An electronic resource showcasing the dynamism and diversity of contemporary Irish writing has been launched by University College Dublin’s School of English, Drama and Film. Our project, the Digital Platform for Contemporary Irish Writing, commenced with 50 Irish Books, featuring 50 books published by Irish writers between 2009 and 2013.
Each title on the list comes with links to a wide range of reviews and author interviews, along with links to many other online resources. Readers, students, teachers and members of book clubs will find much to explore and discover in the resources featured here. For lovers of Irish literature who want to expand their reading horizons and encounter new authors and titles, this is a must-check-out source.
Browsing through the site alphabetically ‘by author’, the first five books show the range of material covered.
Here are the first five:
Colin Barrett’s "Young Skins," is the prize-winning debut publication by 33-year old Barrett who was the 2014 winner of the Rooney Prize of Irish Literature and winner of the Guardian First Book Award of 2015.
John Banville’s "Ancient Light"
Sebastian Barry’s "On Canaan’s Side"
"City of Bohane" is the first novel by Kevin Barry (winner in 2007 of the Rooney Prize for his often-hilarious and sometimes-heartbreaking short stories There Are Little Kingdoms).
"Maeve’s Times" is a a selection of the Irish Times journalism by the late Maeve Binchy, and a great example of the many interesting non-fiction books also included in this list.
Women authors feature strongly, with the inclusion of poets such as Paula Meehan and Vona Groake and dramatists Marina Carr and Amy Conroy, along with the short story collection "Tea in a China Factory" by Mary Costello, who is also the author of the recent novel "Academy Street" set in Ireland and New York.
Novels include "Room" by Emma Donoghue – watch out for the forthcoming film version by acclaimed Irish director Lenny Abrahamson – and Eimear McBride’s "A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing." That novel was first rejected by the publishers to whom she submitted it, but, nine years later, was accepted by Galley Beggar Press, a small UK publishing house, and has won several major literary awards. A recent theatrical adaptation of McBride’s novel has garnered a number of awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. As one ranges from debut collections to established writers, it’s especially poignant to encounter the last published poetry collection by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney: his haunting "The Human Chain," published in 2010.
And it’s also worth noting the healthy state of Irish-language writing from the five books featured here, including bilingual poetry collections by Louis de Paor and Celia de Fréine. Browse by title and the first two titles you’ll encounter are de Paor’s "Agus Rud Eile De" (And Another Thing) and "Aiséirí," an Irish-language novel by Alex Hijmans. Hijmans is Dutch-born and a multilingual journalist and author whose other work in the Irish language includes "Favela," a nonfiction book about a Brazilian slum (2009) and "Splancanna ó Shaol Eile," a collection of one hundred short photo essays on today’s Brazil (2013).
Inevitably a list like this one prompts questions about who might be left out. A project like 50 Irish Books can only be the beginning and a snapshot of the wonderful range of contemporary Irish writing. But the books chosen by our international advisory board – and not without debate – are an excellent representative selection of what is happening in Irish literature today and of that literature’s power and excellence.
We developed this project in response to the many readers, students and teachers of Irish literature around the globe who were looking for suggestions of new writers to read and also who wanted to have more information about these writers and works. Most importantly this project shows the vitality of contemporary conversations about Irish writing across the world, and we encourage users of the site to join in that conversation and to follow our blog.
We at University College Dublin are very proud of our long association with the history of Irish literature and our graduates include James Joyce, Edna O’Brien, Flann O’Brien, Roddy Doyle, Emma Donoghue, Joseph O’Connor and Colm Tóibín, to name just a few. Our Masters course in Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama was first established in 1968, the first of its kind in the world, and has many prominent Northern American alumni. And recent graduates of our School’s MA and MFA in Creative Writing include Colin Barrett, featured here. This new resource continues a long tradition into the twenty-first century and we look forward to updating Irish Central readers on future developments.