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Irish literature is the matrix of Irish Studies in Brazil. This exhibition highlights Irish writers who have come to Brazil or whose works have been the subject of Brazilian theses, research, translations, or staging, including authors who have been invited to the Paraty Literary Festival, and warmly appreciated by the public, such as Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, Edna O’Brien, Colum McCann and John Banville.

In the early and mid-twentieth century, Irish literature was led by Shaw, Yeats, O’Casey, Joyce, and Beckett, among others. George Moore and Joyce established the Irish short story, a tradition continued by Sean O’Faolain, Liam O’Flaherty, Elizabeth Bowen, and Frank O’Connor, paving the way to today’s short fiction.

The vision of Ireland was redefined in the 1950s and 1960s by Edna O’Brien and John McGahern, while writers such as Kate O’Brien, Brian Moore, William Trevor, and Elizabeth Bowen had to live abroad due to practical issues of censorship and the structure of the publishing industry.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Northern Ireland had a poetic renaissance, with Derek Mahon, Michael Longley, Seamus Heaney, Ciaran Carson, Tom Paulin, Paul Muldoon and Medbh McGuckian creating an original trend. Some of them, like Seamus Heaney, also experienced life in the Republic among other contemporaries like Michael Smith, Paul Durcan, Michael Hartnett, Seamus Deane, Maurice Harmon, and Macdara Woods.

After the 1970s, the work of writers based in Ireland addressed a global audience with more cosmopolitan and self-reflexive narratives. John Banville, Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, Roddy Doyle and Patrick McCabe have been widely recognized. With Francis Stuart, Aidan Higgins, and Sebastian Barry, they worked with strategies derived from Joyce, Flann O’Brien, and Beckett, producing experimental, intimate, and innovative work, transforming ideas of belonging and sense of identity. In the 1980s and 1990s, Dermot Bolger and Roddy Doyle tackled the contrasts and connections between current Ireland and an imagined past, portraying urban and suburban life in the present – responding to movies, rock music, and the increased visibility of sexual life in Ireland.

The 1990s and the early twenty-first century saw a return of the Gothic. The tradition of Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker inspired writers, such as Anne Enright to bring back the ghost story and the sense of being haunted or displaced. These works move the action to surreal landscapes: noir novels, such as Banville’s series of psychological crime fiction (under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, except his recent book), and Eoin Colfer’s bestselling fantasy literature for children. The narratives by Emma Donoghue, who has extended boundaries both of gender and, indeed, of the nation. In this respect, other significant women poets and fiction writers include Eavan Boland, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Moya Cannon, Claire Keegan, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Éilís Ní Dhuibne, Paula Meehan, and Mary O’Donnell. Marian Keyes and Cecelia Ahern, it should be noted, are among the best-selling Irish authors in Brazil!

The “Celtic Tiger” boom, from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, was important in the construction of Ireland’s history through literature. In Northern Ireland, Glenn Patterson wrote haunting fiction about public and private violence in the North. Roddy Doyle, Joseph O’Connor, Sebastian Barry, Lia Mills, Mary Morrissy, Síofra O’Donovan and John Boyne wrote sustained meditations on the Irish past, as seen through the experience of pariahs and outcast groups. Issues of emigration and immigration appear in the work of Frank McCourt, Colm Tóibín, Colum McCann and Hugo Hamilton.

The economic changes provoked by the “Tiger” triggered an inflow of immigrants, inaugurating a new multicultural Ireland. Once a country of emigrants, Ireland became a utopia for immigrants and asylum seekers, which raised a new debate and agenda that transformed the very notion of Irishness. Recent literary production is underpinned by issues of marginality, ethnicity and race. In the last decades, writers such as Melatu Uche Okorie (Nigerian-born) and Adiba Jaigirdar (Bangladeshi-Irish) have claimed and earned public visibility.

Now, the voices of a young generation of Irish writers – including Neil Hegarty, Kevin Power, Niamh Campbell, Colin Barrett, Donal Ryan, Naoise Dolan, Louise Nealon, Sally Rooney, Jessica Traynor, Eimear McBride, Emilie Pine and Sinéad Gleeson – are being heard on this side of the Atlantic. Echoing Seamus Heaney’s poem “Scaffolding”, imaginary forms of literature are being tested for the strengthening of bridges between Ireland and Brazil – and “[w]e may let the scaffolds fall / Confident that we have built our wall”.