The art of storytelling has been a fundamental part of Irish culture for thousands of years. From professional poets and storytellers (bards and seanchaí), to modern day writers and poets, Ireland has made a huge contribution to world literature. Our history is dotted with world-renowned authors and poets writing in both English and Irish, including Nobel Prize winners WB Yeats, Seamus Heaney, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett.
Dublin was named a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010, but has long held a valid claim to the title. In Dublin you walk the streets of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and Patrick Kavanagh among many others.
The city has literature in its fabric – even its street songs and ballads are short stories in themselves. The voice of the city is in the prose and the dialogue of generations of novelists and playwrights such as Sean O’Casey, Flann O’Brien, Conor McPherson, Brendan Behan, Roddy Doyle, Maeve Binchy, Sebastian Barry, John Banville, Marian Keyes and many others. The literary genres that Irish authors made their own extend from the satire of Jonathan Swift to the Gothic fantasy of Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula.
Dublin is the setting for countless books by Irish and international writers, perhaps most famously Joyce’s Ulysses and Dubliners. Dublin is truly a City of Words shaping and nourishing the literary imagination and, as the writer Dermot Bolger has commented, ‘any walk through the city will be spent in the company of literary phantoms’.
Other Irish towns and cities have been brought to life by the writings of Irish poets and authors. From WB Yeats’s Lake Isle of Inisfree to Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn, the relationship between the country’s writers and their homeland is captured in the pages of books and poetry collections.
Up to the present day, contemporary Irish writers are making their mark in popular fiction, crime writing and writing for children. Irish writers are celebrated with numerous awards, including recent winners and shortlisted entries for the Man Booker Prize and the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, whose €100,000 prize makes it the largest literary prize for a single work of fiction.
The rich history of Irish literature is imprinted across the country. In Dublin the Book of Kells, The Chester Beatty Library and the Dublin Writer’s Museum truly integrate literature into the city’s landscape. Elsewhere the Cúirt International Literature Festival in Galway,Listowel Writers’ Week and Oireachtas na Gaeilge draw a strong and loyal following.