Murphy, Samuel Beckett’s first novel, was published in 1938. Its work-shy eponymous hero, adrift in London, realises that desire can never be satisfied and withdraws from life, in search of stupor. Murphy’s lovestruck fiancée Celia tries with tragic pathos to draw him back, but her attempts are doomed to failure. Murphy’s friends and familiars are simulacra of Murphy, fragmented and incomplete. But Beckett’s achievement lies in the brilliantly original language used to communicate this vision of isolation and misunderstanding. The combination of particularity and absurdity gives Murphy’s world its painful definition, but the sheer comic energy of Beckett’s prose releases characters and readers alike into exuberance.
Elizabeth Bowen - The House in Paris
In a story as subtly plotted as it is beautifully told, Elizabeth Bowen crystallizes the disturbing relationships between children, sex and love. Two children, strangers, wait in a house in Paris: Leopold for his mother, whom he has never seen; Henrietta for a train. Upstairs an old woman lies dying and her ad unfulfilled daughter flutters hopelessly round her ... Slowly exposing the apprehensions of the children and the reasons for their presence in the house, Elizabeth Bowen releases all her psychological insight, her charmed prose and unerring feel for atmosphere into a masterpiece of delicacy and restraint. 'All Miss Bowen's most brilliant qualities are here in evidence -- her wit, her descriptive power, above all her sense of the tragic' -- Jocelyn Brooke
Elizabeth Bowen - The Heat of the Day
Wartime London, where the "hot yellow sands of each afternoon" bring little relief from the fears of the night before, and the dead - alive yesterday - still inhabit the city. A new intimacy evolves among those who have not fled, and the carelessness of people with no future flows through the evening air. Stella is part of this society. Living in strange rooms, she holds on to the past and weaves the present around Robert, her lover, and Roderick, her son. Then she discovers that Robert is suspected of selling information to the enemy and that Harrison, who is trailing Robert, wants to bargain, the price for his silence being Stella herself. Slowly, the flimsy structures of Stella's life begin to break into pieces around her.
Elizabeth Bowen - The Last September
The Last September is Elizabeth Bowen's portrait of a young woman's coming of age in a brutalized time and place, where the ordinariness of life floats like music over the impending doom of history. In 1920, at their country home in County Cork, Sir Richard Naylor and his wife, Lady Myra, and their friends maintain a skeptical attitude toward the events going on around them, but behind the facade of tennis parties and army camp dances, all know that the end is approaching?the end of British rule in the south of Ireland and the demise of a way of life that had survived for centuries. Their niece, Lois Farquar, attempts to live her own life and gain her own freedoms from the very class that her elders are vainly defending. The Last September depicts the tensions between love and the longing for freedom, between tradition and the terrifying prospect of independence, both political and spiritual.
Samuel Beckett - Company / Ill Seen Ill Said / Worstward Ho / Stirrings Still
These four last prose fictions by Samuel Beckett were originally published individually, and their composition spanned the final decade of his life. In Company a solitary hearer lying in blackness calls up images from the far-off past. Ill Seen Ill Said meditates upon an old woman living out her last days alone in an isolated snow-bound cottage, watched over by twelve mysterious sentinels. In Worstward Ho, a breathless speaker unravels the sense of things, acting out the unending injunction to ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ And Stirrings Still, published in the Guardian a few months before Beckett’s death in 1989, is the last prose work and testament of ‘this great soothsayer of the age, and of the aged’ (Christopher Ricks). The present edition includes several short prose texts (Heard in the Dark I & II, One Evening, The Way, Ceiling) which represent work in progress or works ancillary to the composition of these late masterpieces.
John Banville - The Sea
Incandescent prose. Beautifully textured characterisation. Transparent narratives. The adjectives to describe the writing of John Banville are all affirmative, and The Sea is a ringing affirmation of all his best qualities. His publishers are claiming that this novel by the Booker-shortlisted author is his finest yet, and while that claim may have an element of hyperbole, there is no denying that this perfectly balanced book is among the writer's most accomplished work. Max Morden has reached a crossroads in his life, and is trying hard to deal with several disturbing things. A recent loss is still taking its toll on him, and a trauma in his past is similarly proving hard to deal with. He decides that he will return to a town on the coast at which he spent a memorable holiday when a boy. His memory of that time devolves on the charismatic Grace family, particularly the seductive twins Myles and Chloe. In a very short time, Max found himself drawn into a strange relationship with them, and pursuant events left their mark on him for the rest of his life. But will he be able to exorcise those memories of the past? The fashion in which John Banville draws the reader into this hypnotic and disturbing world is non pareil, and the very complex relationships between his brilliantly delineated cast of characters are orchestrated with a master's skill. As in such books as Shroud and The Book of Evidence, the author eschews the obvious at all times, and the narrative is delivered with subtlety and understatement. The genuine moments of drama, when they do occur, are commensurately more powerful. --Barry Forshaw
William Trevor - Felicia’s Journey
'You're beautiful,' Johnny told her and so, full of hope, seventeen-year-old Felicia crosses the Irish Sea to England to find her lover and tell him she is pregnant. Vividly and with heart-aching insight William Trevor traces her desperate search through the post-industrial Midlands. Unable to find Johnny, she is, instead, found by Mr Hilditch, pudgy canteen catering manager, collector and befriender of homeless young girls.
James Joyce - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Published in 1916, James Joyce's semiautobiographical tale of his alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, is a coming-of-age story like no other. A bold, innovative experiment with both language and structure, the work has exerted a lasting influence on the contemporary novel.'Joyce dissolved mechanism in literature as effectively as Einstein destroyed it in physics,' wrote Alfred Kazin. 'He showed that the material of fiction could rest upon as tense a distribution and as delicate a balance of its parts as any poem. Joyce's passion for form, in fact, is the secret of his progress as a novelist. He sought to bring the largest possible quantity of human life under the discipline of the observing mind, and the mark of his success is that he gave an epic form to what remains invisible to most novelists.... Joyce means many things to different people; for me his importance has always been primarily a moral one. He was, perhaps, the last man in Europe who wrote as if art were worth a human life.... By living for his art he may yet have given others a belief in art worth living for.'
Colm Tóibín - The Heather Blazing
The sea is slowly eating into the land and the hill with the old watchtower has completely disappeared. The nearest house has crumbled and fallen into the sea. It is Ireland in the late twentieth century. Eamon Redmond is a judge in the Irish High Court. Obsessed all his life by the letter and spirit of the law, he is just beginning to discover how painfully unconnected he is from other human beings. With effortless fluency, Colm Tóibín reconstructs the history of Eamon's relationships—with his father, his first "girl," his wife, and the children who barely know him. He gives us a family as minutely realized as any of John McGahern's, and he writes about Eamon's affection for the landscape of his childhood on the east coast of Ireland with such skill that the land itself becomes a character. The result is a novel that ensnares us with its emotional intensity and dazzles with its crystalline prose. In The Heather Blazing, Colm Tóibín displays once again the gifts that illuminated The South, a book described by Don DeLillo as "a grand achievement," and by John Banville as "a daring imaginative feat...a splendid first novel."
Maria Edgeworth - Castle Rackrent
With her satire on Anglo-Irish landlords in Castle Rackrent (1800), Maria Edgeworth pioneered the regional novel and inspired Sir Walter Scott's Waverley (1814). Politically risky, stylistically innovative, and wonderfully entertaining, the novel changes the focus of conflict in Ireland from religion to class, and boldly predicts the rise of the Irish Catholic bourgeoisie. The second edition now includes new notes informed by the latest scholarship.
Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray
There can be many varying reasons for selling one's soul to the devil. Fame, power, love; a distraction of this world can rapidly consume the entirety of one's concentration until the distraction becomes that person's very "reality". It is fascinating to observe how the good in this world can be overlooked or neglected due to the singularity of one's concentration on what is, ultimately, the "bad". The Picture of Dorian Gray is a story that captures such a concept and places it in the context of late nineteenth century London. Basil Hallward is a painter, one of amateur talents, but a painter that receives an inspiration that some like to call divine. A particularly new acquaintance of his, a Mr. Dorian Gray, seems to put all art into perspective for the aspiring artist. The result is a perfectly splendid picture of the beautiful Dorian Gray, who sits for Hallward in the epitome of innocence. There is a friend of Hallward's, who goes by the name of Lord Henry Wotton. Harry, as his friends call him, is something of an enigma to the familial circles of English aristocracy; Dorian most aptly entitles him "Prince Paradox" much later in the novel. Gray is immediately captivated by the charisma of Lord Wotton, whom he met while Hallward is painting his portrait. Following the completion of the painting, Dorian becomes melancholic, having just learned the wonders of his youth and beauty from Prince Paradox; indeed, upon gazing into his own picture, Dorian Gray is already missing his youthful splendour. In his newfound narcissism, Dorian makes a foolhardy wish: that the painting grows old and ugly while he should retain his exceptional beauty. There is a liberal utilization of symbolization in this controversial book, and most particularly so in Henry Wotton and his meeting with Dorian Gray. Harry, who becomes Dorian's closest friend, represents a kind of hedonism that is vastly different from the sociality of their familiars, and yet also apart from the vulgar tastes of the uneducated. In the words of Dorian Gray: "Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to recreate life, and to save it from the harsh, uncomely Puritanism that was making its own curious revival. It was to have its service of the intellect, certainly; yet, it was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience. His aim, indeed, was to be experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter as they might be. Of the asceticism that deadens the sense, as of the vulgar profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing. But it was to teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life that is itself but a moment." Before Dorian Gray met Lord Henry Wotton, he recognized things as they were. Following that momentous exchange, Dorian Gray recognized only shadows. Art, to the corrupted youth, was not just a reflection of life and love, but reality itself. Passion is the first and final goal of his new worldview, and it ultimately destroys the child within. Basil Hallward symbolizes the simplicity, the good, and the rare in modern London: his friend Henry calls him "dull", as all great artists are. Hallward, in a clever instance of foreboding, did not want Lord Henry to even meet Dorian: "Dorian Gray has a simple and beautiful nature… Don't spoil him." The good in life seems to become less relevant, less necessary as life goes on, as the individual experiences more, until the good doesn't seem to exist… at all. A key idea in the Picture of Dorian Gray is, I think, the fall of innocence to the pleasures of this novel Hedonism that plays the antagonism of this story. Though Dorian may indeed retain his outer beauty, startling the perceptions of everyone near him, the soul within becomes unrecognizable to a simple eye, to any eye removed of darkness. In the writing of this, his only novel, Oscar Wilde manages to take hold of several key ideas and succeeds in putting them on a magnificent, provocative display. The central themes, art, love and novelty, are the fine threads that boldly form the grandeur of the patterned Idea. As this is the ultimate goal in every work of art, I would claim that The Picture of Dorian Gray is an accomplished story on every level.
Iris Murdoch - Under the Net
Iris Murdoch’s first novel is a gem – set in a part of London where struggling writers rub shoulders with successful bookies, and film starlets with frantic philosophers. Its hero, Jake Donaghue, is a likable young man who makes a living out of translation work and sponging off his friends. A meeting with Anna, an old flame, leads him into a series of fantastic adventures.
Brendan Behan - Borstal Boy
This miracle of autobiography and prison literature begins: "Friday, in the evening, the landlady shouted up the stairs: 'Oh God, oh Jesus, oh Sacred Heart, Boy, there's two gentlemen here to see you.' I knew by the screeches of her that the gentlemen were not calling to inquire after my health . . . I grabbed my suitcase, containing Pot. Chlor., Sulph Ac, gelignite, detonators, electrical and ignition, and the rest of my Sinn Féin conjurer's outfit, and carried it to the window..." The men were, of course, the police, who knew seventeen-year-old Behan for the anti-imperialist terrorist he was and arrested him. He spent three years as a prisoner in England, primarily in Borstal (reform school), and was then expelled to his homeland, a changed but hardly defeated rebel. Once banned in the Irish Republic, Borstal Boy is both a riveting self-portrait and a clear look into the problems, passions, and heartbreak of Ireland.
Maria Edgeworth - Ormond
Resolving to make something of himself, Harry Ormond must choose between going back to reclaim native traditions or moving forward into the commercially minded future. Edgeworth's last Irish tale ranges from Ireland to Paris, tracing Harry's progress from ungovernable youth to enlightened landlord.
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu - Uncle Silas
One of the most effective novels of terror ever written, this true Gothic mystery novel is considered by many to be the best of the period. It is not only wonderfully written, skillfully plotted, and peopled with interesting characters, it is incredibly frightening.
Oscar Wilde - Dorian Gray arcképe / The Picture of Dorian Gray
KÉTNYELVŰ KIADVÁNY! Dorian szépsége elbűvöli Basil Hallward-ot, aki az ifjú portréjával a tiszta naivitásnak állít művészi emléket. A színen feltűnik Lord Henry Wotton, aki meggyőzi a festő modelljét, hogy ifjonti szépsége a legfontosabb erénye. Mikor Dorian ráébred arra, hogy fiatalsága nem tart örökké, kijelenti, hogy bármit megadna, ha maga helyett festett arcképe öregedne. Ebben a fausti pillanatban kívánsága teljesül. Dorian így mindig friss és üde, ártatlan arca a csábítás pompás fegyvere. Saját szépsége elvarázsolja, nárcizmusán azonban fölülemelkedik az arckép változása miatt elő-előtörő aggodalma. A festményről tulajdon romló lelke néz vele farkasszemet… Wilde regénye az angol irodalom alapműve, korának botrányirodalma. The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Basil is impressed by Dorian's beauty and becomes infatuated with him, believing his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's world view. Espousing a new hedonism, Lord Henry suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfillment of the senses. Realizing that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian (whimsically) expresses a desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than himself. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, plunging him into debauched acts. The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging. The Picture of Dorian Gray is considered a work of classic gothic horror fiction with a strong Faustian theme.
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu - In a Glass Darkly
`the ideal reading...for the hours after midnight' Thus Henry James described the style of supernatural tale of which Sheridan Le Fanu was a master. Known in nineteenth-century Dublin as `The Invisible Prince' because of his reclusive and nocturnal habits, Le Fanu was fascinated by the occult. His writings draw on the Gothic tradition, elements of Irish folklore, and even on the social and political anxieties of his Anglo-Irish contemporaries. In exploring sometimes inexplicable terrors, the tales focus on the unease of the haunted men and women who encounter the supernatural, rather than on the origin or purpose of the visitant. This makes for spine-chilling reading. The five stories presented here have been collected by Dr Hesselius, a `metaphysical' doctor, the forerunner of the modern psychiatrist, who is willing to consider the ghosts both as real and as hallucinatory obsessions. The reader's doubtful anxiety mimics that of the protagonist, and each story thus creates that atmosphere of mystery which is the supernatural experience.
Edna O'Brien - The Country Girls
Meet Kate and Baba, two young Irish country girls who have spent their childhood together. As they leave the safety of their convent school in search of life and love in the big city, they struggle to maintain their somewhat tumultuous relationship. Kate, dreamy and romantic, yearns for true love, while Baba just wants to experience the life of a single girl. Although they set out to conquer the world together, as their lives take unexpected turns, Kate and Baba must ultimately learn to find their own way.
Edna O'Brien - Girl with Green Eyes
"I had dyed all our underwear purple. Baba read somewhere that was a sexy colour, and on the way home from Mass we bought five packets of dye." Cait (now Kate) and Baba are installed in their Dublin guest-house, making up for their sheltered upbringing by drinking, wearing lipstick and dressing up for the local men and going dancing. Kate creates a furore by falling in love with Eugene, a non-Catholic who is separated from his American wife and child. When word of their liaison reaches her father, all hell is let loose. Bad girl Baba has also met a married man and she, like Kate, is tormented by desire and fear. Unlike Kate, however, she is still completely impossible. The story of Caithleen and Baba began in _The Country Girls_ and continues in _Girls in Thier Married Bliss_, both published by Penguin.
John McGahern - Amongst Women
Moran is an old Republican whose life was forever transformed by his days of glory as a guerilla leader in the War of Independence. Now, in old age, living out in the country, Moran is still fighting - with his family, his friends, even himself - in a poignant struggle to come to terms with the past.