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The Mole on Joyce’s Breast

Sean O’Faolain, 20 November 1980

Joyce’s Politics 
by Dominic Manganiello.
Routledge, 260 pp., £12.50, October 1980, 0 7100 0537 7
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... Immediately I saw the title on the jacket of this book I remembered with the unfailing affection of an old man for past events of no apparent relevance to anybody else that I was once made a freeman of the city of Memphis in, I think, Tennessee – not Egypt. It happened because the local political boss that year was of Irish descent. He even presented me in public with a key to the city – that is to say, a three-quarter inch replica in painted gold, which I at once passed on to the next pretty young woman I met to hang on her charm bracelet ...

Living and Dying in Ireland

Sean O’Faolain, 6 August 1981

... One of the more surprising things about the life-ways of primitive societies is their persistence: so much so that one of them can frighten us by suddenly resurfacing a thousand years after it seemed to be stone dead. Up to that disconcerting moment the most we are inclined to allow the remote past is that it may linger on as a sanctified revival or a quaint reconstruction ...

Nora Barnacle: Pictor Ignotus

Sean O’Faolain, 2 August 1984

... young painters like Paddy Tuohy who really did paint old J.S. Joyce and died of his own hand, poor Sean O’Sullivan who died of liquor and love and loneliness, English and Irish politicians like Augustine Birrell, Stephen Gwynn, Arthur Griffith, social stars, Lord and Lady Glenavy, Count Cassy Markievicz, the Countess, actors from the theatres, the Abbey, the ...

Hate, Greed, Lust and Doom

Sean O’Faolain, 16 April 1981

William Faulkner: His Life and Work 
by David Minter.
Johns Hopkins, 325 pp., £9.50, January 1981, 0 8018 2347 1
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... The other day my bookseller airily assured me that nobody reads Faulkner nowadays. If he had said ‘nobody under sixty’ I might not so easily have dismissed his opinion as Celtic hyperbole. Certainly age is cardinal in this matter. When Faulkner got the Nobel Prize for 1949 we all wanted to read this genius who was apparently not widely known even in his own country: four or five years earlier, when Malcolm Cowley was preparing his anthology The Portable Faulkner, it had come as a shock to him to discover that only one of his author’s novels was in print ...
The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen 
introduced by Angus Wilson.
Cape, 782 pp., £8.50, February 1981, 0 224 01838 8
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Elizabeth Bowen: An Estimation 
by Hermione Lee.
Vision, 225 pp., £12.95, July 1981, 9780854783441
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... If there ever was a writer of genius, or neargenius – time will decide – who was heart-cloven and split-minded it is Elizabeth Bowen. Romantic-realist, yearning-sceptic, emotional-intellectual, poetic-pragmatist, objective-subjective, gregarious-detached (though everybody who resides in a typewriter has to be a bit of that), tragi-humorous, consistently declaring herself born and reared Irish, residing mostly in England, writing in the full European tradition: no wonder all her serious work steams with the clash of battle between aspects of life more easy for us to feel than to define ...

The Intrusive Apostrophe

Fintan O’Toole, 23 June 1994

Sean O’Faolain: A Life 
by Maurice Harmon.
Constable, 326 pp., £16.95, May 1994, 0 09 470140 7
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Vive Moi! An Autobiography 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 377 pp., £20, November 1993, 1 85619 376 4
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... When, in 1941, Sean O’Faolain wrote to the Irish Times to protest about the ‘miserable fees’ paid by Irish radio for talks by Irish writers, he inadvertently set in train the most nightmarishly savage satire in that paper’s history. O’Faolain’s letter, and the response to it from the impoverished rump that constituted the Irish intelligentsia, led to the foundation by him of WAAMA, the Writers Artists Actors Musicians Association, a short-lived trade union for workers whose services were not exactly regarded as essential ...

Romantic Ireland

Denis Donoghue, 4 February 1982

The Collected Stories of Sean O’Faolain: Vols I and II 
Constable, 445 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 00 946330 5Show More
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... It is good to have the second volume of Sean O ‘Faolain’s short stories. The first brought together seven stories from Midsummer Night Madness (1932), 14 from A Purse of Coppers (1937), and 13 from Teresa, and Other Stories (1947). Now the second has ten stories from The Stories of Sean O’Faolain (1958), 11 from I remember! I remember! (1961), and ten from The Heat of the Sun (1966 ...

Mythic Elements

Stephen Bann, 30 December 1982

Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 160 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 224 02601 1
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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 
by William Kotzwinkle, based on a screenplay by Melissa Mathison.
Arthur Barker, 246 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 213 16848 0
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Tales of Afghanistan 
by Amina Shah.
Octagon Press, 128 pp., £6.50, November 1982, 0 900860 94 4
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The Masque of St Eadmundsburg 
by Humphrey Morrison.
Blond and Briggs, 228 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 85634 127 4
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A Villa in France 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 575 03103 4
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Collected Stories: Vol. III 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 422 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 09 463920 5
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Work Suspended and Other Stories 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Penguin, 318 pp., £2.75, November 1982, 0 14 006518 0
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... of Stones, is a feminist book. Collections of short stories as rich and copious as those of Sean O’Faolain are impossible to review in a short compass. But this third volume of the collected works, which includes stories published from 1971 onwards, has the advantage of concluding with a group of unpublished texts; these are not only individually ...

Hillside Men

Roy Foster: Ernie O’Malley, 16 July 1998

Ernie O’Malley: IRA Intellectual 
by Richard English.
Oxford, 284 pp., £25, March 1998, 0 01 982059 3
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... remembered in an authentically modern prose, comparable to the fiction of that same generation by Sean O’Faolain, Frank O’Connor and Liam O’Flaherty. Other auto-biographical writers (or non-writers) like Barry and Breen had produced naive, highly-coloured morality tales, written in an idiom derived from the 19th-century nationalist tracts ...

Doris Lessing’s Space Fiction

Robert Taubman, 20 December 1979

by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 365 pp., £5.95
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Fergus Lamont 
by Robin Jenkins.
Canongate, 293 pp., £7.95
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A Married Man 
by Piers Paul Read.
Alison Press/Secker, 264 pp., £5.25
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And Again? 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 267 pp., £5.95
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... While dwelling on this idea, Hardy nevertheless delineated his women with delicacy and interest. Sean O’Faolain has less time for his – they remain vague – but he does convey very well the states and continuities of love in his hero. It’s an exuberant novel, perhaps excessively so in the larding of the narrative with names and erudition: but ...


Clair Wills: Plain Brian O’Nolan, 4 April 2019

The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Maebh Long.
Dalkey Archive, 619 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 62897 183 5
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... In October 1938 – in his first outing as Flann O’Brien – he intervened in a debate between Sean O’Faolain and Frank O’Connor on ‘Ideals for an Irish Theatre’, in the letters pages of the Irish Times. The spat was self-consciously intellectual, with O’Connor arguing for a return to ‘peasant quality’ and ...

Sweaney Peregraine

Paul Muldoon, 1 November 1984

Station Island 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 123 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 571 13301 0
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Sweeney Astray: A Version 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 85 pp., £6.95, October 1984, 0 571 13360 6
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by Craig Raine.
Faber, 109 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 571 13215 4
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... with self-denial, contemplation, spiritual renewal; a place, too, that has attracted writers like Sean O’Faolain, Denis Devlin, William Carleton and Patrick Kavanagh; a place where the individual might decently ruminate on his relationship with society. This setting affords Seamus Heaney a remarkable opportunity, of which he takes remarkable ...

Demented Brothers

Declan Kiberd: William Trevor, 8 March 2001

The Hill Bachelors 
by William Trevor.
Viking, 245 pp., £15.99, October 2000, 0 670 89256 4
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... in Ireland has made an unexpected comeback. Earlier generations – that of Frank O’Connor and Sean O’Faolain and, before them, of George Moore and James Joyce – had established it as the quintessential genre for a society still in the process of inventing itself. If the novel dealt with established societies such as England or France, the theory ...

Soft Cop, Hard Cop

Seamus Deane, 19 October 1995

Heathcliff and the Great Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture 
by Terry Eagleton.
Verso, 355 pp., £18.95, May 1995, 1 85984 932 6
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... ensconced within this discourse of lack. He might have mentioned the Cork-based Frank O’Connor-Sean O’Faolain explanation, too; it overlaps with his own but has the added merit of explaining the absence of contact between the literate classes and the life of the ‘people’. This theory wanted to say that the Irish were distinguished not in the ...

Life of Brian

Kevin Barry, 25 January 1990

No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien 
by Anthony Cronin.
Grafton, 260 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 246 12836 4
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... the generation after Joyce and after political independence, tore away at Ireland from within – Sean O’Faolain, Liam O’Flaherty, Patrick Kavanagh and Frank O’Connor – he alone mauled its vulgarity and provincialism in the formal modernity and impersonality of his work. Seamus Deane has described how an Irish literature of dissent registers ...

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