Fiction Map of the World– Republic of Ireland

by Travelbag on 18 August 2014, 15:08PM

This episode sees us turn our attention to Ireland, a country in political upheaval for centuries. It is against such a backdrop that some of the best creative minds concentrate their energies into something productive. Ireland has a rich history of literary contribution for us to peruse.

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Essential Holiday Reading
For holiday reading it seems fitting to turn to perhaps Ireland’s most famous and, arguably most important, writer of the 20th century: James Joyce. It was 1922 when Joyce finally completed Ulysses and, despite initial struggles with publication and issues distributing to America, it went on to become known as one of the most important novels in the move towards modernism in fiction. It is a novel that employs several styles of prose. Transporting characters from Homer’s Odyssey to modern Dublin it takes part across a single day, 16 June 1904 (a date now celebrated by Joyce fans worldwide as Bloomsday). Depicting Dublin in remarkable accuracy it is a landmark novel of 20th century literature and excellent, if challenging, holiday reading. Though sometimes thought to be a difficult novel to love it is one you are certain to appreciate and is well worth the investment of time and thought.

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Notable Irish Books
Irish novels, though not exclusively of course, tend to deal with turmoil which is perhaps a subconscious reflection of its political scenery. Examples of novels that involve some form of turmoil, be it emotional or otherwise, are Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and Troubles by J.G Farrell (which concentrates on the violence that formed modern Ireland). A difference in tone, leaving turmoil to the basic struggles of the family and living, is represented in Amongst Women by John McGahern.

When looking for something more optimistic and humorous look to Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle, winner of the 1993 Booker Prize, an unconventional novel about a 10 year old boy and events during his growing-up in Barrytown. It would be worth looking into any of Doyle’s novels including The Van, The Snapper and The Commitments, comprising the Barrytown trilogy.

Notable Irish Authors
Ireland has produced many fantastic authors, not least some already mentioned, particularly James Joyce and Roddy Doyle, likely the two names to come to mind immediately when raising the subject. Other noteworthy novelists include Maeve Binchy (Tara Road, Circle of Friends, Light a Penny Candle) and Elizabeth Bowen (The Last September). If you prefer the gothic then who can forget Bram Stoker, author of the much imitated but never bettered Dracula. In the area of satire it’s hard to overlook Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), to this day regarded as one of the best.

Ireland has also produced big names in other fields, Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot) is one of the 20th century’s best playwrights. The late Seamus Heaney, most well known as a poet, was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, amongst a whole host of awards he received throughout his career.

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Notable Irish Films
Following on from Irish literature’s common theme of turmoil is the film industry, much of the focus on Irish civil war and battles for independence, shown prominently in Ken Loach’s The Wind that Shakes the Barley, or Michael Collins, a film by Neil Jordan based on the life of the Irish revolutionary (though on occasion criticised for some historical inaccuracies).
Aside from the serious nature of films surrounding civil war and independence there’s a collection of fantastic comedy films such as The Guard and human dramas like My Left Foot, the first of three Oscar-winning performances from Daniel Day-Lewis. Adaptations of Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy (The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van) are also excellent.
Irish film also has its fair share of crossover stars such as Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, Red Eye), Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, In Bruges) and Pierce Brosnan (Goldeneye, Mamma Mia).

Essential Holiday Listening
The Joshua Tree was released by U2 in 1987 to seemingly universal acclaim. With themes strongly influenced by America, both the geography and the ideals, it was a landmark album for the band throwing them into superstardom. With lyrics written exclusively by Bono, written during a time he himself has admitted to have been a tough personal journey, and the band on top form musically, it is an album that must be heard.

An alternative, less mainstream sound, can be found on O by Damien Rice, his debut album which featured the single Cannonball. A mellow, folk influenced record it’s certainly appropriate for the quiet countryside of Ireland.

Notable Irish Musicians
Irish folk music has survived in various forms and in different genres and still influences Irish artists to this day. Artists such as Enya, Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor and Mumford and Sons have all used traditional elements in their music. Traditional elements can be seen in rock music too, notably with early Thin Lizzy tracks. Beyond this there are several successful rock bands, most notably the aforementioned U2.

Ireland also has a great tradition within popular music of recent times with bands ranging from The Corrs to Boyzone and Westlife. Ireland is also the country to have won the Eurovision song contest the most times with 7 victories (Dana, Johnny Logan x2, Linda Martin, Niamh Kavanagh, Paul Harrigan & Charlie McGettigan and Eimear Quinn).

Having mentioned in a previous article Midge Ure it would be criminal to fail to mention the other driving force behind Live Aid and Band Aid, Sir Bob Geldof, a talented musician in his own right.

Click here to go back to the Fiction Map of the World


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