Recommended Readings

Writers who have impacted my understanding about Ireland and being Irish

JOHN McGAHERN

Although in recent times the idea would be laughable, there was a sad tradition in 20th century Ireland of Irish writers needing to go abroad to be published or accepted. No senior Irish politician would even fart without the unambiguous, written consent of the Catholic church. They’d wait, for days if necessary, sitting on their haunches, arse cheeks tightly clenched, waiting for approval from Archbishop McQuaid before letting go with a righteous blast.

Nationalism was so insecure that any criticism of the new Irish state and the glorious traditions dating back to before the Druids, of demurely dressed, virginal maidens and virgin men dancing Irish gigs at country cross roads, was treated as a severe slight to the new nation. Firings from jobs and forced emigration were routine. Book burnings light up many a dark night. Loss of employment and non -promotion due to alleged poor job performance were routine punishment to keep people in line with the authoritarian regime.

John McGahern is a classic example. He was sacked for writing about child abuse. His second novel, The Dark, was banned by the Irish Stare for obscenity. It dealth with clerical and parental child abuse. The Archbishop off Dublin had him sacked as a primary teacher.

Forced to emigrate to England, instead of using his hands to create literary masterpieces, he instead used them to shovel dirt on London building sites.

He is now regarded as the Irish Chekhov. Any of his novels are experiences to be savored. He describes with jarring insight a declining way of rural Irish life that is now basically gone. The Barracks. The Dark. Amongst Women, The Leavetaking. Before he passed he wrote Memoir that discussed his return to his rural roots and his life there. It’s simultaneously heartbreaking and magnificent. Begin reading The Dark, then let your journey continue.