So are we really in the middle of an Irish literary renaissance?

spill-simmer-falter-wither-book-jacket-fJason Arthur, the Publishing Director of a group of Penguin Random House imprints, has described the current Irish literary scene as “experiencing a renaissance”.

Arthur’s comments came amid the announcement that he has secured the UK and Commonwealth rights (apart from Canada) to two Sara Baume novels, including current hit Spill Simmer Falter Wither, published by new kid on the block Dublin independent publisher Tramp Press.

SSFW, which hit the shelves in Ireland and the UK last month, will now go much further afield with an immediate issue of an export trade paperback by William Heinemann (one of the PRH imprints) with Windmill (another imprint) to publish the novel in paperback and ebook format later this year.

The deal also includes a second novel by Baume. Finer details of either the deal or the second book are, right now, understandably scant.

Said Arthur: “Irish literature seems to be experiencing something of a renaissance, and in the last few years Ireland has produced more than its fair share of brilliantly talented young writers. But even with that in mind, Sara Baume’s unique talent is something very special indeed. Spill Simmer Falter Wither is an exceptionally original and impressive work.”

glorious-heresies-mcinerneyBaume is just one of a number of Irish writers to have attracted the attention of critics and publishers alike in recent times. Over the past nine months, we’ve seen debut novels such as Mary Costello’s Academy Street and Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing win major awards such as the Irish Novel of the Year and the Baileys Prize while hot on the heels of Baume’s debut comes Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies, which will be available from the end of this week and has already been described as “a big, brassy, sexy beast of a book” by Joseph O’Connor in the Irish Times. (The first chapter of The Glorious Heresies is available to read on the Sunday Times website here.) Throw in the slightly more established Claire Keegan, Claire Kilroy, Nuala Ni Chonchuir and Belinda McKeon (among others), and the state of play for Irish women writers looks very healthy.

Anne Enright, recently appointed Irish Laureate for Fiction, would surely approve of this wave of supremely confident young Irish women writers, but the fellas are not without their representation in this “renaissance” either.

Colin Barrett’s short story collection Young Skins has been hoovering up the prizes (Guardian First Book award, Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award) while Rob Doyle’s Here Are the Young Men, Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December and Gavin Corbett’s This Is The Way also attracted plenty of acclaim over the past couple of years.

Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane won plenty of admirers, although there’s a suspicion that it falls a step short of his breathtaking short stories, the 2012 Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award winner “Beer Trip to Llandudno” being a standout example of story-telling at its best.

More than five years after the dazzling Skippy Dies, Paul Murray’s third novel The Mark and the Void is due out this summer; including a character called Paul Murray who is writing a novel, it sounds more than a little bit Paul Auster, and I can’t wait for it.

(A final word too, for The Stinging Fly, the Dublin literary periodical and press which first published collections by Costello, Barry and Barrett.)

Vive La Renaissance!

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6 thoughts on “So are we really in the middle of an Irish literary renaissance?

  1. Great News , but lets not forget its not just “young” Writers who are releasing exciting new Novels in Ireland today.

  2. I think we definitely are in the midst of an Irish literary renaissance. I am so impressed with the number of Irish authors writing sophisticated, brilliant works of literature. We are spoilt for choice at present. I still have so many I want to read, such as a couple of those mentioned in your article. It is also good to see them being commercially successful. Long may it continue and I for one have no doubt whatsoever that it will.

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