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He’ll have brought it on Himself

Colm Tóibín, 22 May 1997

Sex, Nation and Dissent in Irish Writing 
edited by Éibhear Walshe.
Cork, 210 pp., £40, April 1997, 1 85918 013 2
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Gooddbye to Catholic Ireland 
by Mary Kenny.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 320 pp., £20, March 1997, 1 85619 751 4
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... it is a history of coercion and control. The figure who emerges from it most strongly is John Charles McQuaid, the Archbishop of Dublin between 1940 and 1972, who stopped Noel Browne, the Minister for Health in 1951, from introducing a health scheme for mothers, thereby bringing down the Government, and who insisted that ...

Let’s Do the Time Warp

Clair Wills: Modern Irish History, 3 July 2008

Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change c.1970-2000 
by R.F. Foster.
Penguin, 228 pp., £8.99, July 2008, 978 0 14 101765 5
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... shadow cast by the revolution. The novelist who explored this period with the greatest acuity was John McGahern, a writer who (contrary to Foster’s view) was intensely alive to the contradictions and compromises of Irish postmodernity. His last book, That They May Face the Rising Sun, is set in a time warp, the characters caught in a strange limbo ...

Playboys of the GPO

Colm Tóibín, 18 April 1996

Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation 
by Declan Kiberd.
Cape, 719 pp., £20, November 1995, 0 224 04197 5
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... you feel, so that Kiberd could play his game with them. It is tempting to think that Shaw wrote John Bull’s Other Island and Brian Friel wrote Translations with Kiberd watching over them, egging them on. Both plays are full of the paradoxes proposed by England in Ireland and Ireland in England. The drama comes from the identity games which colonised and ...

Among the Flutterers

Colm Tóibín: The Pope Wears Prada, 19 August 2010

The Pope Is Not Gay 
by Angelo Quattrocchi, translated by Romy Clark Giuliani.
Verso, 181 pp., £8.90, June 2010, 978 1 84467 474 9
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... In 1993 John McGahern wrote an essay called ‘The Church and Its Spire’, in which he considered his own relationship to the Catholic Church. He made no mention of the fact that he had, in the mid-1960s, been fired from his job as a teacher on the instructions of the Catholic archbishop of Dublin because he had written a novel banned by the Irish Censorship Board (The Dark), and because he had been married in a register office ...

The Excursions

Andrew O’Hagan, 16 June 2011

... out herds bred over centuries in Wales. Small farmers, whelped on Common Market subsidies and John Constable idylls, were being priced out of existence by agribusiness and Tesco. In time, the three of us – Karl, Seamus and me – decided to go out there partly to see what we could see but also as a way of spending time in company with people who shared ...

The Playboy of West 29th Street

Colm Tóibín: Yeats’s Father in Exile, 25 January 2018

... half-whisper that someone called Colm Tóibín was in the library looking at the correspondence of John Butler Yeats, which had been transcribed, then typed, then donated to the library by William M. Murphy, John Butler Yeats’s biographer. And now I looked up from the Yeats letters to find a man looking at me. It struck me ...

Red Flowers, at a Wedding?

Tessa Hadley: Claire Keegan, 24 January 2008

Walk the Blue Fields 
by Claire Keegan.
Faber, 163 pp., £10.99, May 2007, 978 0 571 23306 9
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... they’re disparaged at the wedding dinner. Her position in this story is perhaps something like John McGahern’s. ‘The collapse of the Church’s absolute power’ in Ireland, he wrote in ‘God and Me’, an autobiographical essay, ‘has brought freedom and sanity in certain areas of human behaviour after long suppression’, but also ‘a new ...

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