Julia O’Faolain

1932- ; [occas. Ó Faoláin] b. London; dg. Seán and Eileen O’Faoláin; ed. UCD (grad. MA & MA); Rome and Paris (Sorbonne); m. Lauro Martines; trans. Piero Chiara, A Man of Parts (1968); issued, with her husband Lauro Martines, Not in God’s Image: Women in History from the Greeks to the Victorians (1973); also We Might See Sights! (1968), a cosmopolitan first story-collection, followed by Godded and Codded (1970), a novel about young Irish woman in Paris; issued Women in the Wall (1975), set in sixth-century Gaul and concerning the voluntary immurement of St. Radegonda, Queen-consort of Clotaire I, being the daughter of a nun, and a troubadour; issued a novel, Godded and Codded (1970), involving the American visitor Claire MacAllister, which was withdrawn for legal reasons;
issued No Country for Young Men (1980), a novel based on the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne; became acquainted with Ignazio Silone through his Irish wife; also The Irish Signorina (1984), and The Judas Cloth (1992), a novel dealing with a young priest’s encounter with the studied hypocrisy of the papacy under Pius IX; issued Adam Gould (2009), the story of an Anglo-Irishman who works in a Paris asylum before returning to love in Ireland; her afterword to the rev. edn. of Vive Moi (1993) incls. comments on her father’s sexual affairs with Honor Tracy and others, as well as on his relationship with his mother; contrib. fiction to New Yorker and in Best New Irish Short Stories (Faber 2004); issued Adam Gould, set in the Italian 1990s with the former Communist Party leader Palmiro Togliatti as its protagonist and a young Irish ex-seminarian of the title as the narrator; issued a memoir as Trespassers (2013); her husband is called Lauro. DIL DIW FDA ATT OCIL

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  • Godded and Codded (London: Faber & Faber 1970), and Do., in US as Three Lovers (NY: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan 1971).
  • Women in the Wall (London: Faber 1975), 3-326pp., ill. [geneal. map]; Do. (NY: Viking 1975); Do. (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1978), 294pp.; Do. (London: Virago 2985), 336pp. Do. [another edn.] (NY: Carroll & Graf 1988).
  • No Country for Young Men ((London: Allen Lane 1980; Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981).
  • The Obedient Wife (London: Allen Lane 1982), 229pp., and Do. (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1983; NY: Carroll & Graf 1985).
  • The Irish Signorina (NY: Viking 1984; Harmondsworth: Penguin 1985).
  • The Judas Cloth (London: Sinclair-Stevenson 1992), 595pp.; Adam Gould ([London:] Telegram 2009), 377pp.
Short stories
  • We Might See Sights! and Other Stories (London: Faber & Faber 1968), 189pp.
  • Man in the Cellar (London: Faber & Faber 1974).
  • Melancholy Baby and Other Stories (Dublin: Poolbeg 1978).
  • Daughters of Passion (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982).
  • trans. A Man of Parts, by Piero Chiara (1968).
  • ‘The State of Fiction’, in The New Review, 5 (Summer 1978), p.57-58.
  • with Lauro Martines, ed., Not in God’s Image: Women in History from the Greeks to the Victorians (NY: Harper Colophon Books 1973), xxi, 362pp., and Do. (London: Virago 1973; 1979).
  • [as Julia Martines,] with Gene Brucker, ed., The Memoirs of Renaissance Florence, Diaries of Buonaccorso Pitti and Gregoria Dati (1967).
  • ed. & afterword, Vive moi!, by Sean O’Faolain (London: Sinclair-Stevenson 1993), xvi, 377pp. [25 cm.]
  • ‘Afterword’ [actually a foreword] to rep. and enl. autobiograpy by her father, Vive Moi (1993).
  • ‘Under the Rose’ [story], in New Yorker (29 Feb. 1994), ‘Fiction’, pp.86-91.
  • review of Patricia Craig, ed., Oxford Book of Modern Women’s Stories (OUP 1994), in Times Literary Supplement (4 Nov. 1994).
  • review of Patrick Creagh, trans., The Chimera by Sebastiano Vasselli, in Times Literary Supplement (11 Feb 1994), [q.p.].
  • Julia O’Faolain, ‘The Furies of Irish Fiction’, in Graph 3.1 (Spring 1998), pp.6-12 [prev. in The Richmond Review [q.iss.] (1997) - online; accessed 12.11.2004].
  • Trespassers: A Memoir (Faber & Faber 2013), 288pp.

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  • Val Warner, ‘Julia O’Faoláin’, in James Vinson, ed., Contemporary Novelists (New York: St. Martin’s Press [Macmillan] 1982), pp. 504; also in D. L. Kirkpatrick, ed., Contemporary Novelists (NY: St Martin’s Press 1986).
  • Ann Owen Weeks, ‘Diarmuid and Gráinne Again: Julia O’Faoláin’s No Country for Young Men’, in Eire-Ireland, 21, 1 (Spring 1986), pp.89-102 [but see infra].
  • Rüdiger Imhof, ‘Julia O’Faolain’, in Contemporary Irish Novelists, ed. Imhof [Studies in English & Comparative Literature] (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag 1990), pp.159-74 [extract]
  • Theresa O’Connor, ‘History, Gender and the Postcolonial Condition: Julia O’Faolain’s Comic Rewriting of Finnegans Wake’, in The Comic Tradition in Irish Women Writers, ed. O’Connor (Florida UP 1996), pp.124-48.
  • Brenda Maddox, ‘Interview with Seán and Julia O’Faolain, in Sunday Times Magazine (1 April 1984), pp.8-9.
  • Fiona McCann, ‘The problem with publishing’, interview-feature on publication of Adam Gould, in The Irish Times (6 June 2009), Weekend, p.12 [extract].
  • John Montague, ‘a territory of one’s own’, review of Trespassers: A Memoir, in The Irish Times (25 May 2013), Weekend Review, p.12.
See also Ann Owens Weekes, Irish Women Writers:, An Uncharted Tradition (Kentucky UP 1990); James M. Cahalan, Double Visions: Women and Men in Modern and Contemporary Irish Fiction (Syracuse: Syracuse UP 1999); Christine St Peter, Changing Ireland: Strategies in Contemporary Women’s Fiction (London: Macmillan 2000).

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Maurice Harmon
, ‘Generations Apart: 1925-1975’, in Rafroidi & Maurice Harmon, eds., The Irish Novel in Our Time, Université de Lille 1975-76, p.49-65, discussion of Women in the Wall (1975), ‘which develops through psychological self-revelation in the form of stream of consciousness technique, mixed with some dialogue, some descriptive narrative and a few extracts rom contemporary sources. The emphasis is on character, on psychology rather than event ... This ... does not mean that Julia O’Faolain has not done the necessary background research; it means that she has decided not to display it, nor to grant it disproportionate emphasis.’ (p.61); goes on to summarise plot in which Radegunda, reluctant wife of Clotair, King of Gaul, seeks release in the nunnery where the visionary Bridegroom comes in the likeness of a young man; Agnes, the Abbess finds fulfilment in that arms of the poet Fortunatus and their child Ingunda has herself immured in horror at her parentage; throughout the novel her pitiful cries punctuate the drama. [&c.]

Rüdiger Imhof, ‘Julia O’Faolain’, Rüdiger Imhof, ed., Contemporary Irish Novelists [Studies in English and Comparative Literature, ed. Michael Kenneally and Wolfgang Zach] (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag 1990), pp.159-74, a severe reading concerned with lack of seriousness and penetration of Irish subject matter: ‘Julia O’Faolain has noted that the “freeing of the female imagination” is an exhilarating effect of the women’s movement (‘State of Fiction’, 1978,57f.). Taken as a creative manifestation of this kind of imagination, her work as a whole leaves a good deal to be desired. The majority of her topics are note especially compelling. her sorties into aspects of human love, aberrant or otherwise, are at times not penetrating enough to command unflinching attention. Her craftsmanship shows considerable shortcomings. As a writer born in Ireland, she has frequently tacked non-Irish subject matter. Her writing has a cosmopolitan touch, featuring locales in Italy, France, and the US and quite often focusing on matters Italian, which may be the result of her experiences abroad ... her imaginative reconstruction of sixth-century Gaul, in Women in the Wall, is well-equipped to bear comparison with the more successful attempts that have recently been made as a consequence of a widespread concern with bygone days ... She has so far been at her most convincing in a genuinely Irish novel , No Country for Young Men, which wisely eschews labouring the point about women’s plight in the world, while at the same time giving evidence of the freeing of the female imagination. Bibl. cites reviews and commentaries incl. Janet Egleson Dunleavy, review of Man in the Cellar, in Irish University Review, 4 (1974), p.300; Lalage Pulvertaft, ‘Under order[s]’, in Times Literary Supplement (4 April 1975), p.353; Patricia Craig, ‘Those dying generations’, in Times Literary Supplement (13 June 1980), p.674; Ann Weekes, ‘Diarmuid and Gráinne Again: Julia O’Faolain’s No Country for Old Men [sic], in Éire-Ireland, 21 (1986), pp.89-102.

[q.auth.], review of The Judas Cloth (1992) in Irish Times (26 Sept. 1992); ‘a novel reconstructing the historical, social and clerical tensions in the later part of the reign of Pius IX, d.1879, the Pope progresses from a supposed liberal to declare Infallibility; told from the standpoint of Nicola Santi, an orphan who becomes a priest, and pursues the question of his paternity through the church.’

[q.auth.], review of The Judas Cloth (1992) in Times Literary Supplement (25 Sept. 1992), [q.p.]; The author pulls three young men and interweaves their lives with tht of the beseiged Church. Prospero, the son of a liberal count, ends up among the most intransigent of the Ultramontane bishops. Flavio, streetwise orphan, discovers that he is the son of his mother’s brother and inherits the dukedom of his nominal father. And Nicola, another supposed orphan who spends much of his time ruminating on the identity of his parents, eventually finds his mother but refuses to reveal himself [as being] too operatic … The novel’s real protagonist ... seldom appears in the flesh. He is Pope Pius IX, the hope of the liberals ... Prospero has the role of defending [Pius’s reaction], ‘See how pernicious freedom is! The faithful have a right to be protected against errors which could make them lose their souls.’ Pius, whom Nicola - now titular bishop of Trebizond - can no longer accept as spiritual father is in fact his real father. Caught up in the Commune he pulls off his cassock - the Judas cloth - and renounces the Church.

Fiona McCann, ‘The problem with publishing’, interview-feature on publication of Adam Gould, in The Irish Times (6 June 2009), Weekend: ‘ [...] It was love affairs, and France that, in an indirect way, set her on the path to writing, when her father's discovery that his daughter had fallen in love with a Frenchman at a young age prompted drastic measures. “He was very, displeased by the fact that I had a French lover who was a communist,” she recalls. “It was my father who broke it up really. He said ‘Come home and stay home for a year and don’ t let him come for a year” and test him’.” She smiles at the parental wisdom. “Well, that broke it up. And I was rather fed up, and so my father said ‘Well, why don't you do a bit of writing?’ So in a sense he encouraged me, but it was just to get my mind off other things.” / Writing, she assures me, did not come easily at first. “I don’t think I had any particular ability,” she says. “I remember writing poems and getting Patrick Kavanagh to look at them, and they were the most embarrassing rubbish.” Yet she kept going, writing “longer things and longer things”, until she published her first collection of short stories in 1968. More than 40 years on she has returned, with Adam Gould, to a theme that would have resonated with her father, who she once described as having “gradually, reluctantly” given up on God: namely the dangerous power plays between church and state. / In the case of Adam Gould, these take place in an increasingly secularised France, but its relevance to the Irish context is clear. It’s not a new theme for O’Faolain: she has been open in the past about the price paid for What she called the Irish State's “readiness to toady to the Catholic Church”. Nor do the Ryan report revelations come as any surprise to her: her father used to received letters from people anxious to make the physical abuse of children in schools and institutions public.’ (p.12.) McCann remarks that O’Faolain has been out from Ireland so long that she looks to McCann for information on the country she will never call home again; O’Faolain praises writing of Claire Keegan, adding that she hasn't given an image of the new Ireland yet: “I'd like to see that.”

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Bricolage?: ‘Myths like lego constructions, can be taken apart, a double bonus for the writer, the magnifying efect of evoking myth in the first place, plus the energy involved in revoking its agreed values. Destruction releases energy.’ (Quoted in Ann Owens Weekes, Irish Women Writers, An Uncharted Tradition, Kentucky UP 1990, p.176.)

Women for Realism: ‘It is the absence of realism from our great literary tradition which obliterates women. Because realism is the only mode available to women writers who want to write to and of women. I do not mean that women could not and o not avail themselves f non-realistic devices, but I do mean that the core of women’s writing has always been confessional and has, in the last few decades, become autobiographical. Its ultimate realisation would be a realism based on personal realisation: but the ultimate in this and any other form of expression is only a guide here. (Julia O’Faolain, ‘Irish Women and Writing in Modern Ireland’, in Eilean ní Chuilleanan, ed., Irish Women: Image and Achievement: Women in Irish culture form Earliest Times, Dublin: House, 1985, p.131; cited in Irena Boada-Montegut, ‘Relations of Power and Violence in Irish/Catalan Literature, MPhil/DPhil UUC 1997.)

Paul Auster’s Leviathan, reviewed Julia O’Faolain in Times Literary Supplement (23 Oct. 1992), ends: ‘Here context overwhelms the individual story. The sign resists being turned into a signifier. Its primary meaning is too strong. / Auster’s reticence has led critics to credit his shadowy message with a scope sometimes described as metaphysical. This time, although he re-deploys his clutch of themes as captivatingly as ever, their significance has shrunk.’ (p.20.)

The Furies of Irish Fiction’, in Graph, 3.1 (Spring 1998): ‘[…] So, now that readers can read freely, Irish bookish angers carry a different charge. There are still angers. Indeed, Irish verse and fiction is often incandescent with them. […] I am intrigued by these Irish angers: by those which make people write and by those they use as motor power in their fictions. The two are probably inextricable. To quote the novelist Patrick McCabe: “Each novel written, each play compelted is another step on the road to silencing the furies within.”/ In the last decade or so, the Irish literary furies have been developing mutant strains. Interestingly, their precise targets are hard to pin down. In the past all ills could be blamed on England’s colonial legacy and, until fairly recently, Irish group identity could still be reinforced by yelling “Up the rebels” Not now. [...] Irish writers were always free to write books showing everyone up - though readers were not always free to read them. Now they are, and what the books are showing up are the pains and dangers of freedom. It is a surprising outcome.’ (Also published in The Richmond Review [ q.iss.] 1997 - online; see full-text copy in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

Under the Rose”, story, in New Yorker, 29 Feb. 1994, pp.86-91: ‘Dan said - to be sure, there was only his word for this; but who would invent such a thing? - that, in their teens, his brother and he had ravaged [sic] their sister on the parsonage kitchen table. There father was a parson, and what the rape took place the household was at Evensong. Dan described the fume of dust motes sliced bythin, surgical light, a gleam of pinkish copper pans and, under his nose, the pith of the deal table. Outside the door, his sister’s dog howled. The truth was, said Dan, that she herself did not resist much. She’d been fifteen, and the unapologetic Dan was now twenty. It had, he claimed, been a liberation for all three.’


Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 3, selects from Daughters of Passion, ‘Why Should Not Old Men be Mad’ [1047-59], 1076; BIOG, 1134-35.

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