Rob Doyle


b. Dublin; took 1st in Philosophy at TCD; completed MPhil in Psychoanalysis, also TCD; travelled in S. America, Asia, and Italy, living some time in Sicily [aetat. 23]; lived in London; issued Here Are the Young Men (June 2014), a novel about a group of drug-fuelled teenagers fascinated by jihad and the War on Terror and flirting with the idea of launching atrocities of their own; named book of the year by the Irish Independent and The Irish Times; contrib. an essay on Houellebecq to Gorse; contrib. also to The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly, The Moth, The Penny Dreadful, et al.; has had work produced on RTÉ and the BBC World Service; trans. into French and Serbian; lived in Asia, South America, USA, Sicily, and London; lives in Rosslare, Co. Wexford; contrib. to Irish writers’ comments on election of Donald Trump (Irish Times, 10 Nov. 2016).

[See website at]

[ top ]

Here Are the Young Men (Dublin: Lilliput Press 2014), 304pp.; This is the Ritual (Dublin: Lilliput; London: Bloomsbury 2016), 208pp.

[ top ]

Lily Ní Dhomhnaill, ‘Interview: Rob Doyle’, in TWO [TN2] Magazine: Alternative Culture for Students (10 March 2014) [see extract]; Peter Murphy, review of Here Are the Young Men, in The Irish Times (21 June 2014), Weekend Review [q.p.]; Darran Anderson, ‘Beyond Good and Evil: An interview with the author Rob Doyle’, in The Honest Ulsterman (July 2014) [see extract]; Martin Doyle, ‘Brought to Book: Rob Doyle on Keith Talent, Nietzsche’s morals and stone-cold classics’ [interview], in The Irish Times (13 June 2014) [online; see note, infra];

See also by and David Lordan [Author and Creative Writing teacher], interview with Rob Doyle, ‘debut novelist’, on Experimental Literature [blog] - online].

[ top ]

Rage-Writing: ‘If you write or speak straightforwardly, describing things as they appear to you, it will often come across as brutal. Perception itself, I often think, is inseparable from cruelty, aggression and brutality - to see is often to see too much, to see what would rather remain obscure. If you write about bitter misogynists left behind by the sexual revolution, or about Dublin youths who take drastic quantities of drugs, watch a lot of pornography, and get off on violence and atrocity out of sheer boredom, it might seem transgressive or provocative, but only to those would rather not acknowledge that, for some (or many), this is how things are. / Writing, it seems to me, is often done out of rage, at least initially. It’s an act of aggression. You’re going through life, reading books and finding that not enough of them describe reality as you experience it, acknowledge the facts as they present themselves to you. So, eventually, out of frustration and inner need, wanting to force an acknowledgment of an unsanctioned reality, you hack away at the page - you describe how life really feels in that shard of culture and history into which you have been thrown. You put it all in a book and you breathe a sigh of relief and then you say, 7#147;There, that’s it. That’s the reality I’m confronted with. If you don’t like it, to hell with you.”’

Further: ‘Writing the novel outside of Ireland - mostly in London and various cities in the US - worked very well for me. Ireland can feel like a village, and in any village, you’re stifled by the prying gazes of your neighbours. I wonder if the inhibition I detect in some Irish writing comes down to this - writers can’t let go completely because of the potential social consequences. I’m a romantic and an idealist when it comes to literature, and I want every book to be what the jihadi boys call a martyrdom operation - a suicidal gesture in which nothing at all is held back, even if publication plunges the author into disgrace and abjection. A large, foreign city such as London - which is where much of Here Are the Young Men was written - is useful for an Irish writer in that it allows for a near-perfect anonymity. This is particularly true if, like me, you have done nothing with your life other than drift around and write, so that you hold no social position and are responsible to no-one but yourself. That way, you have nothing to lose and can write in a state of pure disinhibition. You can write as if you were already dead, which is how it ought to be done. It is for similar reasons that, whenever a younger writer asks me for advice (which has never actually happened), I always tell them they should butcher their parents and, if possible, their grandparents too.’ (See Darran Anderson, ‘Beyond Good and Evil: An interview with the author Rob Doyle’, in The Honest Ulsterman, July 2014 - online; see full text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews” - via index or as attached.)

Lily Ní Dhomhnaill, ‘Interview: Rob Doyle’, in TWO [TN2] Magazine: Alternative Culture for Students (10 March 2014): ‘Travelling and living in different countries for a long time has been of immense value to me. I find it has given me a sense of ease in the world that I didn’t have before, and has hugely broadened my perspective. Before leaving Ireland, I was very academic, getting all my knowledge from books. That’s obviously very important, but it has also been important to me to explore foreign countries and meet interesting people, to encounter as much of the world as possible. By now, my habitual state is one of drift and rootlessness, which I quite enjoy. Before leaving Ireland, I was utterly bored, alienated from the culture around me. Ireland felt stifling – conservative, materialistic, philistine and parochial (these were the late Celtic Tiger years). I felt I would die inside if I didn’t see what else the world had to offer. These days, Dublin delights me, partly because it’s changed and partly because I’ve changed, with the alienation largely overcome. All of these factors nourish my writing by, I hope, giving it a cosmopolitanism and a sense of perspective it may not have had if I’d chosen to stay in Ireland all those years.’

Further [on the tag “Irish writer”]: ‘[...] I wonder, too, if the whole notion of a national literature isn’t receding in importance, with culture as well as experience itself becoming so globalised and virtual. At the moment, I’m living alone in a house in Wexford, and 99% of my human interactions take place online. That’s a bizarre way to live, and my case is quite extreme, but I think it’s indicative of something that is increasingly generalised. The new kind of online life feels post-national and ahistoric, and it’s hard to know how literature is going to work with and represent that, but it will have to if it’s going to keep up with how people are living now. / Having said all that, Here Are the Young Men is very strongly a novel about Dublin – a drug-flooded, alcoholic, feverish Dublin where nobody believes in anything. I think one of its strengths is that it uses the backdrop of 21st-century Dublin to explore concerns which are not generally associated with the Irish novel: pornography, drugs, the eroticism of violence, hyperreality, the nihilism of contemporary youth.

Doyle speaks of Roddy Doyle ‘because I read him when I was still a child, and the lesson must have sunk in that you can write about contemporary Dublin in an immediate, funny, anarchic way’; goes on to cite other writers who interest him: Roberto Bolaño, Geoff Dyer, Milan Kundera, Nietzsche, Borges, the later JM Coetzee, Michel Houellebecq, Sheila Heti, E. M Cioran, Martin Amis, Don DeLillo, Arthur Koestler, WG Sebald, and Knut Hamsun [...].

[ top ]

Martin Doyle, ‘Brought to Book: Rob Doyle on Keith Talent, Nietzsche’s morals and stone-cold classics’ [interview], in The Irish Times (13 June 2014) - Doyle's questions about favourite books and writers elicits the following list: CS Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Roald Dahl, The Witches; EM Cioran, The Trouble With Being Born; Geoff Dyer, Out of Sheer Rage; Roberto Bolaño, Nazi Literature in the Americas; Martin Amis, London Fields; Aidan Higgins, Balcony of Europe; Bolaño; JG Borges, Fictions; Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Geoff Dyer, Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It; Knut Hamsun, Hunger; Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals; Dostoyevsky, Notes From Underground; Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita; also the trend towards essayist fiction - J. M. Coetzee, Teju Cole, Geoff Dyer, Milan Kundera, Michel Houellebecq et al. Dinner-party guests; Oscar Wilde, Marguerite Duras, Hunter S Thompson, Aidan Higgins, Roberto Bolaño, Virginie Despentes, William Blake, Lou Andreas-Salomé, Houellebecq, Albert Camus, Kingsley Amis, J. G. Ballard. June 2014), (See [online.)

[ top ]

Here Are the Young Men (2014): As they face the void of their post-school lives, Matthew, Rez, Cocker and Kearny spend their first summer of freedom in a savage apprenticeship on the streets of Dublin. Roaming aimlessly through the city, fuelled by drugs and dark fantasies, the teenagers spiral into self-destruction, fleeing a reality they despise. Set against the backdrop of Celtic-Tiger Ireland, Here are the Young Men portrays a chilling spiritual fall-out, harbinger of the collapse of the national illusion. Visceral and blackly funny, this remarkable debut novel releases an unnerving anarchic energy to devastating effect. (See Lilliput website - online; accessed 12.07.2014.)

This is the Ritual (2016): A young man in a dark depression roams the vast, formless landscape of a Dublin industrial park where he meets a vagrant in the grip of a dangerous ideology. A woman fleeing a break-up finds herself taking part in an unusual sleep experiment. A man obsessed with Nietzsche clings desperately to his girlfriend's red shoes. And whatever happened to Killian Turner, Ireland's vanished literary outlaw? / Lost and isolated, the characters in these masterful stories play out their fragmented relationships in a series of European cities, always on the move; from rented room to darkened apartment, hitchhiker's roadside to Barcelona nightclub. Rob Doyle, a shape-shifting drifter, a reclusive writer, also stalks the book's pages.  / Layering narratives and splicing fiction with non-fiction, This is the Ritual tells of the ecstatic, the desperate and the uncertain. Immersive, at times dreamlike, and frank in its depiction of sex, the writer's life, failed ideals and the transience of emotions, it introduces an unmistakable new literary voice. [Published 28.01.2016.] (Bloomsbury notice - available online; accessed 10 Nov. 2016.)

[ top ]