Ireland’s finest writers gather to offer their insights on Dublin’s latest literary accolade. BE IT JOYCE, Yeats, Beckett or Kavanagh – a quick glance at Ireland’s literary past centres on many familiar giants. Yet the stature of Irish literature is not confined to the past, as proven by Dublin’s designation as the UNESCO City of Literature in July last year. This sought-after accolade recognises Dublin’s cultural profile and its international standing as a city of literary excellence. The designation provides a unique platform for Dublin’s literary community and allows the city to enhance its market share as a destination for business and pleasure. One year on, we assess what the award means to the current crop of literary talent. “What is important in a city of literature is that it remains as vibrant as it ever was,” John Connolly, author of the Charlie Parker series, comments. “It should not simply hold the echoes of the voices that once spoke universal truths in it. Instead, those voices should have inspired others to come forward, and to raise their voices in turn.” Writer Joseph O’Connor, author of Star of the Sea, among others agrees, citing the power of those behind the quill. “Writers have introduced us to the world, brought news, given hope, raged at our failings, celebrated our possibility, and made this tiny windswept rock on the western shores of Europe a place that will always matter to literature.” Anne Enright, 2007 Man Booker Prize Winner and author of The Gathering, notes the distinctive outlook among Dublin’s inhabitants. “In other towns, clever people go out and make money,” she says, “In Dublin, clever people go home and write their books.” One such wordsmith who has fallen under the city’s spell is English-born writer Susan Knight, who currently resides locally. While ackowledging that she has always liked Dublin, Knight says she never thought she’d stay long enough to put her first child into school. Several successful books later and her child is now the holder of a PhD… and has a child of his own! Though she admits that she doesn’t feel rooted in Dublin (commenting that this may be due to the nature of being a writer) she does add that Dublin’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature is a good thing for local writers as it brings them to a wider audience than would happen otherwise. Knight is also forthcoming in her praise for the current influx of writers, believing that there’s now “great energy in Irish writing,” citing examples such as Kevin Barry and Philip O Ceallaigh. Judging by the cultural events that are being celebrated in Dublin at this time, it looks as though the future of Irish literature is in safe hands. While the natural tendency may be to refer to the history books to source our finest literary talent, this recent accolade shows that the present crop is still burning brightly.
Photo: Sunday Tribune