Thursday, 3 March 2011

Books Worth Waiting For

So, what might a discerning Irish Marxist such as myself be looking forward to in terms of reading material this year? I've already read Hobsbawm's latest work, the excellent Tales of Marx and Marxism, as well as something a little bit older but still very relevant in the form of Richard J. Evans' In Defence of History. So what's there to look out for in the coming months? Well...

1. Sins of the Father: Tracing the Decisions that Shaped the Irish Economy by Conor McCabe is now available for pre-order on Amazon. For those of you who haven't been following Conor over on Dublin Opinion, the book is essentially a history of Irish political economy from the founding of the state to the present day, focusing on the historical roots of the current crisis. If you've been following Conor's posts you'll know that the book, at a modest 220 pages, is going to seriously challenge the orthodox narrative of the Irish economy and will be the first book on the economic collapse, with the exception of Kieran Allen's Ireland's Economic Crash, that examines the death of the Celtic Tiger from a historically grounded, Marxist perspective. It is disappointing that he didn't go with my suggestion of 'The Rocky Road to NAMA' for the title but this is definetely one to look out for. Speaking of left responses to the crisis....

2. Ireland's Economic History: Crisis and Uneven Development in the North and South by Gerard McCann is due out in August 2011. I don't know a great deal about McCann except that his background is in development studies and that he is a lecturer in European Studies at QUB. Like McCabe he appears to be challenging the dominant consensus on the economic collapse, but interestingly, he is coming at it from an all-Ireland angle, focusing on the island economy as a whole. According to the amazon blurb, the book promises to highlight how 'aggresive differentiation has been divisive and destabilising' for both the Northern and Southern economies. This is another one to look out for and the focus on the all-Ireland economy is an approach that hasn't really been used since Neo-Marxist theorists went to great lengths to disassociate themselves from Connolly School left-republicanism. Whatever way the final book turns out, this is one to look out for.

3. A Labour History of Ireland: 1824-2000 by Emmett O'Connor is a new expanded edition of his Labour History of Ireland: 1824 to 1960. I'm a big fan of O'Connor's work on Irish communism and other aspects of labour history but (unfortunately) like most people I have yet to read his most ambitous work. Having seen the new version advertised on Amazon, I decided I'd wait for this rather than shelling out 20/30 quid for the old version. I haven't read it so I can't really comment except to say that it is the closest thing to a Marxist / Materialist history of the Irish state and society currently available. The only comparable works would be the awful Ireland Her Own by T.A Jackson or the little better A History of the Irish Working-Class by Peter Beresford Ellis. Again, this is one that I'm quite looking forward to, especially as it intersects with my own research.

4. On the Run: The Story of an Irish Freedom Fighter by Colm O'Gaora, translated by Micheál O'hAodha and edited by Ruan O'Donnell. This coming June, this primary account of the Irish Revolution by an important republican figure will now finally be available for those, such as myself, who lack a grounding in the aul teanga dúchais. O'Gaora's memoirs will fill an important gap in terms of sources relating to the revolution in the west of Ireland which, compared to say Munster, are few and far between. Not really much to add, except that I'm a great admirer of Ruan O'Donnell who I think is currently taking on the mammoth challenge of a writing a trilogy on the modern republican movement, from the border campaign onwards. This I am looking forward to since the current sole volume on the border campaign, Soldiers of Folly by Barry Flynn, is a bit shit. Finally, when I'm sick of all this history and need to unwind with a good novel...

5. City of Bohane by Kevin Barry. I was a massive fan of Kevin Barry's clever, humorous columns in the Irish Examiner a few years ago and was extremely disappointed when he vanished from the backpage. I felt a bit better when I found out that this was in order that he could complete work on his first short-story collection There Are Little Kingdoms. The collection was a mixed bag, but on the whole, excellent. Barry's fiction, like his journalism, combines a wry sense of homour with deep and genuine insights into contemporary Irish society. This is his first novel and one that I intend to wolf down as soon as I can. For an example of Barry's fiction, though far from his best, check out Fjord of Killary, published in the prestigous New Yorker.

Well that's pretty much it. If anyone has anything else they feel deserves a place on my wishlist drop me a comment.

1 comment:

  1. "Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe"
    Davies, Norman;
    Like his stuff. Very good on Poland and his "The Isles" is a classic