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March 2, 2023


#Ireland Short History of Irish Literature

by NancyElin


A Short History of Irish Literature A Backward look by Frank O'Connor by Frank O'Connor Frank O’Connor


A Short History of Irish literature: A backward look (1968)

Finished: March 2023
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: A

#Readingirelandmonth23 Challenge    hosted by  @746Books

Bad news: The book explains in chapters 1-7 the beginning of oral story telling in Ireland. It moves on to saga’s and Irish manuscripts provided my scribes in monasteries. All very basic…but does make the eyes glaze over once and a while. 800 AD was eve of the the first invasions by the vikings.
Within a few years all great monasteries were in ashes!

Good news: Push through ch 1 – 7 even if you have to skim them because Frank O’Connor has some great insights about modern Irish literature! He dissects segments of Ulysses ( worth reading) that were enlightening! There is so much in this Irish classic the reader misses without the guidance of an J. Joyce expert! Did you know each of the 18 episodes in the book is related to the corresponding episode of the Odyssey…AND also associated with an organ of the body and a colour?

Good news: This book is out of print and I ordered from second-hand dealer in UK. It was $$ (expensive)…but money WELL spent for a collection of O’Connor’s lectures given at Trinity University Dublin (1968).

Good news: Frank O’Connor is not only a literary critic. O’Connor was “doing for Ireland what Chekhov did for Russia”! His best short stories attain a distinct psychological and emotional richness. There is a fine short story prize given in his name each year in Cork. The prize was presented between 2005 and 2015. The prize amount was €25,000, making it one of the richest short-story collection prizes in the world. Unfortunately the prize was discontinued in 2016.

Personal: I’m always looking for books by great Irish authors who seem to have slipped between the cracks. Here are a few found in this book and plan to read: Asenath Nicholson, James Magan, James Stephens, Sean O’Casey, Liam O’ Flaherty, G.B. Shaw and Mary Lavin.
There are many great quotes from Irish poems and the final words of W.B. Yeats just struck a cord…

“Cast your mind on other days
That we in coming days may be
Still the indomitable Irishry.”


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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 2 2023

    Love Frank O’Connor!

  2. Mar 5 2023

    I’m interested in underrated women authors so was interested in your mention of Mary Lavin.

  3. Mar 11 2023

    I was attracted to Mary Lavin too – a quick google shows an interesting story – her parents immigrated to America, but when she was nine, first the mother, then a little later, the father returned to Ireland. She has won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize & the Katherine Mansfield Prize (a prize I had not heard of before and can find nothing about online!) Interesting indeed!

    • Mar 12 2023

      Thanks for the extra info about Mary Lavin! I haven’t gotten around to finding one of her books yet…will do that soon.


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