candidates is less electable than any other.

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Looking after Number One

A rereading of a classic two-volume biography of Julius Caesar reveals a vain, grasping and unscrupulous individual, but also a man of vision, talent and unquestionable leadership skills, political to his finger-tips, who would stop at nothing to satisfy his voracious ambitions.

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A Sunburnt Country

In response to Australia’s calamitous forest fires prime minister Scott Morrison and his government blandly reassure Australians they have ‘been there before and come through’, thus enacting the dictum that power is the capacity to talk without listening and the ability to afford not to learn.

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What’s happened to Scottish Labour?

British Labour’s seats in Scotland were always an important part of its majority - when it got a majority. Last week it recorded its lowest percentage vote there since 1910. Why? Because it behaved as if it owned its seats and failed to listen to what its working class voters told it they wanted.

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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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