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Literary notes/2

A few more literary notes. I think I might continue with these kind of posts, where I will talk on everything about books, including smaller reviews. I left off in my last notes with two literary trips and books/authors along the way. During my 5-day trip to Ireland with a group of friends, I also encountered some great literary ventures. Not surprisingly in a way, since Ireland is full of talented authors these days. I don't think I agree with Oscar Wilde who said:

We Irish are too poetical to be poets; we are a nation of brilliant failures, but we are the greatest talkers since the Greeks.

I think he would have had another view if he had lived today to see the thriving world of literature in Ireland. Maybe, he is even the inspiration to today's literary achievements. But, we start with a magic book shop in Galway.

Charlie Byrne's book shop

Charlie Byrne's Bookshop is said to be Ireland’s best-loved, independent bookshop. Here you find over 100,000 books: new, second-hand and antiquarian. A paradise for me, and I could have spent several hours in there. Around 6-8 different rooms, full of books from ceiling to floor. I grabbed a few and asked if I could leave them on the counter while looking for more. I asked if there was a limit on the number of books you could buy, but unfortunately there was not. I left with ten books. How I would get them into my hand luggage was a later problem. So what did I find? Mostly classics and nonfiction, but very interesting books. Books I have been looking for.

A few images from the interior. I just wish we had book shops like this in Sweden.

Jonathan Swift

While in Dublin we visited St Patrick’s Cathedral. An imposing building both on the inside and the outside, it was founded in 1191. Since 1870, the Church of Ireland has designated the Cathedral as the national cathedral for the whole of Ireland and its 12 dioceses. The office of the dean has existed since 1219 and the most famous office holder was Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).

He is more famous as an author, satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer and poet with his most famous work being Gulliver’s Travels. It might not come as a surprise that he originally published his works under pseudonyms.

He was buried in the cathedral by the side of Ester Johnson, according to his wishes. Esther Johnson (1681-1728) was an Englishwoman, a close friend of Swift, and known as “Stella”. Still today, it is not for certain whether they were married or not, since it was never made public. Let’s hope that they were happy together, married or not.

I have not read anything by Swift, but this might be the time? Any suggestions on what to start with, except Gulliver's Travels I guess?

Oscar Wilde's home

You can’t talk about Dublin without talking about one of its greatest sons, namely Oscar Wilde. On the last day of our tour we were supposed to visit the Trinity College where he studied and have a look at the famous library. Unfortunately, due to demonstrations in Dublin, the visit was cancelled. I decided to walk over to the Merrion Square park, situated opposite his first home, to have a look at the Memorial Sculpture in honour of him. I was lucky enough that the Monday was a holiday and therefore his home was open to visit.

It is a beautiful house, now the home to the American University. You start by watching a film about his life which was very interesting. Afterwards you walk around the house. Most of the rooms are today lecture rooms, but there are a few rooms which are sparsely furnitured to give you an idea how the family lived. His father was Sir William Wilde a oto-ophthalmologic (ear and eye) surgeon. He also wrote books about Irish archaeology and peasant folklore. His mother, Jane, wrote poetry under the pseudonym “Speranza” and might have influenced him in his future career. Both parents were part of the social life of the city and kept a salon where famous authors like Sheridan Le Fanu, Charles Lever and others participated.

Once I finished the tour, I had a small conversation with the lady in the cashier. We talked about his sad life, at least the latter part of it. She said that he was, several times, at cross roads, where he could have taken another route, but choose not too. Even when he was sentenced to prison the police waited some hours to pick him up, so that he could take the easy route and run away. Obviously, he choose not too. One must admire such courage to stay tuned to one's beliefs.

After the visit I crossed the street and went into the Merrion Square Park to have a look at the statue of Wilde. I was waiting to get closer since an Italian school class just had walk up to the memorial. The guide spoke in English so I presume they were also there to improve/practise their English. She showed them the statue and asked if anyone knew who it was. There was total silence. Maybe, I should have spoken up, but I did not want to interfere. It is an unusual statue, which very well personifies the man. Quite a suitable memorial and different.

Reading in May

May has so far been a slow month for reading. Only four books. I just finished listening to The Searcher by Tana French. I love the other books I have read by her, but this is a very slow book where nothing much happens. Kay at Whatmeread has an excellent review of The Hunter the follow up of The Searcher. I don't think I will continue reading that one.

Otherwise, I am reading for the Classic Spin The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton and hope I will get through it.

That is all for today, soon back with some more notes.

10 views6 comments


May 27

Even though I've been a bookseller for 15+ years I still love visiting bookshops when on holidays. They are all special in their own way, and their local readers section is always fascinating.

May 27
Replying to

Brona :-)


What a fantastic bookstore. It's great that you came away from the bookstore with ten books, I think.

Oscar Wilde is a person who intrigues me. His grave was the first grave I wanted to find at the big cemetery in Paris:

I saw two lovely copies of The House of Mirth at the library bookstore yesterday, and I thought about you. Perhaps I will buy one when I go there again Tuesday.

Replying to

Yes, the bookstore was so great. I don't know why we can't have stores like that in Sweden. You can hardly call them book stores anymore since they sell so many other things as well, like stationary. Nothing wrong with that, I love it, but more variety of books, old and new would be great.

Yes, Oscar Wilde does not leave anyone untouched I think. The Père Lachaise cemetery is on my list of places to visit when I go to Paris next time. I have saved your post. So many famous people buried there.

I am still only at the beginning of The House of Mirth, but I kind of like it. I am curious how Lily Bart will…


May 24

wow, you don't have old independent bookstores in Sweden? Somehow, I thought there were a lot of them there. Emma @ Words And Peace

Replying to

Unfortunately not, Emma. There seem to be only once chain every where. I am sure in the bigger cities there might be some other options. The option I have is to go to second hand shops who usually have a book section as well. There you can sometimes find interesting, old, and new, books.

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