The 40th anniversary of the death of one of our truly great female writers will be remembered at the 2014 Limerick Literary Festival from tonight until Sunday. Many well-known names will participate in the festival which honours Limerick-born novelist and playwright Kate O’Brien.
Born into a prosperous Limerick family in 1897, O’Brien began her writing career in 1926. Without My Cloak, published in 1930, was her first bestseller. Always a keen and trenchantly truthful writer, many of her books deal with issues of female sexuality in ways that were very new and indeed radical at the time. Her 1936 novel, Mary Lavelle (utilising the writer’s own experiences working in the Basque country), was banned in both Ireland and Spain, while The Land of Spices, dealing with student-nun relationships in a convent, was banned in Ireland.
Outspokenly critical of Irish censorship, O’Brien did much to end the cultural restrictions of the 1930s and ’40s in this country. And of course, like so many others, she paid the price by chosen exile in England, where she died in 1974. Hugely popular in her time, she was forgotten for many decades until her rediscovery in the 1980s. Now she is once more recognised as she always deserved to be.
The Limerick Literary Festival, previously called the Kate O’Brien Weekend, features author visits, readings, lectures and panel discussions at 69 O’Connell St (formerly The Belltable) and the Lime Tree Theatre. Participants include Edna O’Brien, Anne Enright, Mike Murphy and Claire Tomalin. Other Irish contributors include Selina Guinness, Vivienne McKechnie, Niall MacMonagle, Robert O’Byrne, and Elaine Fox.
Opening the festival at 69 O’Connell St at 6.30pm tonight will be Duchesse de Magenta, Amélie de Mac-Mahon, whose late husband Philippe was a descendant of JB MacMahon, one of the Wild Geese who left for France after the Treaty of Limerick in 1691.
Following the official opening, Beoure Theatre will perform a reading of Kate O’Brien’s play, Distinguished Villa. On Friday at 2pm, historian John Logan will lead a walking tour from Ború House, the former family residence of Kate O’Brien. Later, author Robert O’Byrne will interview De Mac-Mahon. At 7pm a wine reception will launch two books: Pony by poet Tony Curtis in collaboration with artist David Lilburn; and A Butterfly’s Wing by poet Vivienne McKechnie.
Saturday sees a full programme, including Frank McGuinness in conversation with RTÉ radio producer Kay Sheehy. The programme includes Mike Murphy in conversation with Edna O’Brien about her life and work.
See www.limerickliteraryfestival.com or contact 061-774 774.
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