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.

David Blake Knox

Family Troubles

A novel set in Ireland and in various of the theatres of the Second World war is based on the historical story of an Irish family of the minor gentry, who, like well over 100,000 other Irish citizens, took part in this conflict, in which nine thousand of them are estimated to have died.

A Canine Resurrection

The ancient Irish Wolfhound was chosen as an emblem for the Abbey Theatre and a mascot for the Irish Volunteers. But in fact the dog we know as the Wolfhound is far from ancient and far from ‘pure’. And perhaps, as such, it is not an unsuitable symbol for the Irish ‘race’.

Gypsy Dancer

Johann Trollman was a gifted athlete who floated like a butterfly through German boxing bouts in the 1930s. But he was a member of the Sinti community, operating in a sport the Nazis considered a forum for the display of essential Aryan values. He could not be allowed to win.

Rebellion of the Intellect

In the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, published one hundred years ago this year, the hero’s father, Simon Dedalus, describes the Irish as a ‘priestridden Godforsaken race’. That claim may once have had validity, but it does not any longer ‑ at least as far as the ‘priestridden’ part is concerned.

Communities At War

It might be expected that World War II’s impact in Northern Ireland would be determined by sectarian criteria, with unionists relishing the opportunity to prove their loyalty and nationalists stubbornly withholding their support. In reality things were more complex.

A War Without End

Steam locomotive C5631 is proudly displayed in the museum at the Yasukuni Shrine in Japan, where prime ministers come to honour war criminals. There is no mention there of the hundreds of thousands of prisoners who died building the WWII railway on which it ran.

Imagining the Irish

Good-humoured, charming, hospitable and gregarious, yet drawn to tragedy. Are the Irish subject to some kind of collective manic depression ‑ lurching wildly from exuberant craic to existential despair? Or is this just the kind of moonshine we like to feed our customers?

Casting a Spell

The older I get, John Burnside remarks, the happier my childhood gets. In a third volume of memoirs he goes further towards an understanding of his father, a threatening alcoholic for whom, he had said in an earlier book, cruelty came close to being an ideology.

The Goggle Box

Television has been accused of dumbing down the population almost since it was invented. For TS Eliot even the word itself was ugly and foreign. Noel Coward thought it ‘hideous and horrid’, while those on the left feared it would seduce the working classes and liquidate their sense of class solidarity.

Crimes and Punishment

Germans have confronted the crimes of the Nazi regime with honesty and thoroughness. Important sections of Japanese society, however, prefer to forget or forgive the wartime actions of their army and deal with victim nations with defiance, not conciliation.