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Rosemary Hill: The Writers’ Blitz, 21 February 2013

The Love-Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War 
by Lara Feigel.
Bloomsbury, 519 pp., £25, January 2013, 978 1 4088 3044 4
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... with an awkwardness of tone that made an impression on the Irish writer and occasional IRA gunman Sean O’Faolain, with whom she was in bed at the time. He made a joke about it, which she considered in poor taste and there was a subsequent cooling in their relationship. It was to be his last visit to her house and the first change of partners in a ...

Eric’s Hurt

David Craig, 7 March 1985

Eric Linklater: A Critical Biography 
by Michael Parnell.
Murray, 376 pp., £16, October 1984, 0 7195 4109 3
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... waters, and he was lavishly praised by Priestley, Harold Nicolson, Hugh Walpole, Storm Jameson and Sean O’Faolain. So what else did the poor man want? He wanted to be deeply admired. He wanted to be rated a most excellent and serious writer by the most exacting and serious critics. I never thought of him in that way, although he was the best-known ...

Valorising Valentine Brown

Patricia Craig, 5 September 1985

Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish Literary History from 1789 to 1939 
by W.J. McCormack.
Oxford, 423 pp., £27.50, June 1985, 0 19 812806 1
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Across a Roaring Hill 
edited by Gerald Dawe and Edna Longley.
Blackstaff, 258 pp., £10.95, July 1985, 0 85640 334 2
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Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature 1880-1980 
by Seamus Deane.
Faber, 199 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 571 13500 5
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Escape from the Anthill 
by Hubert Butler.
Lilliput, 342 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 946640 00 9
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... for some time before this, and in the wake of the major achievements of the Revival, writers like Sean O’Faolain and Frank O’Connor had been reflecting Catholicism like billy-o, as a force to be repudiated or encouraged, or just in acknowledgement of its inescapability. Hadn’t the time arrived to dispense with sectional assertion in any interests ...

Not a Damn Thing

Nick Laird: In Yeats’s wake, 18 August 2005

Collected Poems 
by Patrick Kavanagh, edited by Antoinette Quinn.
Allen Lane, 299 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 7139 9599 8
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... his talent between lyrics and satires such as ‘The Wake of the Books’ (in which O’Connor, Sean O’Faolain and Austin Clarke appear as characters), ‘The Christmas Mummers’ and ‘The Paddiad’ (in which he himself appears as ‘Paddy Conscience’). As Antoinette Quinn puts it in her introduction to the new Collected Poems, ‘the ...

In the Company of Confreres

Terry Eagleton: ‘Modern British Fiction’, 12 December 2002

On Modern British Fiction 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 328 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 0 19 924932 6
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... social machinery’ or intricate tapestry of manners which his native America lacked, while Sean O’Faolain can be found making much the same complaint about stagnant, spiritually oppressive Ireland. It was, he remarked, too ‘thin’ a society for fiction, more attractive to the anthropologist than the man of letters. James Wood sees Pritchett ...

Now is your chance

Matthew Kelly: Irish Wartime Neutrality, 5 October 2006

The Emergency: Neutral Ireland 1939-45 
by Brian Girvin.
Macmillan, 385 pp., £25, March 2006, 1 4050 0010 4
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... than the opposition to co-operating in a British war effort. In the main, Seán O’Faolain was right to describe Irish opinion as anti-British but pro-Allied. Neutrality has to be actively maintained; far from denoting government passivity, it requires intense and sustained intervention. Established rights and freedoms were suppressed, with ...


Anne Enright: Censorship in Ireland, 21 March 2013

... about it. In the 1940s, opposition to censorship was centred in the Bell, a periodical edited by Sean O’Faolain, and in the pages of the Irish Times. Kate O’Brien’s The Land of Spices was banned in 1941, on the basis of the single sentence: ‘She saw Etienne and her father in the embrace of love.’ She was the only Irish writer to appeal the ...

Death and the Maiden

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 6 August 1981

Alice James 
by Jean Strouse.
Cape, 367 pp., £9.95, February 1981, 0 224 01436 6
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The Death and Letters of Alice James 
edited by Ruth Bernard Yeazell.
California, 214 pp., £6.95, March 1981, 0 520 03745 6
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... in his eyes. He stopped eating – another kind of Irish fasting to add to those described here by Sean O’Faolain – complained that ‘this dying’ was ‘weary work’, and according to Alice’s new friend Katharine Loring, got over ‘the delay in dying by asserting that he [had] already died’. His last words were for his sons – ‘such good ...

Gaelic Gloom

Colm Tóibín: Brian Moore, 10 August 2000

Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist 
by Denis Sampson.
Marino, 344 pp., IR£20, October 1998, 1 86023 078 4
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... once more with no job, no prospects, no qualifications. In the 1930s, as Moore later recalled, Sean O’Faolain argued that the only possible dénouement of an Irish novel was that ‘the hero gets on the boat and goes to England.’ Moore, who from an early age had wanted to be a writer, had two reasons for going to Canada. One, he had fallen in love ...

Green Martyrs

Patricia Craig, 24 July 1986

The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse 
edited by Thomas Kinsella.
Oxford, 423 pp., £12.50, May 1986, 0 19 211868 4
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The Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry 
edited by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 415 pp., £10.95, May 1986, 0 571 13760 1
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Irish Poetry after Joyce 
by Dillon Johnston.
Dolmen, 336 pp., £20, September 1986, 0 85105 437 4
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... of recent years is the group of translations, by Thomas Kinsella, of poems assembled by Sean O Tuama, and brought out in a dual-language anthology called An Duanaire 1600-1900: Poems of the Dispossessed (1981). During the three centuries covered in this book, the destruction of Gaelic Ireland was deplored as it was taking place, in the mordant ...

Celtic Revisionism

Patrick Parrinder, 24 July 1986

A Short History of Irish Literature 
by Seamus Deane.
Hutchinson, 282 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 09 161360 4
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The Peoples of Ireland 
by Liam de Paor.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £15, April 1986, 9780091561406
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Portrait of Ireland 
by Liam de Paor.
Rainbow, 192 pp., £13.95, May 1986, 1 85120 004 5
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The Complete Dramatic Works 
by Samuel Beckett.
Faber, 476 pp., £12.50, April 1986, 0 571 13821 7
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The Beckett Country: An Exhibition for Samuel Beckett’s 80th Birthday 
by Eoin O’Brien and James Knowlson.
Black Cat, 97 pp., £5, May 1986, 0 948050 03 9
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... De Paor is closest to the traditional Romantic outlook. His writing is sometimes reminiscent of Sean O’Faolain’s vigorous study of The Irish (1947), a book which its author described in the uncomplicated idiom of forty years ago as a ‘creative history of the growth of a racial mind’. Seamus Deane, by contrast, offers a political reading of ...

Issues of Truth and Invention

Colm Tóibín: Francis Stuart’s wartime broadcasts, 4 January 2001

The Wartime Broadcasts of Francis Stuart 
edited by Brendan Barrington.
Lilliput, 192 pp., £25, September 2000, 1 901866 54 8
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... an tSaoi has her own elevated co-ordinates. She is married to Conor Cruise O’Brien. Her father, Sean McEntee, fought in the Irish War of Independence and was a minister in most of Eamon de Valera’s Governments. Her uncle was a cardinal. Every schoolchild of my generation knew her poems, written in Irish, by heart. She is a formidable presence at any ...

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