Books of the Irish

Ireland is known as the land of saints and scholars. This is partly because of its preeminence in monastic scholarship during the early medieval period, but is there more to Ireland than this?

The answer is, of course, yes. Ireland is famous around the world for the massive contribution its writers have made to literature. This St Patrick’s Day why not explore the luscious literature of this much loved land of lays and fae through CityLibrary Search.

Here are five highlights from our collections:

  • Tristram Shandy is a brilliant novel. It was written by the sometime Anglo-Irish priest and novelist Laurence Sterne. Ostensibly it follows the life of an eponymously named young man, however the cumulative effect of its meandering plot can hardly be called a bildungsroman of the classic school. Rather it is, in the words of a great critic, “a post-modern classic written before there was any modernism to be post about. So it was way ahead of its time and, in fact, for those who haven’t heard of it, it was actually listed as number eight on the Observer’s top 100 books of all time“.
  • Ulysses by James Joyce is the archetypal classic of Ireland: brilliant, translucent and at times puzzling. Giddy with gorgeous prose the book follows the lives of three characters over one day, experiencing their feelings and mental processes in a raw and honest state. Every year on 16th June fans of the book congregate in Dublin to reenact scenes from the book. However it’s a big book. It might be good to start now.
  • W. B. Yeats is possibly the great poet of the twentieth century. Producing a large body of work of high artistic merit throughout his life, his style nevertheless changed as he sought to express his own truth.  In 1923 he became the first Irish person to be awarded Nobel Prize for Literature. Yeats is also one of the select group of artists who have been immortalised by the Lord Bragg on his BBC radio show In Our Time.
  • At Swim Two Birds by Flann O’Brien is the great modern classic of Irish fiction. A funny and intelligent metafictional book in which the act of writing becomes the act of genesis as the characters of a young student writer began to write their own plots and that of their author’s.
  • A Girl is A Half Formed Thing from 2014 is a genuine instant classic. Eimear McBride, who grew up in Ireland, received many  rejection letters for her novel from a lot of publishers before the Galley Beggar Press saw its great artistic value and published it. Since then it has gone on to win a slew of awards and has mesmerised audiences around the world. The stage version is even currently playing at the Young Vic.