Ireland is suffering from a crisis of authority. Catholic Church scandals, political corruption, and economic collapse have shaken the Irish people’s faith in their institutions and thrown the nation’s struggle for independence into question. While Declan Kiberd explores how political failures and economic globalization have eroded Irish sovereignty, he also sees a way out of this crisis. After Ireland surveys thirty works by modern writers that speak to worrisome trends in Irish life and yet also imagine a renewed, more plural and open nation.
After Dublin burned in 1916, Samuel Beckett feared “the birth of a nation might also seal its doom.” In Waiting for Godot and a range of powerful works by other writers, Kiberd traces the development of an early warning system in Irish literature that portended social, cultural, and political decline. Edna O’Brien, Frank O’Connor, Seamus Heaney, and Michael Hartnett lamented the loss of the Irish language, Gaelic tradition, and rural life. Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Eavan Boland grappled with institutional corruption and the end of traditional Catholicism. These themes, though bleak, led to audacious experimentation, exemplified in the plays of Brian Friel and Tom Murphy and the novels of John Banville. Their achievements embody the defiance and resourcefulness of Ireland’s founding spirit—and a strange kind of hope.
After Ireland places these writers and others at the center of Ireland’s ongoing fight for independence. In their diagnoses of Ireland’s troubles, Irish artists preserve and extend a humane culture, planting the seeds of a sound moral economy.
Outstanding…Declan Kiberd’s After Ireland gives a perceptive, capacious account of life and letters since 1945. It looks back with wit and regret from the disappointments of austerity.
Stimulating…After Ireland is the final part of a rough trilogy, following on from the justly acclaimed Inventing Ireland and Irish Classics…Kiberd himself has often been most illuminating on the life in death of the Irish language, and After Ireland is a peculiarly lively postmortem in which, as in Finnegans Wake or Cré na Cille, the corpses refuse to take death lying down and the graveyard is full of incessant chatter…It is wonderfully written, jargon-free, witty and exuberantly engaging. What makes Kiberd a great critic is his disdain for barriers—between Irish and English, between literary forms, between works and their historical moments. He is as superb on Máire Mhac an tSaoi and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill as he is on Seamus Heaney and Derek Mahon. His erudition in both languages makes his essay on Michael Hartnett, who moved between them, a beautiful meditation on double-mindedness. His equal ease with drama, fiction and poetry means that he is often brilliant in his exposure of unexpected connections.
Declan Kiberd’s After Ireland is an engrossing joy, a book packed with insight.
After Ireland offers a rich and expansive understanding of how, despite its political and cultural travails, such a relatively small island earned such an outsized role in the making of the modern imagination.
Energetic, imaginative…Kiberd [has a] sparkling and probing style…This taste for heightened drama and inclination toward painting in bold colors and challenging assertions have always made reading Kiberd a pleasure; the verve, insight, and imagination of the critical interventions in this book lie at the heart of its appeal.
Kiberd is a masterful critic; he knows the writing of Ireland from head to toe. Anyone who’s interested in Irish literature would benefit from this volume.
Kiberd is the only major Irish literary critic who gives serious attention to writing in the Irish language, and this energetically-argued book represents another distinguished contribution to Irish literary criticism and cultural debate. Kiberd’s range and inclusivity are, as ever, extremely impressive. After Ireland offers fresh and detailed readings of a number of undervalued works, including many by women writers. An indisputably rich and accomplished work.
Books like After Ireland don’t come around very often, and when they do, they’re such a pleasure, in part, because of the depth of vision, one that can only come from someone like Declan Kiberd who has thought deeply about the subject for a lifetime. Kiberd mixes the old Irish standards—Beckett, Friel, Boland, and Doyle—with lesser known examples such as Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Joseph O’Connor, and Claire Keegan in this major achievement of a book.
A major contribution, indispensable to contemporary Irish writing. Declan Kiberd's range and acuity are impressive.
Impressive in scope and erudition, Kiberd’s book is required reading for anyone interested in Irish studies, modernism, or post-colonialism.
Kiberd has plenty to say about the present moment in Irish political and cultural life.
- 560 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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