Catholic imagination, modern Irish writing and the case of John McGahern
In 1929, Liam O'Flaherty published a scathing attack on the Irish Catholic Church in a short, aggressive book titled A Tourist's Guide to Ireland. On a first, superficial, reading of John McGahern, Ireland's most important fiction writer of the past half century, one might see another contributor to the gallery of malign priests and a gloomy, restrictive Catholicism. Writing to his friend and fellow writer Michael McLaverty in the wake of the banning of The Dark, McGahern was pained by the wanton and blinkered misreading that had led to the controversy. The priestly nature of the writer's art is best exemplified in perhaps the unlikeliest of places, McGahern's experimental 1979 novel The Pornographer. Freud's essay seeks to explain humanity's continuing attachment to religion and to ideas of the divine, a quick examination of it makes for some revealing insights into McGahern's work.