Are these the five most valuable books by living Irish writers?

anne-enrightThe recent developments at English PEN have really caught the eye of the wider public – and not just those concerned primarily with the arts, as the Financial Times coverage attests.

English PEN is a worldwide writers’ association which campaigns to defend the right to freedom of expression of writers (and readers), both in the UK and around the world.

And it has come up with a phenomenally brilliant idea to raise funds: a series of 51 first editions which will go to auction Sotheby’s in May.

These are not just any old first editions, either; they’re also annotated by the author, making them as unique a series of books as any you’re likely to see.

There’s a significant (and welcome) Irish interest, with five of the 51 by Irish writers: books written and annotated by John Banville, Sebastian Barry, Anne Enright, Seamus Heaney and Colm Tóibín will be part of this very literary auction at Sotheby’s in London on Tuesday, May 21st.

The special quintet is comprised of Booker Prize winners The Sea (Banville) and The Gathering (Enright), Barry’s A Long, Long Way (Booker- and IMPAC-shortlisted), Tóibín’s reputation-forging second novel The Heather Blazing and Heaney’s breakthrough second collection Death Of A Naturalist, published in 1966 and including, alongside enduringly perfect pieces such as “Mid-Term Break” and “Digging”, at least one hilarious note by Heaney.

Alongside the title poem, he jots:

Once described by a reviewer as ‘a long disappointing poem about frogs’. But in fact it’s quite short.

This particular famous five is quite probably the most valuable series of books in existence written by living Irish writers.

So hats off to everyone at English PEN. I’m sure I won’t be the only one following events from Sotheby’s with interest in a few weeks’ time.

For more details visit the “First Editions, Second Thoughts” microsite of English PEN.

The full list of “First Editions, Second Thoughts” is here.

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