Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Me and General Robert Lee

Monday, May 1, 2017

Literature and Patriotism

Ireland has been awarded four Nobel prizes for literature-- the winners being George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney.

I think W.B. Yeats was the greatest English-language poet of all time, hands down.

I think Shaw was a wonderfully articulate writer, but I always found his plays unbearably dull. I've read more of his correspondence with Chesterton than any original works he wrote. His anti-romantic view of the world might be the outlook I hate the most, short of pure nihilism. I understand Yeats's reaction on seeing a Shaw play: "I had a nightmare that I was haunted by a sewing-machine, that clicked and shone, but the incredible thing was that the machine smiled, smiled perpetually."

I think Samuel Beckett was a complete charlatan, although perhaps not a conscious charlatan. Waiting for Godot is the dullest play ever written-- it's a good idea, but once you've understood the idea, there's nothing left to say. Audiences hated it at first, but were subsequently told to suffer through it, and obligingly did. Everything else he wrote was just the same idea trotted out again and again. His life is quite interesting, and the atmosphere of his plays is mildly stimulating-- or at least, the atmosphere of stills from his plays. There is a Samuel Beckett exhibition in the library where I work and I quite like the photographs. (It's nearly all photographs-- everything is presentation these days.)

Seamus Heaney was, I think, another charlatan-- though once again, I think he was probably not a conscious charlatan. I think his poetry is entirely without merit of any kind. He wrote about fashionable themes, Northern Ireland and all that, and for whatever reason he was chosen from the hundreds of others also writing about Northern Ireland and all that.

That's it. So when people compliment Ireland on its four Nobel prizes for literature, I can't take it very seriously.

7 comments:

  1. Do you read John O'Donohue at all? Our emeritus archbishop loves his poems. A niece ordered ANAM CARA for my birthday once. If you haven't seen it, it's a sort of ' spiritual' book, in a loose usage of the word. Anyway he writes "a friend of mine was telling a story about a neighbour. The children of the school were going into town to see WAITING FOR GODO. This man took a ride on their bus... (his friends didn't turn up) Since he had no money, he ended up having to watch WAITING FOR GODOT. He was describing the experience to my friend:'seemingly the fellow who was to play the main part never turned up, and the actors were forced to improvise all night'....I think it was the kind of review with which Samuel Beckett himself would have been pleased. In a certain sense we are always waiting..."
    You haven't given us your thoughts on Bob Dylan being a laureate

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    1. I think Bob Dylan is probably more talented than most of the Nobel laureates who have been recognized recently. Well, I assume so, since I wouldn't dream of reading most modern writers. But I think the whole idea of giving the award to a musician is ridiculous. Actually, I hadn't heard about it until you mentioned it.

      My father bought me Anam Cara one Christmas. I have nostalgic memories of it for that reason, but the book itself was perhaps one of the most unreadable books I've ever encountered and I didn't finish it.

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  2. conversation in our uneventful house is a bit like *waiting for godot" every day and night, unfortunately

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that. Maybe throw in a plot twist!

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  3. Anam Cara is a bit ' new age',I know.
    Not really solid spiritual reading but charming enough. I can't remember if I found it boring in any way, it's not very long but (and this is one reason I'm not in favor of digital reading)I always believe in being a disciplined reader-making yourself finish

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    1. I've heard a few people saying they hate to give up on books before they finish them. I am quite merciless though! Always have been.

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  4. I better confess....there's the odd one I don't finish ,but they need to be really bad.
    Awarding the prize to Dylan opens up quite a tin of worms. If him, why not any of a number of other songwriters?

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