Fact: Dubliners love a good story.
A Dubliner can take something as everyday as buying milk into an epic tale of romance and bravery (or a first date on June 16th into one of the most acclaimed novels of all time – take a bow Mr Joyce). Considering the wit in our words and heritage of our literature, with having produced wordsmiths like Joyce, Wilde and Beckett, those hard-to-please people at UNESCO went and named Dublin the world’s fourth City of Literature.
Aren’t we chuffed with ourselves! Catherine Duffy, of Dublin City Libraries, explains why there’s no better place:
‘Dublin people are so proud of the city’s literary past and present. Literature and storytelling are part of the fabric of the place. When Dubliners greet each other on the street they won’t say ‘Hello’, they’ll say ‘What’s the story?’. ‘
So, in a little celebration/investigation, we decided to take a leisurely stroll around the city, sniff out a few of Dublin’s literary hotspots and find out ‘What’s the story?’.
A Poet And His Bench – Patrick Kavanagh by Dublin’s Grand Canal
Poet and novelist Patrick Kavanagh knew about a good stroll. In 1931 he walked the 120 kilometres from his home county of Monaghan to Dublin city to meet leading literary figures. His is celebrated for how his work captured Irish rural life in the 20th Century, and many of his poems and novels have been reworked into plays and music recently. Before his death in 1967 he asked that he be commemorated ‘With no hero courageous Tomb – just a canal-bank seat for the passer-by’. Lo and behold, you can take a seat beside him on the north bank of Dublin’s Grand Canal, watch the ducks and swans snap at crusts of bread and soak in the scene that inspired that great mind not too long ago.
A Tower And A Princess – James Joyce had it all
Traces of the quirky genius of James Joyce pops up all over Dublin city. With his magnum opus Ulysses set in the capital, anyone who has read the book will feel like they’re wearing Leopold Bloom’s shoes. The James Joyce Museum is housed in the quirky Martello Tower at Sandycove on Dublin’s coast and offers a keyhole view into the great man and his life. From the tower itself you can see right down the coast towards the village of Ringsend, where he and his sweetheart Nora Barnacle took their first ‘outing’ together.
Wit, Intelligence & Looks – Trinity College and Oscar Wilde
Trinity College doesn’t just have looks, it has brains too. Oscar Wilde studied Classics here and let’s just say did rather well. In his first year he topped his class, in his second won a scholarship and in his third won the prestigious Berkley Medal and a place in Oxford University. Phew! I suppose he was just warming up for a career that would see him pen some of the theatre’s greatest comic works, including A Woman of no Importance and Lady Windemere’s Fan. Wander the Great Hall in the library today and beside the shelves of volumes we’d like to think Wilde himself was once hunkered over, you’ll also see one of the most famous books in the world – the Book of Kells. A brass tribute of the man himself can be found stroking his chin and admiring the view in the tranquil Merrion Square, just across from the college.
Gulliver’s Travels and St Patrick’s Cathedral
It takes one super-rich imagination to come up with a story like Gulliver’s Travels. Luckily, Dubliner Jonathan Swift had one such vibrant mind and gave us with one of the tallest (literally) and most enjoyable tales in the history of literature. After some years spent working as a minister and a politician abroad, Swift returned to his native Dublin and took over as Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where you can see his grave today.
Who knows what inspired words or phrases will come from your mouth when you wander this great city and someone asks you ‘what’s the story’?
Spring 2011 has tons of literary events going on in the city. Read more about upcoming Dublin Literary festivals, celebrations of books, and a film festival thrown in for good measure.