As part of UK City of Culture 2013, Edna O’Brien was in Derry earlier tonight. She was on stage at the Great Hall in Magee and interviewed by Liam Browne. As O’Brien walked onto the Derry stage it was clear for her audience to see that she was not only delighted to be there, but she appeared right at home.
Having only flown in this evening she told us that as her car travelled to Derry she immediately noticed the greenery around her. She said ‘it’s just not the same in England’. O’Brien clearly sees Ireland as home and although an exile, like most Irish writers, she never forgets where she came from.
‘Ireland is the soul of my writing’ she told Liam Browne and it inspires all that I write. Her heart has never left her homeland. O’Brien’s most recent collection of short stories, The Love Object, looks back on her life, loves and experiences. She read from this work during the evening but she seemed most comfortable talking about her life and works.
Browne asked a series of questions to which she answered very eloquently and divulged immense information about her life and works. It was so interesting to hear her own thoughts on the backlash and opposition to her first novel The Country Girls. The book was banned in Ireland and there was widespread public confrontation in Limerick. She made a personal appearance there at the time and was fortunate to have a priest from Maynooth take her side. But it wasn’t enough, and she was accused of writing a pornographic novel! She laughs at the incident and says ‘you have to be able to take all criticism’. She certainly took it on board but continued to write about what she believes in. O’Brien comes across a lot of criticism to her work and yet she writes about what she feels compelled to tell.
During the question time, O’Brien told the audience that she reads a poem every day. ‘I also read Shakespeare every day. It’s like exercise. You must read the Greats, even though you know you’ll never be one of them’. She has a strict routine which she sticks to vigorously.
Edna O’Brien came across tonight as a very intelligent, creative, strong and funny lady. At 82 years of age, she certainly has aged gracefully. She did make the Derry stage her home tonight and she enjoyed the Derry audience every bit as much as they enjoyed her.
A country girl on paper and very much a country girl at heart. As for reading the Greats daily, she is surely one of Ireland’s very own Greats!