The top 10: Irish writers at their best
Ireland is famous for its written word masterpieces.
The poetry, plays, novels and short stories that flow from Irish writers’ pens are among the finest in the world.
It’s tough to narrow down the best of the best, but IrishCentral has taken on the tricky task, identifying the top 10 examples of Irish writing:
1. “The Dead” by James Joyce
James Joyce’s collection of short stories is stunning in its simplicity _ and depth - and is much more accessible to the average reader than his later works. “The Dead,” which is about how the living and the dead essentially continue to inhabit the same universe, is an extraordinary story that was later made into a film by John Huston.
"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
2. “W.B. Yeats Collected Poems” from Richard Finnernan, editor
Perhaps an even greater writer than Joyce, Yeats went through many phases in his life. But like T.S. Eliot, his work remains modern and speaks to every generation; the greatest praise an author can earn.
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
- From “The Second Coming”
3. “Memoir” by John McGahern
Late in his life, John McGahern, one of Ireland’s greatest novelists, wrote down his life story. It is moving, evoking a time and place in rural Ireland in the 1940s which is stunning in its insight.
McGahern’s final words about his mother:
“I remembered her in the world, walking those lanes to school. To Liscairn, to Beaghmore, to Aughawillan; on the train, in Maggie's, going from shop to shop by her side in the town, watching with her the great fires of sticks in Aughawillan evenings, the flames leaping around the walls and ceilings. She was gone where I could not follow. I would never lay eyes again on her face.”
4. “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett
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