Seán O'Faoláin: Literature, Inheritance and the 1930s, by Paul Delaney, pp. 280. Newbridge: Irish Academic Press, 2014. $89.95. Paul Delaney's passionate analysis of Sean O'Faolain's writing in the 1930s is not just a plea to reconsider the work of an early twentieth-century Irish canonical figure; it is also a text that positions Irish realism and biography, exemplified by O'Faolain's writings, as philosophical discourses marking a significant historical moment. For Delaney, O'Faolain is more of a literary philosopher than a biographer or writer of fiction. Even when O'Faolain fails to give objective (or even accurate) information in his biographical writings, as Delaney presents it, he succeeds in epitomizing an Irish viewpoint refracted and fragmented by Irish colonial history. And, when he disappoints in his stereotyping of Irishness in his fiction, O'Faolain nonetheless powerfully critiques institutions that inhibit identity formation in post-Independence Ireland. Delaney splits his narrative into two parts, "Biography" and "Fiction," suggesting, even in the outline of his own biographical reading of O'Faolain, that historical lives and the fictitious stories that surround them are unavoidably intertwined. Delaney first turns to O'Faolain's biographies, spending most of his time on King of the Beggars (1938), O'Faolain's illustration of Daniel O'Connell's
New Hibernia Review – Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas
Published: Oct 14, 2016
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