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Cover

The Irish Story

Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland

R. F. Foster

Publication Date - January 2004

ISBN: 9780195168877

304 pages
Paperback
5-5/16 x 8 inches

Retail Price to Students: $19.99

A trenchant look at the ways the Irish and others have told the "Story of Ireland," from W.B. Yeats to Frank McCourt

Description

Roy Foster is one of the leaders of the iconoclastic generation of Irish historians. In this opinionated, entertaining book he examines how the Irish have written, understood, used, and misused their history over the past century.
Foster argues that, over the centuries, Irish experience itself has been turned into story. He examines how and why the key moments of Ireland's past--the 1798 Rising, the Famine, the Celtic Revival, Easter 1916, the Troubles--have been worked into narratives, drawing on Ireland's powerful oral culture, on elements of myth, folklore, ghost stories and romance. The result of this constant reinterpretation is a shifting "Story of Ireland," complete with plot, drama, suspense, and revelation.
Varied, surprising, and funny, the interlinked essays in The Irish Story examine the stories that people tell each other in Ireland and why. Foster provides an unsparing view of the way Irish history is manipulated for political ends and that Irish misfortunes are sentimentalized and packaged. He offers incisive readings of writers from Standish O'Grady to Trollope and Bowen; dissects the Irish government's commemoration of the 1798 uprising; and bitingly critiques the memoirs of Gerry Adams and Frank McCourt. Fittingly, as the acclaimed biographer of Yeats, Foster explores the poet's complex understanding of the Irish story--"the mystery play of devils and angels which we call our national history"--and warns of the dangers of turning Ireland into a historical theme park.
The Irish Story will be hailed by some, attacked by others, but for all who care about Irish history and literature, it will be essential reading.

About the Author(s)

Roy Foster is Professor of History and a Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford. He is the author of W. B. Yeats: The Apprentice Mage and Modern Ireland, and is the editor of The Oxford History of Ireland.

Reviews

"Reading Foster will sharpen your wits, leave you less likely to be duped by a story simply because it's told with a brogue."--Chicago Tribune

"Erudite and acerbic"--Kirkus Reviews

"Interesting, suggestive, mostly urbane, sometimes scathing."--Wall Street Journal

"Foster is a formidably funny and exciting writer, and it is a joy to watch as he charmingly herds each sacred cow to the slaughter."--Craig Brown, The Mail on Sunday

"Foster's superb portrait of the essayist Hubert Butler evokes an Irish Orwell; someone who for 60 years, at times reviled and at others ignored, spoke subtle, lucid truth.... Foster eviscerates what he sees as the cramping of the past in memoirs by Frank McCourt and Gerry Adams.... What Foster is really going after is not politics but a way of thinking and writing 'for an audience in search of reaffirmation rather than dislocation--or enlightenment.'... Style is Foster's touchstone for truth. His disdain for McCourt's and Adams's writing, and the tradition of tale-telling, is more than literary."--Richard Eder, New York Times Book Review