Friday, May 24, 2013

Quote of the Day (William Trevor, on Being an Irish Outsider)

“What is now apparent to me is that being a Protestant in Ireland was a help, because it began the process of being an outsider—which I think all writers have to be—and began the process of trying to clear the fog away. I didn’t belong to the new post-1923 Catholic society, and I also didn’t belong to the Irish Ascendancy. I’m a small-town Irish Protestant, a ‘lace-curtain’ Protestant. Poor Protestants in Ireland are a sliver of people caught between the past—Georgian Ireland with its great houses and all the rest of it—and the new, bustling, Catholic state. Without knowing any of this, without its ever occurring to me, I was able to see things a little more clearly than I would have if I had belonged to either of those worlds. When I write about, say, a Catholic commercial traveler, I can almost feel myself going back to those days—to an observation point. And when I write about the Ascendancy I am again observing. Elizabeth Bowen writes of her family employing boys from the local town, Mitchelstown, where I was born, to stand round the tennis court collecting the balls. I would have been one of those little Protestant boys, had I been the right age. There was a certain amount of ‘cutawayness’ that has been a help. Certainly it feels like that, looking back at this very small group of not well-off Irish Protestants. Displaced persons in a way—which is really very similar to what a writer should be, whether he likes it or not.”—William Trevor, interviewed by Mira Stout, “The Art of Fiction #108,” The Paris Review, Spring 1989

William Trevor—born on this date in 1928, in County Cork, Ireland--has written several novels, but he is probably best known for his short stories. In his 1986 Atlantic Monthly review of one of the more famous of these collections, The News From Ireland and Other Stories, novelist John Fowles called him “the Irish Maupassant”—a writer who can effortlessly evoke individual lives of melancholy and loss.

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