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Dublin and the literary arts

Dublin Writers Museum
Statue of James Joyce
Tribute to Samuel Beckett

infomatique via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA richardhe51067 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Thanks to Joyce, Wilde, Beckett and many other writers, Dublin is the city of literature par excellence. Follow the trail to discover its legacy.
Irish culture is closely linked to its music; it’s practically impossible to find an Irish person who cannot play an instrument or who is not an expert in music. However, some time ago (mainly between the 17th and 19th centuries), Irish culture stood out for its written works. Over several centuries and up until the early 20th century, the great Irish writers placed Dublin at the forefront of universal literature. So much so, it was declared the City of Literature by UNESCO.

Who hasn’t heard of Ulysses? James Joyce (1882–1941) made continuous references to his birthplace in his stories and his second most well-known work is actually called Dubliners. To show its thanks, the city erected a statue of Joyce on Earl Street (very close to O’Connell Street). Another writer with a statue in Dublin is the playwright Oscar Wilde. He was born in Dublin and studied at Trinity College before penning ‘The Importance of Being Earnest”. There is a statue of him in Merrion Square Park. The tribute to Samuel Beckett was made more recently, namely a modern bridge over the River Liffey, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2009.

Anyone who loves the Irish arts should definitely check out the Dublin Writers Museum in Parnell Square. It opened in 1991 and is a real celebration of the city’s historical tradition, with manuscripts, photographs and souvenirs of the most relevant figures. Another interesting sight in literary Dublin is George Bernard Shaw’s home (1856–1950). He was a critic and playwright who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925. His birthplace is on Synge Street and there is also a pub named after him on Richmond Street.
There is a woman who stands out among all these writers, who played a significant role in the history of Irish literature: Lady Augusta Gregory. She was a playwright and is said to have contributed to the revival of Irish literature. Besides writing, she promoted all aspects of theatre, and founded Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in 1904. Over a century later, it is still open and continues to stage productions. Why not plan a visit to the theatre to watch a performance? It also has its own literary department where they promote new writers. Another option is the New Theatre, which only stages works by Irish writers.

Several literary events are held across the city. One of the most original takes place on Bloomsday (16 June), when the loyal fans of Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ get together to read excerpts from this masterpiece, dressed up in costumes from the period. It is a truly picturesque sight! If you’re travelling in November, you mustn’t miss the three-day long Dublin Book Festival at Smock Alley Theatre in Temple Bar. However, the Dubliners’ love for literature is not limited to Irish writers; they also organise an International Literature Festival every May.

Added to all this are the numerous bookshops you’ll come across on your tour of the city, the pubs that pay homage to Dublin’s writers, and the specific circuits that follow their footprints. It couldn’t be easier to delve into a city taken directly from a book.

The book house

The National Library of Ireland is worth a separate visit. Its main building is on Kildare Street (very near Trinity College). Admission is free and besides acting as a documentary archive and offering advice to students and professionals, it organises interesting temporary exhibitions. The library was founded in 1877 and houses the main collections of the Royal Dublin Society.

Stories told over a beer

Another lovely way to spread Irish written works is by storytelling. Some of the city’s bars offer this experience thanks to expert narrators who recount Irish tradition like no one else. It is one of the most entertaining ways to learn about local folklore, especially if accompanied by a pint of Guinness. In the city’s oldest bar, The Brazen Head, you can listen to some of Dublin’s finest storytellers.