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Classic Writings of a Rich and Rare Land

The serene landscapes and the turbulent history of Ireland have inspired the greatest writers in the modern literary canon. Recorded in the brilliant journalism of James Stephens and others, Ireland's struggle to go from a province to a full-fledged nation also echoes in the work of poets and playwrights such as J.M. Synge, James Joyce and William Butler Yeats. The literature conveys the beauty of the green-reached hills, the "brown imperturbable faces" of the houses in Joyce's Dublin, the barren thorns of a winter's night.

Thanks to the genius of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Lady Gregory, and other visionaries, millions of readers can enter a world where the mythical struggles of saints, leprechauns and Cu Chulainn find echoes in the modern strife of revolution and the war for independence. From the Rebellion of 1798 to the potato famine, from the exodus of many families out of Ireland to the Easter Rebellion and the war for independence, the greatness of Ireland filters through the prism of literary genius. Inspired by the love of their land, these writers rebelled against the icons of social, political and cultural conformity. Equally in love with the landscapes and the spirited people, they wrote literature that resounds throughout Ireland and the world.

Here for the first time, these 12 works of fiction, poetry and non-fiction are collected in a single volume that recognizes their enormous literary contribution. Award-winning and New York Times best-selling author Malachy McCourt provides an incisive introduction, drawing on his vast knowledge of and love for the literature of Ireland.


In this excellent primer to modern Irish literature and politics, McCourt (A Monk Swimming) collects and introduces the work of 12 Irish writers. Some of the works are well known, such as Synge's The Playboy of the Western World, Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol, the early poems of Yeats or Joyce's Dubliners and Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. Another marvelous, albeit more obscure entry, is James Stephens's The Insurrection in Dublin, an eyewitness account of what it was like to be a citizen of Dublin and live through the Easter Rising of 1916. Lady Gregory, best known as co-founder of the Abbey Theatre (with Yeats), is represented here by several selections from her collection Irish Myths and Legends, dealing extensively with the Celtic warrior, Finn. McCourt also includes selections from Maria Edgeworth's "big house novel" Castle Rackrent and William Carleton's Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry. The only contributor here who was not a professional writer is Michael Collins, the inventor of modern guerrilla warfare who negotiated the treaty that led to the Republic of Ireland. The excerpt here outlines Collins's plans for the new Irish nation. Some of McCourt's biographical introductions could be more polished, but the reader will be rewarded many times over by the insights the collection affords into the social, economic and political life of Ireland up to 1922.
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