In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Short Cuts: Harry Goes Rogue

Jonathan Parry

A Book of EvasionsPaul Muldoon
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
Visitors Book 
Poolbeg Press, 191 pp., £5.50, November 1979, 0 905169 22 0Show More
Show More

In his budget of 1969, Charles Haughey, then Minister of Finance, granted exemption from income tax to artists resident in the Republic of Ireland. In the past, Irish authors had been much given to exile: now, perhaps, they could afford to stay at home and exercise their proper talents for silence and cunning. That ‘standing army of ten thousand poets’ was then supplemented by a troop of foreign gallowglasses, all benefiting to a greater or lesser degree from this piece of ‘enlightened legislation’, some internationally best-selling soldiers-of-fortune to a very considerable degree indeed. Not since Lebor Gabala, or the Book of Invasions, that pseudo-historical account of the successive colonisations of Ireland from the flood to the coming of Christianity (including those of the Roman Cessair, Parthalan the Greek, the giant Fomorians, the Fir Bolg, the Tuatha De Dannan, the Gaels themselves under the command of the Spanish Soldier) – not since then had such a multinational company established a beachhead. This might be one of Mr Haughey’s more successful – and less contentious – import drives.

Ten years on, the year of Mr Haughey’s election as Taoiseach sees the publication of Visitors Book, which is subtitled ‘Stories of Their New Homeland by Famous Authors now Living in Ireland’. It is, alas, a fairly depressing venture. We learn from the extended blurb – or is this a curtailed introduction by the unidentified editor of the anthology? – that the Poolbeg Press invited 14 contributors ‘to write a short story with an Irish connection or directly inspired by their new homeland’. That might not appear to be such a tall order. But we need look not much further than the first three stories to see how these writers deliver the goods with a vengeance. The composite picture of Ireland that emerges from far too many of these pieces is of ‘shamrocks, Guinness, round towers, horses, the gift of the gab’ – those very impedimenta against which this same blurb rails in its insistence on ‘new times’ bringing ‘new images’.

Patrick Skene Catling’s ‘The Right Spot’ is the tale of an American professor of geology, Kevin J. O’Driscoll, who retires with his wife to a quiet corner of the old sod – West Cork, to be exact – where they buy a charmingly ethnic cottage. There’s no electricity supply, and you can’t get much more ethnic than that. Nor is there a well. A dowser is called in, and drilling begins. (All this is set against what might seem the unlikely backdrop of an impending national drought. It is in reality an altogether too accurate scenario: while a great deal of rain falls on Ireland, very little gets collected.) As it turns out, the charmingly ethnic dowser hasn’t quite hit the right spot, and O’Driscoll has struck oil in his back garden, a fact he is intent on suppressing:

He saw a big new house, big cars and a big cabin cruiser moored beside a new private quay. He saw a forest of oil derricks all over the hillside and wide new roads and rows of bungalows, a company town. He saw a refinery and factories and more houses and a shopping centre. He saw administrators, engineers, technicians and mechanics. He saw Keane’s Select Bar enormously enlarged and improved beyond recognition, with fluorescent lighting and wall-to-wall carpet and chrome and plastic all over the place and a juke box and one-armed bandits, the big room crowded with strangers shouting in strange languages. He shook his head to clear it and resolutely clenched his right fist.

Patrick Skene Catling has an ear for dialogue, an eye for detail. What he doesn’t have is a nose for the suspect. I would guess that his overall view of this ‘new homeland’ of his is not a hundred miles removed from Professor O’Driscoll’s. Briefly, that the old is good, the new bad. ‘The Right Spot’ is basically flawed by this element of naive tub-thumping, and Catling seems to have overlooked the essential irony in O’Driscoll’s moral stance: he doesn’t want his position of privilege, his place in the sun, overshadowed by an industrial estate.

With Malcolm Macdonald’s ‘The Last Holiday in Ireland’ we are again in the company of a skilful craftsman, It is 1941. A British ship is torpedoed by a German submarine off the West of Ireland. Mark and Alex and their parents are forced to take to a lifeboat, and are eventually rescued by a destroyer returning from the sinking of the Graf Spee. It’s a ripping yarn told with deftness and economy. MacDonald writes of the blood of a dead gunnery officer which Mark wipes from his shoes: ‘and then, surreptitiously, leaning into the darkest dark, he tasted it. His heart hammered frantically at the sin; it tasted like warm, sea-watery gum arabic.’ But, once again, a romantic idea of Ireland looms in the background. The memory of their last family holiday before the war, in that green and pleasant land just over the horizon, is set against their present predicament.

Nor am I in the least convinced by John Arden’s ‘The Fork in the Head’, in which Fionnuala, an Irish Republican/Trotskyite activist, rushes off to a political meeting in Galway, leaving her disenchanted English husband, Jackson, to potter about the house and environs. He has a dream in which she appears with a fork stuck in her forehead, and delivers herself of the legend: ‘It was yourself sank down the fork till it came into the flesh of my head: and I have come to bring it back.’ Jackson’s premonitions are well-founded. His wife has been fatally wounded during a fracas in Galway. The news is brought to him by two Civic Guards, and Sean Riordan, a member of the Special Branch: ‘You’ll understand, Mr Jackson, the outsiders in the community have their own place and their own welcome here. When all’s said ’tis a difficult matter. Your – your wife, now: they tell me, in the first place, from Dublin? And you yourself, would it be Birmingham?’ ‘No,’ said jackson, ‘no, I was born in York. As a matter of fact.’ ‘Don’t you think you should go home?’ ‘God shut up your mouth, man – I am at home!’ And there you have it. Who you are in relation to where you are is, by all accounts, a real issue in Ireland; and this is, after all, an anthology of ‘stories of their new homeland by famous authors now living in Ireland’.

‘The Bard of Ballyelohesra’ shows Wolf Mankowitz at his slightest. In this, the ashes of the poet Tagh O’Muirtagh (whose name is as improbable as his place of birth) are borne back to Ireland by that well-known Man of Letters, Jackson Sweetman. Sweetman carries the bard’s remains in a tin that once held a Molly Malone Irish Whiskey Fruit Cake. Now read on.

But the prize for the worst story must go to Erik Haugaard’s ‘A Decent Man’, which concludes with such illuminations as: ‘The mountains behind the town were shaggy and bald in patches, poor land. The town, itself, a dreary place; there were no rivers near for Dublin or Cork anglers or any sights of interest to make tourists stop. The houses were shabby, as if the inhabitants knew that there was no point in keeping up appearances. “Yet they are all decent men and women,” I thought, as I paid my bill at the garage; and then with self-pity added, ‘Who knows if it is any worse here than everywhere else?” ’

There are some good stories in Visitors Book. I was already familiar with Robert Bernen’s ‘Tales From the Bluestacks’, his evocations of a life spent among the sheep-farmers of those remote mountains in East Donegal. His contribution here is ‘The Rush’, a meditation on the persistence of the unremarkable life: ‘No wonder the poor farmer of the hill did not despise the rush, did not see it, as I saw it, as his enemy. For he saw nothing as his enemy, not rush, or dock, or thistle, or nettle, or any weed, and not the foxes either and the swarming rabbits that I so hated, but saw all things as part of an interlocking chain and cycle and harmony.’ The refreshing thing about Robert Bernen, in this context, is that he has eschewed any preconceptions about life in Ireland, including those of the Irish themselves. He has not only kept his own eyes open: he has believed them. Frederick Forsyth’s ‘Used in Evidence’ – a Dublin murder mystery – is also up to his usual standard, while John Gardner has a likeable treatment of literary piracy.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.