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Authority and vision

John McGahern is one of those writers whose work continues to be appreciated across a range of readerships. As a writer who eschewed the notion of himself as 'artist' he addressed his task through a commitment to style, what he called the 'revelation of the personality through language'. McGahern's work began to receive critical attention only from when Denis Sampson's seminal study, Outstaring Nature's Eye: The Fiction of John McGahern was published in 1993. This book focuses on the physical landscape to show how the inadequacy of the State that emerged after 1922 is reflected in the characters' shifting relationship with the landscape, the connection has been made vulnerable through trauma and painful memory. It explores this sense of resentment and disillusionment in McGahern's novels, drawing parallels between the revolutionary memories and McGahern's own family experience. McGahern's All Over Ireland offers a number of fine stories, mostly set in Ireland, and dealing with distinctly Irish themes. He wrote a novel that is an example of openness, compassion and understanding for any form of strangeness. The vision of education and of the shaping of identity found in his writing is not an idiosyncratic one - it is consistent with much of the best thought within the tradition of liberal education. The book provides an intriguing comparison between McGahern and Flannery O'Connor, illustrating how diverse stories share an underlying current of brutality, demonstrating their respective authors' preoccupation with a human propensity towards evil.

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Melvyn Bragg

15 John McGahern Melvyn Bragg In 1966 I did a television interview with John McGahern, his first, not long after the publication of The Dark. The interview was directed by Tristram Powell and it was at his cousin’s house, Pakenham Hall (now back to its original name, Tullynally), that we filmed. Other work was done in Dublin and Howth, but the leatheracred library in that country pile in County Westmeath was where the conversation took place. John enjoyed the house, eyes constantly scanning it, noting, storing it. Both Tristram and I had been introduced to John

in John McGahern
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Landscape and the lost republic
Nicholas Allen

3 John McGahern: landscape and the lost republic Nicholas Allen On first reading, the landscape of John McGahern’s novels and short stories is remarkable for the quality of its descriptive prose. His apparently simple style is a model of economy and a preparation for those small moments of revelation, whether welcome or not, that modulate the rhythms of his characters’ lives. Leitrim had no laureate before McGahern and his novels subtly adjust a series of ideas about Ireland and its mental cartography that readers have come to take for granted. The distance

in John McGahern
Stanley van der Ziel

16 An interview with John McGahern Stanley van der Ziel I met John McGahern for a formal interview in the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street, Dublin, on 12 October 2004. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation. The interview pre-dates the publication of Memoir (2005) and Creatures of the Earth (2006), as well as the instigation of a collected edition of his occasional non-fictional prose (eventually published as Love of the World: Essays in 2009). For this reason, the transcript refers throughout to ‘the memoir’ instead of Memoir

in John McGahern
David Clare

7 John McGahern’s ‘Oldfashioned’ and Anglo-Irish culture David Clare In John McGahern’s 1985 short story ‘Oldfashioned’ he ably demonstrates why a sensitive, bookish, Catholic young man raised in the repressive, anti-intellectual Irish Free State might be attracted to the way of life being led by the country’s dwindling Church of Ireland population. Throughout ‘Oldfashioned’, McGahern suggests that Catholics in the young state are, in the main, overly fixated on money-making, gossip and a prosaic practicality, and that they are suspicious of anything that smacks

in John McGahern
Željka Doljanin

6 The stranger in the fiction of John McGahern Željka Doljanin In 2005, near the end of the Irish economic boom that had brought wealth, foreign investment and a great number of foreign workers and asylumseekers to the country, the texture of Irish society was already visibly and irrevocably changed. In a short period of time Ireland became enriched: financially wealthy and multicultural. However, Irish fiction writers were slow to record the sweeping change, and by 20051 the absence of immigrant voices in literature was already noticeable. When David Marcus

in John McGahern
An ethical reading
Ciaran Ross

5 ‘What was it all for?’1 John McGahern’s critique of Irish republican nationalism: an ethical reading Ciaran Ross In Mary McAleese’s tribute to John McGahern at the time of his passing in March 2006, she said that he had made an enormous contribution to our self-understanding as a people. I could not agree more. Using the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, this chapter argues that McGahern’s writing specifically engages us in the ethical implications of such political self-understanding and self-awareness. This reading will be essentially focused on McGahern’s last

in John McGahern
Afterlife vision and redemption in the work of John McGahern
Catriona Clutterbuck

11 ‘Extraordinary breathing space’:1 afterlife vision and redemption in the work of John McGahern Catriona Clutterbuck Introduction: redemption and transcendence in McGahern’s afterlife vision The afterlife is one of John McGahern’s most persistent, if muted, configurations of the radiant domain of secular transcendence towards which critics recognise his larger work is oriented.2 Although he has stated, ‘I have no interest in an afterlife. I’m only interested in what I know and care about’,3 allusions to life after death pepper McGahern’s opus. In what follows

in John McGahern
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Željka Doljanin and Máire Doyle

1 Introduction Željka Doljanin and Máire Doyle When John McGahern died in 2006 he did not bequeath a particularly large body of work. Written across five decades, his published work comprised six novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, two volumes of collected stories and one play – an adaptation of Tolstoy’s The Power of Darkness. He also scripted a number of radio and television adaptations. Reviews, essays and other prose pieces were brought together in an edited collection after his death.1 McGahern’s relatively small literary output may be accounted

in John McGahern
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Declan Kiberd

Afterword Declan Kiberd The energy of life is a desire for form – and the forms of art can soothe a pain simply by describing it very well. The aching heart may, as W. B. Yeats said, conceive a changeless work of art, and thus know something of eternal life. But most religions imagine – despite the cliché of angels strumming lyres – that a perfectly attuned being would be silent. ‘One of the consolations of Heaven, if we ever find ourselves there’, said John McGahern, ‘will be that there will be no writers in it. There will be no need to write.’1 McGahern

in John McGahern