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Banville wins second major literary award in month

Wexford author John Banville will be named a chevalier or knight in the Ordre des Arts et Lettres at the French embassy in Dublin this evening.
Earlier this month, Banville won the Prince of Asturias literary award.
The writer has appeared three times in the Franco-Irish Literary Festival, which is organised by the French embassy and the Alliance Française.
Most of his novels are translated into French and he has given numerous readings at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris.
The Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) is awarded by the French ministry of Culture to distinguished creative artists.
It recognises such artists' efforts in promoting the cultural heritage of France.
The influence of French writer Marcel Proust is particularly  in evidence in two Banville novels, The Sea and Ancient Light.
The award has been granted on previous occasions to U2’s Bono, Abbey director Fiach Mac Conghail, artist Anne Madden, and Gate director Michael Colgan, amongst others.

Astute commentators have not ruled out the possibility of the Nobel Prize for Literature eventually going the way of the Irish writer.

Scaling Ireland's literary heights

By Raymond M. Lane

Dublin - Another rainbow formed and then began dissolving slowly, not above, but below us.
The gauzy half-circle hung motionless in a long, deep valley. Threads of lightning flickered a time or two from a black thunderhead crawling over the valley floor. We never heard the thunder.
Perhaps five miles toward the valley head was a thin blue lake, and beyond, a bristle of black-green trees girdling the farther lower hillsides. At least three streams traced paths down the lumpy mountainsides, a lacy damask fingering toward straight-drop waterfalls that led to the lake and its little river draining into the bay to the west.
Then, just like that, two more rainbows appeared. They looked like wedding bands and touched both sides of the valley.
The temptation was to cup them in the palms of our hands, if only somehow we could leap the boundary between man and nature. Silently, the colour and motion playing beneath us insisted that while nature conveys beauty, man alone frets over its meaning.
“No wonder Yeats loved this place,” my wife said.
We were standing in pale sunshine about 1 300 feet off the valley floor with our guide, at the top of Ben Bulben in Sligo. In the distance was the tiny snail-horn steeple of Drumcliff church, burial site of poet William Butler Yeats.
That sharp, unsparing language was what we sought on Ben Bulben, coupling as it does the wildness of Ireland's mountains with the tangled narratives of myth and yarn spun by her great literary masters.
We knew the wordy part of Ireland fairly well, and where to find some of its lowland temples. Over the years, we had flat-footed the long walks of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce's “Ulysses.” We'd rooted out the homes of Ireland's other Nobel laureates, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. We'd found the digs of Oscar Wilde and even of Bram Stoker, whose “Dracula” still sends shivers down the spine.
But that's all in Dublin, the seaside, pancake-flat Irish capital. Last summer, we wanted to climb.
What about the cliff walk at Howth Head, we wondered, the rocky peninsula on the coast just north of Dublin? Could we find the spot where, lying among candy-coloured rhododendrons, the fictional Molly drew Leopold Bloom to her bosom to accept his marriage proposal?
And there was Jonathan Swift's “Gulliver's Travels.” The gigantic Gulliver was inspired by the mountains overlooking Belfast, the 1 214-foot Cave Hill summit being the “nose” of the Gulliver face outlined on the mountain.
Ben Bulben and Knocknarea anchor Yeats country in Sligo, his ancestral home. And then there's Ireland's sacred mountain, Croagh Patrick, a.k.a. the Reek, in County Mayo. Most Americans know little about it, but its 6 000-year history shows up repeatedly in Irish literature. As many as 25 000 men, women and children climbed it last Reek Sunday, the last Sunday in July — some barefoot and reciting the rosary on their way to Mass at the summit. Others no doubt climbed to have a nod and a wink at the spot from which Saint Patrick is supposed to have driven the snakes from Ireland.
Each of our walks started at sea level, and with clear weather, each promised spectacular mountain and water vistas.
First we walked Howth, the most accessible. A simple half-hour train ride from downtown Dublin terminates at Howth's little harbor. It's a tourist town, full of restaurants and bars, and signs lead immediately eastward to a shore path to the four-mile cliff walk circling the peninsula.
On a sunny day, the path was full of strolling families, loners and couples. Dublin Bay glistened, the Wicklow Mountains rose purple behind the city. We saw maybe a piece of Heaney's old house across the water at Sandymount, and slumbering seals littered the shoreline. There was no evidence of Molly's rhododendron love nest, but we did see the seaside Yeats family house, Balscadden, which means “the town of herrings” in Gaelic.
“He used to sleep with the windows wide open,” said Stella Mew, past director of the Sligo Yeats Society and of Clongowes Wood College, the Jesuit boys' school famously depicted in Joyce's “Ulysses” and “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”
“Storms would send sea spray into his room,” soaking the bedding by morning, Mew told us. “He was 16, and I suppose the poet is supposed to listen to the pounding waves he did anyway.”
It was on Howth cliff walks that Yeats first proposed marriage to Maud Gonne. The aristocratic Gonne repeatedly declined the love-struck “Willie,” as she called him. Yeats wrote of the ache of her rejection:
“My world was fallen and over, for your dark soft eyes on it shone; A thousand years it had waited and now it is gone, it is gone.”
In Belfast, the path to Gulliver's nose starts at the city zoo, with signs and a map to the right of the entrance building. Rising above heavily forested lower hills, the Cave Hill path opens to reveal the city resting in its wide, long valley. You can just make out Queen's University, where Heaney taught as a young poet.
Far below is the elephant enclosure, the beasts looking like plump mice. Their smell and trumpeting rose far up the mountainside.
As I huffed and puffed near the nose — a knob leaning southwestward off the top of the mountain — one of Swift's observations came to mind: “Every man desires to live long, but no man wishes to be old.” The reminder held weight, standing as we were in sunshine overlooking the new star-shaped Titanic museum beside the River Lagan, a glistening little glass crab in the distance, where the doomed ship was completed in 1912.
Knocknarea is a simple power climb over rising meadows and a series of low walls. You have to look for a long descending path across from the trail leading up, where a deep fissure between two limestone cliffs lies hidden. In this place of utter solitude, trees drape one side of the fissure and move with the breeze, while the stones produce echoes of great clarity.
Yeats, of course, had to take note, writing “Man and The Echo” to pose the ultimate questions, with the echo eerily responding as if in a conversation. Never particularly cheerful, Yeats wrote, “I/ Sleepless would lie down and die,” and the echo cruelly commands, “Die.”
Atop Knocknarea, a loose stone pile 33 by 180 feet and rising perhaps 40 feet, is said to be the grave of Queen Maeve, mythic goddess and ruler of Ireland. Dating back about 5 000 years, the cairn supposedly covers the underground entrance to hell, and within it live the shee, or fairies — a 7-foot-tall race of blue near-humans.
“Many visitors may not realise it, but Knocknarea is a massive Neolith enclosure, a fort,” said Michael Gibbons, an archeologist who lectures at Harvard Divinity School, whom I called on our return to the States. “Climbing it, you're crossing old ramparts, sacred barrows and tombs.”
“All these mountains and so much of Ireland, they're part of one of the great European timescapes, places not destroyed by industrialisation or the Romans. We've looked at less than one percent of that history, and there's this ancient world still waiting to be discovered.”
In 1995, Gibbons led an investigation of Croagh Patrick, finding hundreds of tombs and religious sites all around. At the top of the mountain, the team found a “place of ritual violence,” a walled enclosure with the dressed stone facing inward. “It wasn't a fort,” he said. “It was a sacred place in Mesolithic times, when the Egyptians were building the first pyramids, and we're not sure yet what exactly went on.”
For us, Croagh Patrick was the most difficult walk. It was Garland Friday, the Friday before Reek Sunday, and along with several thousand others, we set off for eight hours of climbing, sometimes clawing and a few times falling on our way up 2 507 feet over rock-strewn paths rutted with gullies and fissures. Occasionally, a loose rock dislodged above us and tumbled down.
Once at the top, bathed in sunshine, cooled by gentle breezes and dazzled at the infinitely variable blue colorings of Clew Bay spread below, we paused for reflection, our sandwiches and the waterless latrine.
And a stop at the little chapel, a white building visible for miles and a beacon for climbers. In 1905, pilgrims carrying everything on their backs had assembled it near a declivity used for Christian worship since about the 11th century, and possibly for ritual murder long before that. After momentarily losing track of my wife, I found her inside upon a kneeler. We'd carried along a rosary for her 96-year-old mother in New Jersey. (Once back in America, we'd share with her the story about how, after Saint Patrick converted the Irish around 400 A.D., God granted him a wish — to judge all the Irish at the end of time. Patrick then blessed Ireland and, throwing a silver bell off the mountain, banished snakes from the island forever.)
There are stations of devotion on the mountain, where believers may win plenary indulgences for the climb. Some of our fellow climbers knelt barefoot before the little stone altars. The only sound was the soft play of the breeze, and an occasional cough from the two donkeys, tethered to the tiny snack bar, that haul up the soft drinks and snacks sold to climbers the last week of July.
John Paul Ryan met us in Drumcliff cemetery parking lot. Behind us, Ben Bulben — “Binn Ghulbain” in Gaelic, meaning “jaw-shaped peak” — rose straight up 1,000 feet. Treeless, serrated with dry waterfall gullies, it was dotted with white specks.
“It's not a hard climb. We just follow the sheep,” said Ryan, a certified mountain guide and longtime volunteer at the Coast Guard station on Sligo Bay. “But it can be a death trap.”
Carved by glaciers beginning 320 million years ago, Ben Bulben is unstable — porous mud stone, peat and bog on top of a mountain of limestone that acts like a sieve, he said. The underbrush hides sinkholes big enough to break an ankle or to suck down a small car.
In wet weather, quicksand forms on the boggy top, and the gullies rage water over the serrations seen from below, he said. “A sunny day can turn quickly, with cloud cover so thick you can't see 10 feet in front of you, and then the water vapour cools you rapidly. Hypothermia stops your thinking; you can make terrible decisions.”
In his backpack were two GPS systems, a tent, blankets, food, water, a cellphone and a radio, “and a good map,” he emphasised.
We walked the sheep trail, hearing their bleating near and far, and rose through the afternoon higher and higher to eventually follow a small stream tish-toshing quietly to a notch at the top. It becomes Ballaghnairillick River on the lowlands, but it starts as a shallow pool, “champagne of the mountain,” as Ryan called it.
On top, we found the rainbows and lush landscape coupled to the poetry in our backpacks.
Maybe the poet's job is to press us on the large, existential questions, we reflected later that night, after roast lamb and red wine in town. But the climbs had somehow cheered and consoled us. Somber discourse is for men, here in their lowlands, we concluded. But the mountains rise above it, and give peace. - The Washington Post
* Lane is editor of the African Psychology Association in Washington.

If You Go...
Brooks Hotel
Drury Street, Dublin
Conveniently north of St. Stephens Green in a once-derelict but now booming district. Doubles from $180 (about R1 800).
Sligo City Hotel
Quay Street, Sligo
Modern 61-room hotel. Double rooms from about $102.
Europa Hotel
Great Victoria Street, Belfast
Convenient and freighted with history — during the “Troubles,” it was bombed repeatedly by extremists from both sides. Doubles from $151.
Westport Coast Hotel
The Quay, Westport
An old factory refitted as a comfortable hotel at the foot of Clew Bay, with a clear view of Croagh Patrick from the rooftop restaurant. Non-peak weekday rates start at $95.
The Rustic Stone
South George Street, Dublin
Ambitious offering of seafood, meats, and vegetables from Ireland. Try the hamburger ($24).
Hargadons Pub
4/5 O'Connell St., Sligo
A gem of a pub with traditional Irish music and drink all night. Evening entrees from about $12.
Mourne Seafood
34-36 Bank Street, Belfast
A national institution. Start with half a dozen oysters ($10), followed by a whole sea bass with crab-and-avocado salsa served with herb-roasted potatoes and fennel salad ($18).
An Port Mor Restaurant
1 Brewery Pl., Westport
Try the crab cakes rolled in seaweed with polenta crust, with scallops and hollandaise ($15).
John Paul Ryan
$136 minimum for up to four adults to the top of Ben Bulben.
North West Adventure Tours
Coolaney, County Sligo
Guided tours of Ben Bulben and other mountains $48 per person.
Michael Gibbons
Island House, Market Street
Clifden, County Galway
Takes academics and the curious tourist to ancient Irish sites, including Ben Bulben, Croagh Patrick and others, from $67 per person.
Free online guides
Glencar Waterfall and lower points of Ben Bulben, www.sligowalks.ie
Croagh Patrick, www.clogherheritage.com
Cave Hill, Belfast, at www.walkni.com
Howth Cliff Path Loop, www.discoverireland.ie


Irish author wins top Spanish literary award

Irish author John Banville, best known for his crime novels written under the pseudonym of Benjamin Black, has been awarded Spain's prestigious Prince of Asturias literature award, the prize jury said on Wednesday.
The 68-year-old edged out 23 other contenders to take the 50,000 euro ($68,000) prize, one of eight given in different fields by the Asturias Foundation each year.
The prize jury praised Banville for his "intelligent, insightful and original work as a novelist" and his "disturbing, critical crime novels".
"John Banville's prose opens up dazzling lyrical landscapes through cultural references in which he breathes new life into classical myths and beauty goes hand in hand with irony," it said in a statement.
Banville won the Man Booker prize, widely regarded as the most significant literary prize in English, in 2005 for his novel "The Sea" about a retired art historian who tries to reconcile him with the death of his wife at a seaside village.
His popular crime novels written under the pseudonym Benjamin Black featuring a hard-drinking pathologist called Quirke set in 1950s Dublin have been adapted for a BBC TV series.
Banville said in an interview with Britain's The Guardian newspaper last month that the character of Quirke had come from the "damaged recesses of my Irish soul."
"I sympathise with Quirke; he is a very damaged person, as many Irish people are from their upbringing," he added.
The Spanish awards, named after the country's future king Crown Prince Felipe, are presented in the northern city of Oviedo in October in a glittering ceremony broadcast live on Spanish television.
In addition to the cash, winners receive a sculpture designed by the late Catalan artist Joan Miro.
Previous winners of the literature prize include US writer Philip Roth, Canada's Margaret Atwood and Lebanese-born writer Amin Maalouf.


Sara Baume wins €15,000 Davy Byrnes short story award

Writer beats two published novelists to follow in distinguished footsteps of Anne Enright and Claire Keegan

The 2014 Davy Byrnes short story award, organised by the Stinging Fly in association with Dublin Unesco City of Literature, has been awarded to Sara Baume for her story Solesearcher1.

The winning author, who receives €15,000, was announced this evening in Davy Byrnes by Anne Enright, a previous winner of the prize, who judged the competition with Impac winner Jon McGregor and Guardian First Book Award winner Yiyun Li. All stories were read anonymously and the five other shortlisted writers – Trevor Byrne, author of Ghosts and Lightning, Julian Gough, author of Juno & Juliet and Jude in Ireland, Arja Kajermo, Colm McDermott and Danielle McLaughlin – each receive €1,000.
Baume was born in Lancashire in 1984. She grew up in Co Cork and studied fine art at Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design before completing the MPhil in creative writing riting at Trinity College Dublin. Her short stories have been published in the Moth, the Stinging Fly and the Irish Independent as part of the Hennessy New Irish Writing series. Her reviews and articles on visual art and books have also appeared online and in print. Her debut novel, Spill Simmer Falter Wither, will be published by Tramp Press next year.
The judges said of Baume’s winning entry: “Solesearcher1 is set in a small town on the Irish coast. The characters in it are creatures of habit and the story turns on the moment when that sense of habit becomes strange, difficult and sinister. Every detail here is quiet and hard won. Each line contributes to a growing sense of the uncanny that swamps the reader at the story’s end. There is great pleasure in the writing; a sense of place and of personality that make a piece about isolation very enjoyable, somehow, with tenderness and insight on every page.”
The award is sponsored by Redmond Doran on behalf of Davy Byrnes pub, renowned for its literary associations, particularly with James Joyce and Ulysses. Doran said: “We’re delighted to sponsor this award for a third time, and we are very proud to have had such high-calibre judges. We can only hope and imagine that Sara Baume will go on to enjoy similar success to the previous winners, Claire Keegan and Anne Enright.
Declan Meade, founder and publisher of the Stinging Fly, said: “It’s great to have been part of this award again and to have had the opportunity to read so many great stories. Six hundred stories were entered to begin with – these were then narrowed down to six and today finally Sara’s story Solesearcher1 emerges as the very worthy winner. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from this gifted young writer.”
The six shortlisted stories will be published by the Stinging Fly Press later in the year.
The Davy Byrnes short story award was won in 2004 by Anne Enright, while two of the short-listed entrants, Kevin Barry and Philip Ó Ceallaigh, went on to win the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature for their debut story collections. The 2009 competition was won by Claire Keegan, whose story Foster was subsequently published in the New Yorker and in book form by Faber and Faber.
The Stinging Fly is Ireland’s leading literary magazine which seeks to encourage and showcase the best in new Irish and international writing. The Stinging Fly Press published Kevin Barry’s first book, There Are Little Kingdoms, and Mary Costello’s debut collection, The China Factory, which was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. Their most recent collection, Young Skins, by Colin Barrett, was nominated in the best newcomer category of the Irish Book Awards.

An extract from Solesearcher1 by Sara Baume

Phil always expected she’d end up on the dole, but she didn’t. Her father, Phil Senior, saw to it that she didn’t. Time and time again, he’d tell her it was undignified to stand in the post office queue with an old age pensioner either side and beg scraps from the taxpayer’s table. So Phil is a plumber, the only woman plumber she knows. She plumbs because plumbing was her father’s trade, and because plumbing was her father’s trade, nobody in the family ever dared to describe it as “undignified”.
“I look down people’s toilets all day,” Phil tells the week-night drinkers in The Hope & Anchor.
She goes to The Hope & Anchor every evening after the day’s plumbing. Sometimes she talks to the other drinkers, and sometimes she doesn’t. She always occupies the same stool and orders a packet of Manhattan Dry Roasted with her first pint and goes out for a smoke after her second and uses the bathroom after her third. The Ladies has never been anything other than deserted, and Phil reckons she must hew away at the same roll of paper for most of each year.
She tends not to think of herself as a woman plumber, nor as a woman, nor as a plumber. She cannot think of herself as a woman because she isn’t a mother or a wife; she’s only a daughter, and daughters don’t count because daughters don’t earn or even choose their status. She cannot think of herself as a plumber because she doesn’t care about plumbing, and Phil refuses to be defined by the things about which she does not care.
Every weeknight, she goes to her stool in The Hope & Anchor. Every Saturday, she visits her father’s house. Every Sunday, she packs her fishing box and drives her plumbing van to the open sea.
Fishing is what Phil cares about. Still seas on overcast days with the box open in her favourite spot and all her hooks and traces and bait tubs in their right place. Phil cares about the grace of the cast. She cares about how fast the line sears the air, how distant the splash of the lead as it breaks the surface. She cares about the way in which the rod tip jerks, about the very particular jerk which proclaims a fish. She cares about precisely and faultlessly reeling back in, but she cares most of all about the exact moment her fish breaches the surface and shows itself.
Bait, cast, jerk, reel, breach: this is what Phil cares about.
Only on Sundays does she cease egging time on until the next thing. Only with saltwater pressing waist-high against her waders does she feel calm, comforted by the squeeze of the sea. Only waiting for a bite is she content to simply wai

Invisible Ink no 226: Brian O’Nolan

Christopher Fowler

He stands at the heart of 20th-century Irish literature, a key post-modernist, the very essence of Irishness, who can teach you how to dilute water and how not to turn into a bicycle, yet his books are slipping from memory. Born in 1911, in County Tyrone, Brian O’Nolan wrote under a number of pseudonyms, starting with Brother Barnabus at University College Dublin, where his lifelong themes were established. Later, came more familiar names, Flann O’Brien and Myles na Gopaleen, under which he wrote his column in the Irish Times. The identities were created because as a civil servant he was unable to write as himself
Standing somewhere between Becket, Joyce, Pirandello and Brecht in relation to his characters, a Gaelic-writing lifetime alcoholic whose problems with Irishness, religion, and women are enough to send biographers into a lather, why is he of interest now? Because, through satire, surrealism, wit, frustration, cerebral rigour, and a certain amount of errant foolishness, his works form a bedrock on which present-day Irish literary identity is built. He’s also hilariously funny.
And here we have the crux of the problem; he’s a comic writer, and like the best comic writers his humour conceals razor-barbs of truth, but like all comic writers he is doomed to be inadequately appreciated.
There are five novels, of which At Swim-Two-Birds (now a Penguin Classic) could be described as a Celtic Tristram Shandy peppered with Irish mythology, a nonsensical multi-layered comic fantasy published in 1939, the year of Finnegan’s Wake. The author attempts to keep all his characters together at the titular hotel in order to finish his novel, only to have them plot against him. The Third Policeman and its 20 years-later sequel The Dalkey Archive share the same material and feature mad science, philosophy, farce, satire, the theft of the world’s oxygen, and cameos from St Augustine and James Joyce, although the second book is based on footnotes from the first, and is patchy at best.
O’Nolan’s greatest fit with his readership was in his dazzling columns, which are collected in a number of volumes. Here, he’s at his most verbally dextrous, whether explaining the puns of Keats, solving Dublin’s electrical problems, or dismantling journalistic clichés (a chapter that should be read by every hack), and it’s safe to say that without him there would have been no Father Ted. Enough said.

Walk among Ireland's literary giants

  By Helen O'Neill

 The Irish capital pays tribute to its writersm with a bronze depiction of poet Patrick Kavanagh near the Grand Canal.
James Joyce immortalized this port city in his literary epic Ulysses, though many Dubliners admit they haven't read a word of the stream-of-consciousness novel. That doesn't stop them from throwing a celebration every June 16, honouring the day in 1904 when the fictional Leopold Bloom perambulated through the streets of the author's hometown.
Every year, thousands of people flock to Dublin to retrace Bloom's steps. The faithful devour "innards of beasts and fowls" for breakfast, plunge into the bathing spot called the Forty Foot, and descend on Davy Byrne's pub for that famous literary lunch: a Gorgonzola sandwich and glass of Burgundy.
But while Bloomsday is the city's largest literary celebration, it's hardly the only one. Dublin is a haven for those who want to immerse themselves in writers and words - washed down, of course, with the obligatory pint of Guinness. (The old brewery storehouse near the River Liffey is a major tourist attraction.) If there is a pub on every corner - Dublin boasts around 1,000 of them - it seems there is a poet, too. There are statues and plaques commemorating writers, and pubs and restaurants filled with literary references. Literary-themed walks transport visitors to the worlds of Joyce, Shaw and Wilde. Even the city's newest bridges are named after writers - Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Sean O'Casey.
A life-size stone statue depicts Oscar Wilde lounging in the park at Merrion Square. Joyce is depicted in bronze, leaning on his cane as he strolls down North Earl Street. And tourists love to pose for photos sitting next to sculptures of two writers on benches: Brendan Behan by the Royal Canal and Patrick Kavanagh by the Grand Canal. "O commemorate me with no hero-courageous tomb," Kavanagh wrote, "just a canal-bank seat for the passerby."
"Walking through this city is like stepping back into a novel," Rohini Srinibasan, a Joycean scholar from Cincinnati, said after a day of sightseeing with her husband. "It's like reading Joyce or Shaw all over again."
Other famous wordsmiths who were born or lived here include George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift, William Butler Yeats, Bram Stoker, Oliver Goldsmith, Oliver St. John Gogarty, Flann O'Brien and Seamus Heaney.
"There's great history and storytelling and characters in these streets, and it's a city of words and writers all right," said Colm Quilligan, the author of a book about literary pubs. But, he pointed out, "for a long time, we weren't always that kind to them." Joyce and Beckett, for example, emigrated to continental Europe, while Yeats relied on benefactors to pay his bills.
Quilligan hosts a literary pub-crawl that introduces visitors to watering holes frequented by writers or featured in their works. Actors re-enact passages from Joyce, Beckett and Wilde as visitors sip their Guinness and soak up history.
The tour begins in the 19th-century Duke pub with actors reciting from Beckett's Waiting for Godot. It moves to the cobblestone quad in Trinity College, where visitors learn about writers who studied there - Swift, Beckett, Stoker, Wilde and others - before meandering through more pubs and prose, ending at Davy Byrne's.
If Dublin seemed indifferent to writers in the past, it has more than made up for it now. Designated a UNESCO city of literature in 2010, Dublin hosts literary festivals year-round.
The Dublin Writers Museum - a restored Georgian mansion on Parnell Square - is filled with books, letters, portraits and personal belongings of famous scribes. Next door, the Irish Writers' Centre offers a sanctuary for writers in old rooms filled with books and artwork.
There's a James Joyce Centre in the city, but true Joyce lovers take a half-hour train ride south to Sandycove to visit the stone tower featured in the opening scene of Ulysses, now a Joyce museum. The 19thcentury Martello tower was one of a series built along the coast to withstand an invasion by Napoleon. Joyce stayed here briefly, and the gun platform - with its panoramic view of Dublin Bay - as well as the living room are preserved as described in Ulysses.
Nearby Sandymount, a pretty seaside town, was the birthplace of William Butler Yeats, a giant of 20th-century Irish literature and winner of the 1923 Nobel Prize in literature. Three other Irish writers won the prize: Shaw, Beckett and Heaney.
Dublin is also home to fabulous old libraries like the one in Trinity College, home to the Book of Kells, a Latin version of the four Gospels written 1,200 years ago and considered one of the most beautifully illustrated manuscripts in the world.
The Chester Beatty Library houses the elaborate collection of the 20th-century American mining magnate, including many priceless Islamic and Far Eastern manuscripts and artifacts.
And then there's Marsh's Library next to St. Patrick's Cathedral, the oldest public library in Ireland. Built in 1701, it is a old-world treasure filled with 25,000 books and manuscripts dating back 500 years.