In my Masters course, I got the chance to take a class analysing Irish literature. Throughout my college career, I never really looked into Irish literature. For my final year project, I did analyse Irish Gothic texts. But I haven’t looked into contemporary Irish novels.
So the class I took, Gender and Sexuality in Irish literature, analysed a couple of contemporary Irish texts and new woman fiction etc. It was fascinating, to look more into the literature from my country.
But one thing I picked up on, was a conversation I had with an American student. He attends the creative writing masters in my college. One day, he comes into class and talks about the style of Irish writers.
“You Irish people write some depressing s**t. Why does everything have to be sad in your stories”
I had to laugh at this comment, because it reminds me of the tagline for my blog. “I am a happy person but a depressing writer.” From the little interaction I had with Irish literature, it’s true that we have a flair for the tragedies. We place our characters into dark situations with no way out. I just read a novel about a woman who killed her abusive, alcoholic husband and the novel follows the unsettling relationship between her and her son, as they live together in Dublin city. The continuous silence between mother and son speaks volumes to what it means to be Irish. We don’t talk about our feelings. We mostly bottle them up and if we do talk about them, we make a laugh out of it. For the mother and son, they never acknowledge the past horrors at home and maintain this hidden truth, that can never be spoken out loud.
One of my classmates responded to the guys comment, “that’s because we were colonised.”
Ireland has a dark history related to our colonialization by the British Empire. However, that doesn’t really plague our country as much anymore. The darkness within our country at the moment, would be the control of the Catholic Church, the uproar over sexual harassment and assault towards women.
We have our dark moments that seemed unbearable to relive, such as the Magdalene laundries, the sexual abuse of children from members of the church, and many more. Therefore, these dark memories of our country in some shape or form within our writing. They seep into every Irish work, as it would within any work. However, I have come to appreciate this style of writing, as through all these trials and tragedies, the Irish maintain their dry sense of humour.
Through the dark times, the Irish remain humorous. And it’s evident within Irish writers work. So yes, we are depressing. But we use self deprecating humour to push that aside or bring attention to it. This shows who we are as a culture, and I’m proud to call myself Irish.
Some Irish books I recommend you check out would be The Long Falling by Keith Ridgway, Normal People by Sally Rooney. I am currently reading a book called The Pleasures of Eliza Lynch by Anne Enright. It tells the story of a real Cork woman who was a well known prostitute who became mistress to a prince. Eliza Lynch became merely a footnote in history, so Anne Enright decided to write about her.
This post seems a bit all over the place but I just wanted to talk about that comment from the American student. I’m proud of our self deprecating attitude towards life and our history. There is a great charm to Irish works because of that. I want to read more Irish novels and if I find any good ones, I’m sure I’ll make a post about it. And if you have any works from your country that I might like, let me know. I hope you had a lovely end to 2018 and happy New year 💜 I shall talk to you in the next post.