Fintan O’Toole is a columnist with The Irish Times and Leonard L. Milberg Visiting Lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton. His book on George Bernard Shaw, Judging Shaw, will be published in the fall.
 (June 2017)

IN THE REVIEW

Our Worst Great Playwright

Eugene O’Neill and Carlotta Monterey, his third wife, before they married, at Cap d’Ail, France, 1929

By Women Possessed: A Life of Eugene O’Neill

by Arthur Gelb and Barbara Gelb
Of all the great playwrights, Eugene O’Neill is undoubtedly the worst. At times, even late in his career, he produced work so gauche that without his name on the playbill, one might ascribe it to an overwrought adolescent. In 1936, O’Neill won the Nobel Prize. Just two years earlier, he …

Robert B. Silvers (1929–2017)

Robert B. Silvers in his office at The New York Review of Books, early 1980s
From its first issue in 1963, Robert Silvers was either co-editor with Barbara Epstein or, after her death in 2006, editor of The New York Review. Bob worked almost to the very end of his life, which would be no surprise to those who knew him well, including those who have written these brief memoirs.

A World More Glowing Than We Will Ever Know

Anne-Louis Girodet: Ossian Receiving the Ghosts of the French Heroes, circa 1800

Ireland’s Immortals: A History of the Gods of Irish Myth

by Mark Williams
In 1811, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was commissioned to paint an image for the ceiling of Napoleon Bonaparte’s bedroom at the Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome. The former papal palace was being prepared for the French emperor’s visit to the city to assume the title King of Rome and make himself the …

Glenda Jackson’s Great Lear

Glenda Jackson as Lear and Morfydd Clark as Cordelia in the Old Vic’s production of King Lear

King Lear

by William Shakespeare, directed by Deborah Warner
In 1980, when the actress Glenda Jackson was at the height of her fame, the Argentine writer Julio Cortázar published his story “We Love Glenda So Much.” It is narrated by a member of a cult devoted to the adoration of Glenda Jackson. At first, they meet in cafés after …

Beckett Plays Beckett

Samuel Beckett, Paris, 1964; photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Letters of Samuel Beckett Vol. IV: 1966–1989

edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn, and Lois More Overbeck
What did the elderly Samuel Beckett think about in the dark of night when he could not sleep? The hollowness of human existence? The inevitable failure of all expression? In fact, he played in his mind the first five holes of Carrickmines golf course overlooking Dublin Bay and facing the …

The Easter Rising: Powerful and Useless

Nurses in front of a shelled building in Dublin after the Easter Rising of 1916

Ireland’s Exiled Children: America and the Easter Rising

by Robert Schmuhl

“The Bomb, Bhadralok, Bhagavad Gita, and Dan Breen: Terrorism in Bengal and Its Relation to the European Experience”

by Michael Silvestri
On April 18, 1930, sixty-four militants from the Jugantar party in Bengal seized buildings in the eastern port city of Chittagong. They captured weapons at the police armory. They cut off telegraph communications and derailed a train. They controlled Chittagong for four days until they were routed with heavy casualties …

The Ultimate Oedipus at the Opera

Hubert Francis as Laïos, Nicolas Courjal as the Theban High Priest, and Sarah Connolly as Jocaste in George Enescu’s Oedipe, at the Royal Opera House, London

Oedipe

an opera by George Enescu, directed by Àlex Ollé and Valentina Carrasco, at the Royal Opera House, London, May 23–June 8, 2016
In 1911, when Gilbert Murray completed his translation of Oedipus the King, George Bernard Shaw wrote to him to suggest that it was time for a modern rewriting of Sophocles’ play. Shaw proposed that a “great poetic and psychological drama” would emerge if Oedipus, instead of blinding himself on his …

Finding a Lost Ireland

Connemara, Ireland, 1972; photograph by Thomas Hoepker

The Dirty Dust/Cré na Cille

by Máirtín Ó Cadhain, translated from the Irish by Alan Titley

The Key/An Eochair

by Máirtín Ó Cadhain, translated from the Irish by Louis de Paor and Lochlainn Ó Tuairisg
It seems rather apt that the physicist Erwin Schrödinger spent the years of World War II in Dublin. Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment in which a cat is simultaneously alive and dead might have been devised especially for Irish writing of the period. A kind of suspended animation, a state of …

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