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Chapter 2 - Outside the Whale: Seán O’Faoláin, Totalitarianismand the European Public Intellectual

from Part I - After the War: Ideologies in Transition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2020

Eve Patten
Affiliation:
Trinity College Dublin
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Summary

Seán O’Faoláin is the embodiment in twentieth-century Irish cultural life of a version of the European public intellectual. A commentator on Irish and world affairs, he responded frequently to the political directives of the mid-century decades, pushing against the pressures towards insularity and clerical nationalism and recruiting literary culture to his cause. Co-founder of the influential journal The Bell, he was also a journalist and essayist, the author of fiction, several major biographies, travel writer and literary critic. Across this eclectic oeuvre O’Faoláin advanced his sense of a world in which the writer worked to maintain connections with English and Continental culture, claiming for Ireland a European position. In the 1940s his voice was perhaps at its most impressive and diverse, culminating in the publication in 1947 of The Irish: A Character Study, his vibrant diagnosis of the emerging nation. This chapter reassesses O’Faoláin’s role as a European public intellectual in a time of global crisis, drawing new comparisons between O’Faoláin and a diverse array of contemporary commentators including Jean-Paul Sartre, George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, Karl Popper and Hannah Arendt.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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