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January 18, 2020


#ReadIreland 2020 The Irish Writer and the World

by NancyElin

  • Author:  Declan Kiberd
  • Title: The Irish Writer and the World (331 pg)
  • Published: 2005
  • Genre:  non-fiction
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan
  • #ReadingIrelandMonth20
  • #Begorrathon20


Ch 1 Introduction

Central theme – cultural forces which appear opposites often turn out to have common ground on which they can meet!
Goal – zone of free debate to allow an intelligent savouring of differences as well as similarities
Error – leaders ignore the ‘cultural domain and are led by mere politics.
James Joyce – perfect example….a writer who made himself European without ceasing to be Irish.


Ch 2 The fall of the Stage Irishman


Stage Irishman (19th C)
Caricature of an Irish stage drunk, clowning his way with stories between bars
He wears an Irish mask: exploiting the quaint Irish peasantry
for the amusement of a ‘superior’ foreign audience.
The stage Irishman was generally “garrulous, boastful,
…unreliable, hard-drinking, belligerent (though cowardly).

Anti-Stage Irishman
Caricature of an holier-than-thou Irishman
refusing any taint of the Stage Irishness.

Stage Gael
Caricature of the long suffering suffering peasantry of the west of Ireland
ignoring the awful poverty.
“Gaelic morons here with their bicycle clips and handball medals” (Flann O’Brien)

Stage Writer:
Stage Irishman is a thing of the past.
Ireland is in danger of replacing it with the Stage Writer:
…legendary drinking of Brendan Behan (died 41 yr)
Flann O’ Brien (died 54 yr) and Patrick Kavanagh (died 63 yr).

Irish Literary Modernism (20th C)
Seamus Heaney, Martin O’Cadhain and Sean O’ Riordain are
masters who brought Irish writing into the 20th C.
They gave their countrymen a true image of themselves.

19th C
Rejection on romantic Irish novelists (C. Wickham 1826-1882)
— dealing sympathetically with Irish life, manners, quaint customs
and the insuppressible humor of the peasantry.

20th C
Acceptance of new generation of writers
–“…which the people would be shown in all their naked hideousness” (Yeats)
That author was Flann O’ Brien (aka Brian O’Nolan). Novel An Béal Bocht
The Irish expression “to put on the poor mouth” is mildly pejorative.
Peasant farmers would exaggerate the direness of one’s situation
to evoke sympathy, charity of creditors and landlords or generosity of customers.


Ch 3  Storytelling: the Gaelic tradition

  1. “The best things come in small packages.”   (Anne Enright)
  2. The short story…
  3. has been the most popular literary form with readers.
  4. permits intense self-expression.
  5. author selects a single aspect of life to reveal his personality.
  6. is credible, written in private for the critical solitary reader.
  7. exploits minor triumphs, sadness  of the commonplace man.



  1. I was looking for insights into Irish writers and their works.
  2. I enjoyed the introduction, ch 1 about Irish stereotypes and
  3. ch 2 about Irish and short stories.
  4. Liked: ch 1-2-3 (15%)
  5. Disliked: ch 4-19
  6. The rest of the book was centered around
  7. nationalism, multiculturalism,
  8. do you write in Gaelic or in English….which is preferred?
  9. ..75th commemoration of the Easter Uprising,
  10. museums, colonialism, poets Synge vs Yeats etc.
  11. All are scholarly discussions worth reading
  12. ….but was not what I was looking for.
  13. #CherryPickWhatYouLike
Read more from Ireland, non-fiction

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