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Classics of Irish literature have been available in Brazil since the publication in Rio de Janeiro of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift in 1888. Although its authors broadly share the characteristics of a colonial ruling-class they differ from mere conquerors in their sense of Irishness and their often-refractory ways of exploring the social and cultural world around them.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) worked as a political pamphleteer writer in London before reluctantly accepting the appointment of Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in his native Dublin. There he wrote the most searing satire on human nature perhaps in any language with Gulliver’s Travels (1726).

Laurence Sterne (1713-1768), in a very different vein, heralded the comical meta-novel with The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy (1760).

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), the son of a Catholic Irish lawyer-turned-Protestant, became the most famous parliamentary orator of his time and a virulent exponent of a form of benign conservativism with which he opposed the political violence of the age, most famously in Reflections on the French Revolution (1790).

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), successively a student at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford, displayed an extraordinary capacity to prick the vanity of his English-speaking audience in his incomparably witty plays. He is by far the most translated Irish author in Brazil, with works such as The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), to which he added the subtitle, A trivial comedy for serious people.

Bram Stoker (1847-1912), an exact contemporary who actually married Wilde’s former fiancée, won world-wide fame with Dracula (1897), in which an aristocratic vampire from Transylvania defies death by feeding on the blood of young Englishwomen—a seeming shadow-image of English colonialism in Ireland.

It is from the fractured society in which all of these writers grew up and very often left behind that the modernist voices of W. B. Yeats and James Joyce, Flann O’Brien and Brian Friel later sprang, mixing Irish and English social and cultural visions in new and often unsettling ways.