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The Book of Irish Writers

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The Book of Fifty Irish Writers

They were rogues, adventurers, idealists, romantics, shrinking violets, ego maniacs and all the other wonders and failures of human nature besides. The men and women of established Irish Literature were once living, breathing people – ‘The Book of Irish Writers' releases them from their dust jackets and brings them to life!

Through this chronological series of easily digestible short programmes, the listener will be led in a clear and entertaining way through what might be considered by some as a stuffy and academic subject – Irish Literature! By illuminating the lives of our famous and forgotten writers – with all their foibles, weaknesses, triumphs and tragedies unveiled – the series will be a gripping listen for all those who enjoy social history, great characters and a good story!

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Read the transcript of Sam Hanna Bell here.

Chapter 46 - Sam Hanna Bell, 1909 - 1990

Sam Hanna Bell was born in Glasgow to an Ulster Scots Family. His Father died when Sam was 9 and the Bells moved back to his mother's family farm near Strangford Lough. Hw wrote about the area in his first novel, 'December Bride'..

Bell became a features producer for BBC Northern Ireland in 1945. His many programmes about life in Northern ireland were pioneering, since the BBC had not previously paid much attention to folklore, country customs, or traditional music.

Sam was a mainstay of the intellectual and cultural life of Belfast from the 1940s until his death - his legacy is that he used his position in the BBC and Arts Council, to encourage many younger writers and broadcasters.

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Read the transcript of Flann O'Brien here.

Chapter 47 - Flann O'Brien, 1911 - 1966

Brian Ó Nualláin was born in Strabane to an Irish-speaking family. As a writer he would call himself Flann O'Brien, Myles na Gopaleen, and a host of other names.

He's best known for his comic novels, 'At Swim-Two-Birds', 'An Béal Bocht', and 'The Third Policeman'.

He also wrote a coloumn for the Irish Times called 'Cruiskeen Lawn', this ran ran for 25 years and is a great comic masterpiece - full of satire, very bad puns, mad inventions and a host of characters.

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Read the transcript of Brian Moore here.

Chapter 48 - Brian Moore, 1921 - 1999

Brian Moore was born in the North of Belfast in 1921 into a middle-class Catholic family. His father was a surgeon and strongly nationalist.

A family story relates that Moores's mother went into labour because of shots fired by British troops outside the house. As a result his family nickname was 'Bomber'.

Moore os probably best known for his first novel, 'The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne', the tragic story of and ageing, alcoholic spinster who is slowly descending into poverty.

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Read the transcript of John McGahern here.

Chapter 49 - John McGahern, 1934 - 2006

John McGahern's first two novels, 'The Barracks' and 'The Dark' are revelatory about Irish society. They detail a world in which, as McGahern puts it, "Violence reigned as often as not in the homes. One of the compounds at its base was sexual sickness. Such honesty was very much ahead of its time.

He is perhaps best known for 'Amongst Women'. Published in 1990, its account of the Moran family as their tyrannical father dies doesnt just look unsparingly at rural life, it summarises a whole phase of Irish social history.

McGahern wrote stories in such a way that no one could ever consider the characters in the them as anything but important. As he put it in a late interview, "The dominant units in Irish society are the family and the locality. The idea was that the whole world would grow out from that small space."

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Read the transcript of Stewart Parker here.

Chapter 50 - Stewart Parker, 1941 - 1988

Stewart Parker was interested in everything. His plays deal with topics as diverse as the Titanic, bicycles, politics, pop music, magic, James Joyce, history, clowns, Dion Boucicault, religion and urban planning! But this represents only a fraction of the energy and ideas that he generated.

All of his work follows the pattern of taking serious subjects and treating them playfully.

When Stewart Parker died in 1988, aged only 47, he had written some 20 plays for radio, television and theatre. We will never know what more he might have done.

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Resources

Find out about publishing opportunities and local writing organisations in the resource section.

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Dont forget to visit the special Rhythm 'n' Rhyme showcase to read some of the brilliant work that was sent in for National Poetry Day 08.

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