Interesting how we cling on to things, or people, only after success or favourable recognition.
Take James Joyce for example. We have statues of the man in Dublin City centre, run literary tours for tourists using his name and others such as Bram Stoker and William Butler Yeats as bait. We proudly use him as an inspiration for ‘would-be’ writers in our universities.
But from what I know of the man, which to be fair is not as much as I would like, he absolutely hated Dublin and everything that it stood for.. in his mind. Some might say, and some did do at the time, that he was a schizophrenic, who was obsessed by the people and place, but loathed all that it stood for?
Born and brought up in Dublin? Yes but he had a terrible upbringing in a household ruled by a drunk father. Catholic by birth and by nature? Well I give you a quote from our good man: “My mind rejects the whole present social order and Christianity-home, the recognised virtues, classes of life and doctrine(…).. Six years ago I left the Catholic Church, hating it fervently”.
So who else might we cling to? Ah yes… Samuel Beckett! The man who joined the French resistance and reported to the British. The proud Irishman who proclaimed “I prefer France in war time, to Ireland in peace”! Oh dear!
As much as we might seem to be glossing over our history to make us look more important or influential, you can’t deny the genius of these men. The hardship they endured and the exquisite writings left for history and literature lecturers to debate. But for me, it’s mostly down to the courage they had to react against the wrongs of the time.
Sexuality, religion, politics and social norms…all challenged, perhaps bettered by our literary greats.
We can be proud of them. Keep the statues and continue with the tours. All is accounted for in history regardless.