Alex Hijmans at Dublin Book Festival 2012 17 November 2012 – Posted in: Uncategorised

As part of the Dublin Book Festival 2012 the short story genre in Irish-language literature was discussed on Saturday the 17th of November at an event in Smock Alley Theatre, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

The well-known critic – and Cois Life author – Michael Cronin chaired the session with the following short story writers: Michael Ó Conghaile, author and founder of publishing house Cló Iar-Chonnachta, Alex Hijmans, international, multilingual author, and Alan Titley, author, academic and Irish Times columnist.

Professor Cronin, chairing, noted that all three writers had published both novels and short stories in the Irish language. and so were well-placed to discuss the differences between the genres. All agreed that the novel now holds a higher status then the short story in the English-speaking world with publishers much preferring writers to work on novels. This is not at all the case in Irish, with Irish-language publishers welcoming submissions in both genres.

Among the other issues which Michael Cronin asked the panel to address was the tradition of realism in the Irish short story. Professor Titley saw it as a reaction to the supernatural aspects of the oral story-telling tradition which had been a powerful influence of early Revival-period literature of the early 20th century. Micheál Ó Conghaile mentioned that the Irish-language short stories of the last fifty years were a unique depiction of Gaeltacht life and this had huge significance for him as someone raised in the Gaeltacht and had been highly influential on him as a writer. Alex Hijmans reminisced about how the short stories of Pádraic Ó Conaire, Liam Ó Flaithearta (Liam O’Flaherty) and Máirtín Cadhain had been the first works he read in the Irish language when he arrived in Ireland from the Netherlands and that their gritty realism had been very attractive to him.
The chair then asked the panel to share their thoughts about the theory that the short story tended to deal with people in the margins of society.  Micheál Ó Conghaile agreed that this coul certainly be said of many of his short stories but thought that this was the case because such people were simply more interesting than those in the mainstream – their very difference makes them of interest. Alan Titley concurred (adding the caveat that he rarely agreed with anyone else and never at all with himself!) and cited the characters in the short stories in Gonta, Alex Hijmans’ new collection, as a perfect illustration of this. To bring the event to a close, Michael Cronin asked all three authors to read an extract from their work and thanked the audience of about sixty people for their attendance and attention.

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