Proving the pen is mightier than the sword, the Irish have a unique way with words that can be enjoyed through the ages
Ireland is bursting at the seams with literary giants old and new. James Joyce is one Ireland’s most famous authors, and his great tome Ulysses is celebrated with a big Bloomsday Festival in Dublin in June.
Dubliner Roddy Doyle and Kerryman John B Keane are internationally feted for their evocative portraits of their home towns, while the renown of Northern authors and writers, such as Seamus Heaney from County Londonderry, and Brian Friel from Tyrone, resonates far beyond Irish shores.
New authors from all parts of the island are also gaining recognition – Colin Bateman from Bangor and Nick Laird from Cookstown are becoming household names proving that the literary tradition continues to be nurtured in Ireland.
History of the written word
From the 17th century on, a string of Irish literary geniuses have come from Ireland. Jonathan Swift and Oliver Goldsmith shone through and led the way for such greats as Oscar Wilde, Patrick Kavanagh, C S Lewis and Brendan Behan.
Pub life and literature
Ireland's literary tradition haunts just about every one of its friendly pubs, with the ghosts of Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, Wilde and Kavanagh lurking round every corner.
The pub has a special place in Irish life, not least because literature and drinking seem to go hand in hand in Ireland. Joyce, Behan and Kavanagh raised pub-going to an art form, while Heaney, John B Keane, and O'Casey all immortalized the Irish boozer in their works.
Storytelling in Ireland
But you don't have to know your Shaw from your Sheridan to enjoy the jovial atmosphere of an Irish pub. You can sit back and marvel at the unique homespun philosophy in Dublin, listen to storytelling in Armagh, or sample poetry reading on the Aran Islands.
In Belfast, explore Writers’ Square facing St Anne's Cathedral. Inscribed under the arch are the names of the great Northern Ireland writers including Nobel prizewinner Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, Louis MacNeice, C S Lewis, and John Hewitt.
Lectures and schools will give you a greater insight into the literary tradition. The John Hewitt summer school takes place in Belfast, does the Seamus Heaney Summer School at Queen’s University, while the Merriman school takes place in County Clare, usually in August.