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On the literary trail

in Dublin


ith raw landscapes embellished by craggy

peaks, ancient castles and stone-walled fields,

Ireland is a country which demands to be

described and portrayed. Its untamed splendour has long

inflamed the imaginations of authors. It’s the land of Oscar

Wilde, W.B. Yeats and Samuel Beckett and it has one of the

richest literary traditions in the world. Four Nobel Prize in

Literature winners have emerged from this tiny country,

inspired not only by its wild scenery, but by its tumultuous

history as a nation repeatedly conquered by invaders and

riven by religion.

As the hub of Ireland’s literary scene, Dublin has myriad

libraries. From the stunning architecture of Trinity College

Dublin’s Long Room, to the enormous National Library

of Ireland, the museum-like Chester Beatty Library, and

the intimate charm of Marsh’s Library, Dublin is nirvana

for literature lovers. With 2016 marking the centenary of

Ireland’s independence, the country’s literary prowess has

taken centre stage. Running from 10th-12th November, the

annual Dublin Book Festival offers a platform for authors

and poets to showcase their work. Held in partnership with

the city’s public libraries, it involves more than a dozen

events at venues across the city.


The Irish uprising will be forever linked to the country’s

literary heritage, as it was in the years prior to the 1916

revolution that its writing really came to the fore. During

this turbulent period, the likes of Wilde, Yeats and George

Bernard Shaw emerged as world-renowned writers. The

immense works of Yeats are currently being celebrated at

the National Library of Ireland

( )

in ‘Yeats: The

Life and Works of William Butler Yeats’. The exhibition

is comprehensive and engaging, with an interactive,

multimedia showcase allowing visitors to see, hear and read

about the life, work and tribulations of the iconic Irish poet.

The award-winning display is “one of the most

important literary exhibitions yet staged internationally,”

according to national newspaper

The Irish Times

. I decide

this high praise is well deserved as I spend an hour

wandering through the exhibition, gleaning insight into

Yeats’ childhood via school reports, a letter from his sister

Lily Yeats, and portraits by his father John Butler Yeats.

It would take months to fully examine NLI’s archive of

Yeats’ papers, the largest in the world, which was donated

by his family.

The NLI prides itself on offering such comprehensive

collections. As much is clear from its lofty stated aim “to

make available the shared memory of the Irish nation

at home and abroad”. Within this elegant building,

constructed in 1877 in the downtown Dublin 2 district,

are more than 10 million books, manuscripts, newspapers,

drawings, prints, maps, photographs, music and digital

recordings. NLI Director Dr Sandra Collins tells me the

library sees itself as the “repository of Ireland’s national

written heritage”. “It is our mandate to care for the national

collections and to ensure that Irish memory is preserved

for future generations and made accessible for people

everywhere,” Dr Collins says.

For visitors like myself, who have Irish lineage but were

born abroad, the NLI is an amazing resource as Ireland’s

main archive of heraldry and ancestry information. If you


Dating back to the fourth century, Irish literature is the oldest in

Europe after Greek and Latin. In Ireland’s capital, Dublin, this written

history comes to life in the city’s many wonderful libraries, which offer

vast literary archives and rare artefacts

Wo r d s a n d p i c t u r e s : R o n a n O ’ C o n n e l l




Ronan is an



who has


words and


to the likes of





The Guardian


San Francisco




Financial Review


South China

Morning Post