seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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John Banville Wins Booker Prize for Fiction

Irish author John Banville beats higher profile favorites to become the surprise winner of Britain‘s prestigious Booker Prize for fiction on October 11, 2005. His 14th novel, The Sea, is described by the judges as “a masterly study of grief, memory, and love recollected.”

Banville wins the Booker Prize in 2005 after having been on the short list in 1989. His later work is contending with novels by Kazuo Ishiguro, Julian Barnes, Ali Smith, Sebastian Barry and Zadie Smith. The judges vote is split between Banville and Ishiguro, and Chairman of Judges John Sutherland casts the winning vote in favour of Banville.

Earlier in the year Sutherland had written approvingly of Ian McEwan‘s novel Saturday. Banville strongly criticizes the work in The New York Review of Books. Banville later admits that, upon reading Sutherland’s letter in response to his review, he had thought, “Well, I can kiss the Booker goodbye. I have not been the most popular person in London literary circles over the past half-year. And I think it was very large of Sutherland to cast the winning vote in my favour.”

Banville is noted for having written a letter in 1981 to The Guardian requesting that the Booker Prize, for which he is “runner-up to the shortlist of contenders”, be given to him so that he can use the money to buy every copy of the longlisted books in Ireland and donate them to libraries, “thus ensuring that the books not only are bought but also read — surely a unique occurrence.”

When his The Book of Evidence is shortlisted for the 1989 Booker Prize, Banville says a friend, whom he describes as “a gentleman of the turf,” instructed him “to bet on the other five shortlistees, saying it was a sure thing, since if I won the prize I would have the prize-money, and if I lost one of the others would win…But the thing baffled me and I never placed the bets. I doubt I’ll be visiting Ladbrokes any time soon.”

Banville has received numerous other awards in his career. His novel The Book of Evidence is shortlisted for the Booker Prize and wins the Guinness Peat Aviation award in 1989. In 2011, Banville is awarded the Franz Kafka Prize, while 2013 brings both the Irish PEN Award and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. In 2014 he wins the Prince of Asturias Award in Letters. He is considered a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2007.

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Birth of Poet Michael Longley

Michael Longley, one of Northern Ireland’s foremost contemporary poets, is born in Belfast on July 27, 1939. He is educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and subsequently reads Classics at Trinity College, Dublin, where he edits the student literary magazine Icarus.

Longley is renowned for the quiet beauty of his compact, meditative lyrics. Known for using classical allusions to cast provocative light on contemporary concerns, including Northern Ireland’s “Troubles,” his poetry is also marked by sharp observation of the natural world, deft use of technique, and deeply felt emotion. His debut volume, No Continuing City (1969), heralds the arrival of a new talent from a region which has already produced recognized talents like Seamus Heaney and Derek Mahon. However his early influences are English poets like Philip Larkin, Louis MacNeice, and the First World War poets, as well as masters from the classical tradition. The critic Langdon Hammer describes Longley’s poems as masterpieces of “lucidity, economy, sincerity…by means of meticulous, unpretentious technique.”

Longley’s work engages diverse subjects, including Homeric literature, the landscape of Carrigskeewaun, jazz, Walter Mitty, and the politics of Northern Ireland. On the public and political responsibilities of being a Northern Irish poet, he says, “Though the poet’s first duty must be to his imagination, he has other obligations, and not just as a citizen. He would be inhuman if he did not respond to tragic events in his own community, and a poor artist if he did not seek to endorse that response imaginatively.” Reviewing his Selected Poems (1993), critic Fran Brearton praises in particular Longley’s more political poems, noting his “use of a compassionate yet unsentimental voice, and an attention to detail which restores specificity at a point in history when it is most in danger of being lost in abstraction – numbers, dates, death-tolls counted beyond comprehension.”

After a 12-year publishing silence, Longley’s 1991 return, Gorse Fires, wins the Whitbread Poetry Prize. Subsequently, The Weather in Japan (2000) wins The Irish Times Literature Prize for Poetry, the Hawthornden Prize, and the T.S. Eliot Prize. Other publications include Snow Water (2004) and Collected Poems (2006). In 2001 Longley is awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Longley is Professor of Poetry for Ireland from 2007 to 2010, a cross-border academic post set up in 1998, previously held by John Montague, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, and Paul Durcan. He is succeeded in 2010 by Harry Clifton.


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Birth of Irish Playwright Brian Patrick Friel

brian-patrick-frielBrian Patrick Friel, Irish playwright, short story writer, and founder of the Field Day Theatre Company, is born on January 9, 1929, at Knockmoyle, near Omagh, County Tyrone. Prior to his death, he had been considered one of the greatest living English-language dramatists, and referred to as an “Irish Chekhov” and “the universally accented voice of Ireland.” His plays have been compared favourably to those of contemporaries such as Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter, and Tennessee Williams.

Friel is the son of Patrick “Paddy” Friel, a primary school teacher and councillor on Londonderry Corporation, the local city council in Derry. Friel’s mother, Mary McLoone, is postmistress of Glenties, County Donegal. The family moves to Derry when Friel is ten years old. There, he attends St. Columb’s College, the same school attended by Seamus Heaney, John Hume, Seamus Deane, Phil Coulter, Eamonn McCann, and Paul Brady.

Friel receives his B.A. from St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth (1945–48), and qualifies as a teacher at St. Joseph’s Training College in Belfast. He marries Anne Morrison in 1954, with whom he has four daughters and one son. Between 1950 and 1960, he works as a math teacher in the Derry primary and intermediate school system, taking leave in 1960 to pursue a career as a writer, living off his savings. In the late 1960s, the Friels move from 13 Malborough Street, Derry to Muff, County Donegal, eventually settling outside Greencastle, County Donegal.

Recognised for early works such as Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Faith Healer, Friel has 24 plays published in a more than half-century spanning career that culminates in his election to the position of Saoi of Aosdána. His plays are commonly featured on Broadway throughout this time. In 1980, Friel co-founds Field Day Theatre Company and his play Translations is the company’s first production. With Field Day, Friel collaborates with Seamus Heaney, 1995 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Heaney and Friel first become friends after Friel sends the young poet a letter following the publication of Death of a Naturalist.

Friel is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the British Royal Society of Literature, and the Irish Academy of Letters. He is appointed to Seanad Éireann in 1987 and serves until 1989. In later years, Dancing at Lughnasa reinvigorates Friel’s oeuvre, bringing him Tony Awards, including Best Play, the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. It is also adapted into a film, starring Meryl Streep, directed by Pat O’Connor, script by Frank McGuinness.

After a long illness Friel dies at the age of 86 in the early morning of Friday, October 2, 2015 in Greencastle, County Donegal.


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Birth of Bryan Guinness, 2nd Baron Moyne

bryan-guinnessBryan Walter Guinness, 2nd Baron Moyne, heir to part of the Guinness family brewing fortune, lawyer, poet, and novelist, is born on October 27, 1905.

Guinness is born in London to Walter Edward Guinness, 1st Baron Moyne, son of Edward Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, and Lady Evelyn Stuart Erskine, daughter of Shipley Gordon Stuart Erskine, 14th Earl of Buchan. He attends Heatherdown School, near Ascot in Berkshire, followed by Eton College, and Christ Church, Oxford, and is called to the bar in 1931.

As an heir to the Guinness brewing fortune and a handsome, charming young man, Bryan is an eligible bachelor. One of London’s “Bright Young Things,” he is an organiser of the 1929 “Bruno Hat” hoax art exhibition held at his home in London. Also in 1929 he marries the Hon. Diana Mitford, one of the Mitford sisters, and has two sons with her. The couple become leaders of the London artistic and social scene and are dedicatees of Evelyn Waugh‘s second novel Vile Bodies. However, they divorce in 1933 after Diana deserts him for British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley.

Guinness remarries happily in 1936 to Elisabeth Nelson, of the Nelson publishing family, with whom he has nine children.

During World War II, Guinness serves for three years in the Middle East with the Spears Mission to the Free French, being a fluent French speaker, with the rank of major. Then in November 1944 Guinness succeeds to the barony when his father, posted abroad as Resident Minister in the Middle East by his friend Winston Churchill, is assassinated in Cairo.

After the war, Lord Moyne serves on the board of the Guinness corporation as vice-chairman (1947-1979), as well as the Guinness Trust and the Iveagh Trust, sitting as a crossbencher in the House of Lords. He serves for 35 years as a trustee of the National Gallery of Ireland and donates several works to the gallery. He writes a number of critically applauded novels, memoirs, books of poetry, and plays. With Frank Pakenham he seeks the return of the “Lane Bequest” to Dublin, resulting in the 1959 compromise agreement. He is invested as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Lord Moyne dies of a heart attack on July 6, 1992 at Biddesden House, his home in Wiltshire, and is succeeded by his eldest son Jonathan. He is buried at Ludgershall, Wiltshire, England.


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Birth of Cecil Day-Lewis, Poet & Poet Laureate of the U.K.

Cecil Day-Lewis, poet, novelist, critic, and the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1968 to 1972, is born in Ballintubbert, County Laois, on April 27, 1904. He also writes mystery stories under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake and is the father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis and documentary filmmaker and television chef Tamasin Day-Lewis.

Day-Lewis is the son of Frank Day-Lewis, Church of Ireland Rector of the parish, and Kathleen Blake. His father takes the surname “Day-Lewis” as a combination of the surnames of his own birth father (Day) and his adoptive father (Lewis). After the death of his mother in 1906, Day-Lewis is brought up in London by his father, with assistance of an aunt, spending summer holidays with relatives in County Wexford. He is educated at Sherborne School and at Wadham College, Oxford. In Oxford, Day-Lewis becomes part of the circle gathered around W. H. Auden and helps him to edit Oxford Poetry 1927. His first collection of poems, Beechen Vigil, appears in 1925.

In 1928, Day-Lewis marries Constance Mary King, the daughter of a Sherborne teacher, and works as a schoolmaster in three schools, including Larchfield School in Helensburgh, Scotland. During the 1940s he has a long and troubled love affair with the novelist Rosamond Lehmann. His first marriage is dissolved in 1951, and he marries actress Jill Balcon, daughter of Michael Balcon.

During World War II he works as a publications editor in the Ministry of Information, an institution satirised by George Orwell in his dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four. During this time his work is now no longer as heavily influenced by Auden and he develops a more traditional style of lyricism. Some critics believe that he reaches his full stature as a poet in Word Over All (1943), when he finally distances himself from Auden. After the war he joins the publisher Chatto & Windus as a director and senior editor.

In 1946, Day-Lewis is a lecturer at Cambridge University, publishing his lectures in The Poetic Image (1947). He later teaches poetry at the University of Oxford, where he is Professor of Poetry from 1951 until 1956. He is the Norton Professor at Harvard University from 1962 to 1963, and is appointed Poet Laureate in 1968, in succession to John Masefield.

Day-Lewis is chairman of the Arts Council Literature Panel, vice-president of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Member of the Irish Academy of Letters, and a Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College, London.

Cecil Day-Lewis dies of pancreatic cancer on May 22, 1972, at Lemmons, the Hertfordshire home of Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard, where he and his family are staying. Being a great admirer of Thomas Hardy, he arranges to be buried as close as possible to the author’s grave at St. Michael’s Church in Stinsford, Dorset.