If ever there was a Eurovision Contest for the country with the most talented and acclaimed writers Ireland would win hands down. But then again Eurovision was always our thing wasn’t it? At least until Dustin the Turkey got in the way! However, while our credibility in the Eurovision continues to wane, our reputation for producing world class writers, journalists and poets continues to soar. Why is it that a craggy country on the edge of the Atlantic has such an epic writing tradition?
As with most philosophical questions it’s best to go back to the very beginning when seeking answers and for us it’s the Celts. Our ancestors’ illustrious and intricate style of writing known as Ogham was the cornerstone from where our love-affair with writing began. Of course we also have the British to thank for the wondrous writers our tiny nation has produced. Writing provided an escapism for us as we fought our way through the Famine, religious suppression and various wars. And most importantly, we survived all these tribulations, so writing is also a symbol of survival for the Irish people.
When it comes to the crème de la crème of Irish authors the list is endless, but one is worth a mention. Yeats, Ireland’s most celebrated poet, was not only a gifted wordsmith, but a hopeless romantic which I’m sure many of us unlucky in love can relate to. After spending the majority of his life in unrequited love with philanthropist Maud Gonne, he has her to thank for some of his greatest literary works, most notably his dream-like poem “He wishes for cloths in Heaven”.
While Yeats and other writers such as Beckett, Shaw and Joyce are undoubtedly the ringleaders of the Irish Mob of writers, post-independent Ireland didn’t fail in producing a plethora of fantastic writers either! Just because we had gotten political freedom, there were still more issues than ever to put pen to paper about. Think of John B. Keane putting the spotlight on rural life in 1950’s Ireland and poets Derek Mahon and Nobel Laureate Heaney expressing the conflict in Northern Ireland through the art of writing. Even more recently the Recession was the mainspring for Donal Ryan’s Man Booker Prize nominated novel The Spinning Heart.
However let’s not get mistaken in thinking that the Pantheon of Irish Writer’s is solely made up of testosterone. While some women have girl crushes on Beyoncé, I happen to be infatuated with the deceased Irish author Maeve Binchy who undoubtedly paved the way for women writers in Ireland today. Her book’s Circle of Friends and Light a Penny Candle are must- read coming of age books for young women even in the 21st Century. Chick lit novelists such as Cecelia Ahern and Cathy Kelly have Ms Binchy to thank for their success.
Ireland’s history of great writer’s is a bestseller story in itself. With modern writers like Joseph O’ Connor and Marian Keyes flying the Irish writing flag it’s safe to say the next chapter of our story is in good hands.