Wednesday, June 5, 2013




Irish author, James Joyce—whose statue in Dublin, Ireland, is pictured above—remarked in his semi-autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), “Ireland is the old sow who eats her farrow.”

This is about as accurate and cruel a statement about Ireland, and its self-destructive tendencies, as has ever been made. But, what else could you expect from Joyce—a writer of truly stunning originality—best known for Ulysses (1922)—which which was banned in Ireland for decades (in the fine tradition of repressed Irish sexuality).

Incidentally, Joyce’s other works are well worth reading, and rather more accessible.

In the spirit of his own assessment of his native land, Joyce emigrated permanently while still in his early twenties, and thereafter lived in continental Europe in such places as Trieste, Paris, and Zurich.

I was reminded of Joyce’s scathing comment when I recently read a headline: “One Irish person emigrates every six minutes.”

Good grief—and this was the Celtic Tiger!

I had to emigrate from Ireland to the UK to find employment, but eventually returned to Ireland, fired up by the dream of helping to build the country. To that end, I put everything I had on the line to try and fight the curse of unemployment—and achieved a pyric victory in that the economic activity I created produced the number of jobs I was after; but I lost almost everything in the process.

In other ways, it was a very real victory for me, because in 1986, I committed to become a full-time writer—and thus fulfilled my true calling. Beyond that, the satisfaction and sheer pleasure I have gained from writing have exceeded all my expectations. And the financial rewards haven’t been so bad either.

Do I regret my earlier idealism? Not really; in the context of the time, it was the right thing to do. 

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