On Reading Irish Writers

My mother likes to remind me that when I was a small child she knew that taking me on a trip to the library was going to be a long outing. You can imagine then how thrilled I am to be a student again with access to a library as amazing as the one at Trinity College Dublin. I have enjoyed taking friends who have come to visit me to see the famous Book of Kells and the old library, which is one of the top attractions in Dublin and the closest thing to a temple of knowledge that I have ever seen. The Book of Kells reminds me of how long Ireland has been helping to safeguard and contribute to the world’s knowledge. In the age of essays typed on computers with fluorescent screens, I really admire the monks who spent their lives holed up in the monasteries of Ireland’s “Golden Age”, intricately copying out sacred texts and writings of the ancient world and writing poetry by candlelight.  Every time I progress up to the Long Room, the main hall of the old Trinity College Library, I’m in awe of the shelves of books that go from the floor to the incredibly high arched ceiling. I breathe in the smell of old books and I’m instantly in my nerdy happy place.
For the new year I wanted to branch out and enjoy some personal enrichment that isn’t solely focused on what I do professionally. Ireland has so much culture to offer, and I thought a logical place for me to start would be with Irish writers. For such a small country, the contribution that Ireland has made to literature is absolutely remarkable.
The first writer I started with is the popular favourite and an alum of TCD, Oscar Wilde. So far I’ve read the play “The Importance of Being Earnest” and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’ve also gotten into satirist Jonathon Swift and his infamous pamphlet “A Modest Proposal” as well as Gulliver’s Travels. I also stumbled across an online collection of WB Yeats Poetry and am trying to expand my horizons and really appreciate the beauty of that. In high school I read both The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners, but I have not yet worked up the strength to tackle his longest and most famous work, Ulysses, which may be my summer project.
This weekend when another bibliophile friend of mine came to visit, we took a trip to the Dublin Writers Museum. This little house on the north side of the city has a great collection of original editions of famous works of Irish literature and memorabilia from some of Dublin’s literary celebrities. It taught me a lot not only about the writers, but how they influenced and were influenced by Irish history and politics, and still leave their mark today. It also made me add significantly to my Irish reading list, which is probably unrealistically long and aspirational, but I have no doubts it will do me well long after I leave here. Now that my second semester is coming to a close at the end of April and the weather is starting to get nicer (though admittedly that’s by Irish standards), I am looking forward to being able to lie out on St. Stephens Green with a nice book.

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