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Giving Shape to the Moment

The Art of Mary O'Donnell: Poet, Novelist and Short Story Writer


Edited By Maria Elena Jaime de Pablos

This is the first book to provide a critical assessment of the work of the Irish author Mary O’Donnell. The essays collected here engage with O’Donnell’s writing across multiple genres and explore the themes and preoccupations that have characterized her oeuvre. Alongside her creative work, O’Donnell’s has been a steady and continuing voice for many years within the world of theatre criticism, book reviewing, essay writing, radio broadcasts and cultural commentary.

As a writer, O’Donnell’s principal themes include contemporary Irish society, the position of women in Ireland and the role of the artist. Throughout her career, her approach has been unconventional and her work has sometimes presented a challenge to the status quo. The contributors to this volume illuminate O’Donnell’s role as a humanist writer searching for truth at all costs, through the fictive lives of her often unusual characters, and through the emotional range and depth of her poetry.

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6 Artists, Writers, Intellectuals in the Fiction of Mary O’Donnell (Giovanna Tallone)


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6   Artists, Writers, Intellectuals in the Fiction of Mary O’Donnell

In an interview in 1990, Mary O’Donnell described how she associates writing with a sense of completeness and fulfilment:

Writing has always given me a sense of peace and coherence that nothing else has ever done … it’s a language in which my way of seeing things is validated … it’s just wonderful that there are other people out there, writing, using those codes, trying to name things that are difficult to name. (Wilson and Somerville 1990: 19)

Her first poetry collection, Reading the Sunflowers in September, was published in 1990 and it was followed by her first collection of short stories Strong Pagans in 1991. The proximity of these dates of publication sheds light on the variety of interests in different genres and forms of expression that characterize the writing of Mary O’Donnell. Since the early 1990s, she has published six volumes of poetry (the latest one, Those April Fevers, came out in April 2015), four novels, two collections of short stories and has participated in the collective novel Sister Caravaggio, edited by Peter Cunningham and published in 2014.1 She has been involved in translation, especially from the German, and translation projects, she has been a drama critic for the Sunday Tribune and she has presented a number of literature programmes for the radio. A teacher of German in the early stages of her career, she is...

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