30 July 2010

City of Literature 4

I've previously written (twice) about Melbourne becoming the second UNESCO City of Literature. The first was Edinburgh and the third was Iowa City. UNESCO recently appointed Dublin as the fourth UNESCO City of Literature. From their website
While Dublin tourist guides attempt to coach visitors in the pronunciation of the eponymous Dublin greeting, ‘howaya?’ the equally common accompaniment to this – the enquiry, ‘what’s the story?’ reveals the remnants of an oral tradition which is alive and well, while also demonstrating Dubliners’ appetite for the world of books.

Ever eager for stories of themselves and others, Dubliners’ sensitivity to literary matters is acute, reinforced by an awareness of the works of the past as much as it is attuned to contemporary offerings – news of which is spread through the media, and through frequent readings, discussions and debates hosted by publishers, universities, libraries, literary organisations, book shops, pubs and cafes. The appreciation of writing and the richness of all its forms and genres is something that Dubliners display as a matter of course. Literary awareness is a form of currency in the capital, a bonding agent where pride is evident. Scepticism too fosters the famous ‘license with the Queen’s English’, for which the Irish are noted.

Writers in Dublin are not remote figures, out of step with the thrust of 21st century life but are part of the everyday landscape, much valued by Dubliners. The city has officially recognised writers by such diverse means as the conferring of the Freedom of the City, (George Bernard Shaw, Douglas Hyde and most recently, Thomas Kinsella) and through the Lord Mayor’s Awards, which in 2009 honoured the writer, Sebastian Barry. Further underlining the city’s literary credentials, the Man Booker International Prize was presented in Dublin for the first time in June 2009.

No less than four Nobel Prizes for Literature have been awarded to writers associated with the city: George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. Other illustrious Dublin writers of international repute include Jonathan Swift, Cardinal Newman, Oscar Wilde, Sean O’Casey, Denis Johnston, Flann O’Brien, Brendan Behan and Jennifer Johnston,

In more recent times, Dublin-based writers continue to receive international acclaim in fiction, drama and poetry. The Man Booker Prize has been conferred on Iris Murdoch, Roddy Doyle, John Banville and Anne Enright, and in 2009 Sebastian Barry received the Costa Book of the Year Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. In 2009, Colum McCann won the U.S. National Book Award for his novel 'Let The Great World Spin'. The novelist Anne Enright, has claimed that ‘In other towns, clever people go out and make money. In Dublin, clever people go home and write their books.’
Well deserved by a city with a rich literary heritage. Of course, the four are English-language-centric. Perhaps the home of Goethe may be also be deserving.

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