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5 - 1920–1939: years of transition

Readings: Frank O’Connor and Norah Hoult

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2010

Heather Ingman
Affiliation:
Trinity College, Dublin
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Summary

‘They pay for politics in this country but they refuse to pay for literature,’ complained Liam O'Flaherty in a letter of 14 March 1924 to his editor, Edward Garnett. ‘Literature is a poor trade in Ireland,’ Lennox Robinson remarked in the first volume of the newly established magazine, The Irish Statesman, ‘and it is difficult to think of any man or woman over here who lives entirely by writing.’ In The Irish Times, 1932, Brinsley MacNamara summed up this period succinctly: ‘The outlook for literature in Ireland at the beginning of the Free State was not so promising as it had been ten or even twenty years earlier.’ The years of fighting ending in partition of the country, a stagnant economy, the decline of the Irish language and a repressive religious ethos were just some of the factors that contributed to shape the depressed cultural, economic and social climate of post-revolutionary Ireland, so prominent a theme in the Irish short story of the 1920s and 1930s.

One attempt to keep the literary torch alight in the exhausted years following the war of independence and the civil war was The Dublin Magazine, founded in 1923 and edited by Seumas O'Sullivan until his death in 1958. In defiance of Ireland's stultifying post-revolutionary cultural climate, O'Sullivan proclaimed his aim of ‘making a definite and practical effort towards reawakening in Ireland the unifying spirit of art, towards fostering the creative side of the national individuality in order that the country may gain the power of expressing her nobler values in the world’.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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