Writers who have impacted my understanding about Ireland and being Irish
I intentionally included James Plunkett because of his extraordinary epic novel Strumpet City. Irish writers routinely create short stories that are respected internationally, but we have fewer lengthy novels and still fewer historical novels written on a giant scale. Plunkett is a significant exception with Strumpet city which has often been referred to as one the the greatest pieces of Irish literature in the 20th century.
This masterpiece is set in Dublin during the 1913 Dublin Lock Out. Unlike Ulysses, this story revolved around the lives of Dubliners over a seven-year period. It deals not with isolated lives but with the way in which large events connect the most disparate of people. It encompasses a wide sweep of Dublin city life from the destitution of Rashers Tierney to the precarious existence of Hennessy, the solid, aspirant respectability of Fitz and Mary, the priestly life of Fathers Giffley and O’Connor, and the upper-class world of Yearling and the Bradshaws.
Plunkett could have used the 1916 rebellion as the focal point for his epic story but he instead chose the Great Lock Out in 1913 with famed labor leader James Larkin in a pivotal role. In one the great disgraces of Irishman against his fellows, twenty thousand workers were locked out then the state police forces were used to beat them into submission. It was only after six months of brutal police action and the violent, silent starvation of the ghetto children that the workers finally capitulated.
Despite the horror, there is also an abundance of nobility that raises this epic work to a level of quiet beauty and grace.
After you have read Strumpet City, you may want to consider The Trusting and the Maimed. This is a book of short stories also set in Dunlin. You may sense some Joycean aspects, but it’s ownership remains solidly Plunkett.