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Studia Littearia_6_12

Strona główna > Studia Littearia_6_12 :

Irish History In the Novels of Sebastian Barry

Beata Piątek

Studia Litteraria Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis, vol. 6 pp. 157-167
Kraków 2011

Published online March
19, 2012
DOI: 10.4467/20843933ST.11.012.0310


Irish History in the Novels of Sebastian Barry

Critics of contemporary Irish literature note a surprising omnipresence of historical themes in the novels of a country whose present day is so eventful. Such prominent writers like, Roddy Doyle, Patrick McCabe or Sebastian Barry seem to be immersed in Irish twentieth-century history and the national myth. Barry’s theatre plays and novels usually question the official, heroic version of history by focusing on the forgotten and the marginalised: loyalist Catholics, single women, children. The present article analyses two of his novels: The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998) and The Secret Scripture (2008), which share some of the characters and are both set in Sligo in the first half of the twentieth century. The present article claims that in the ten years that separates the publication of these novels, Barry’s attitude to history visibly changed. Contrary to the opinion of most critics, Barry’s approach evolved from the uncompromising revisionism of the earlier novel to considerable scepticism about the possibility of objective history and historical truth in the later work. The article also suggests that tracing this process allows the reader to appreciate the writer’s motivation as an attempt to deal with the taboos of the past before embarking on the problems of the present.

Keywords: Sebastian Barry, Irish History, revisionist history, national identity, Irish novel

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