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A biography of edna obrien an american novelist

During this time, she met and married Ernst Gabler, a novelist, with whom she had two sons. The marriage was dissolved ten years later. It is the story of two girls who grew up in the Irish countryside, attend a convent school from which they are expelledand journey to Dublin and London in search of love and adventure.

She lives alone in an airy, spacious apartment in Little Venice, London, near the Canal. The following interview took place in her writing room—a large, comfortable study cluttered with books, notebooks, records, and periodicals.

At what point did you actually start writing literature? I started writing snippets when I was eight or nine, but I wrote my first novel when I left Ireland and came to live in London.

I had never been outside Ireland and it was November when I arrived in England. Waterloo Station was full of people who were nameless, faceless. There were wreaths on the Cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday, and I felt bewildered and lost—an outsider.

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But something happened to my style which I will tell you about. I had been trying to write short bits, and these were always flowery and overlyrical.

  • So you must keep in mind that although it may stop, it can come back;
  • In 1952 she married the novelist Ernest Gebler, with whom she had two sons;
  • It is hard, especially as writers are always anxious, always on the run—from the telephone, from people, from responsibilities, from the distractions of this world.

Shortly after I arrived in London I saw an advertisement for a lecture given by Arthur Mizener [author of a book on F. You must remember that I had no literary education, but a fervid religious one. So I went to the lecture and it was like a thunderbolt—Saul of Tarsus on his horse! I can say that the two things came together then: My family was radically opposed to anything to do with literature.

Although Ireland has produced so many great writers, there is a deep suspicion about writing there. Is the novel autobiographical? But any book that is any good must be, to some extent, autobiographical, because one cannot and should not fabricate emotions; and although style and narrative are crucial, the bulwark, emotion, is what finally matters.

With luck, talent, and studiousness, one manages to make a little pearl, or egg, or something. And loss—an innate sense of tragedy.

Edna O'Brien

Not just subjective sadness, though you have to experience it in order to know it, but also objective. There he was, in Rouen, yearning for the bright lights of Paris and hectic affairs, yet deliberately keeping away from all that, isolating himself, in order to burn and luxuriate in the affliction of his own emotions.

So writing, I think, is an interestingly perverse occupation. An actor is with the audience, a writer is not with his readers, and by the time the work appears, he or she is again incarcerated in the next book—or in barrenness. So for both men and women writers, writing is an eminently masochistic exercise—though I wonder what Norman Mailer would say to that!

But a woman writer has a double dose of masochism: No way to dodge it or escape from it.

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Men are better at escaping their psyches and their consciences. But there is a certain dogged strength in realizing that you can make those delirious journeys and come through.

  • In 1999 her short study James Joyce was published to critical acclaim;
  • And herein lies the controversy, for although the novel does not absolve the killer of responsibility, it does examine the complexity of factors involved, placing him within the context of a society that contributed to his psychological destruction;
  • A Pagan Place 1970 tells the story of a young girl growing up in rural Ireland who is seduced by a priest;
  • I had been trying to write short bits, and these were always flowery and overlyrical.

There is a high rate of suicide, alcoholism, madness among writers. Many wonderful writers write one or two books and then kill themselves.

Sylvia Plath for instance. She was much younger than Virginia Woolf when she committed suicide, but if she had survived that terrible crisis, I feel she would have written better books. So you must keep in mind that although it may stop, it can come back.

When I was a child in Ireland, a spring would suddenly appear and yield forth buckets of beautiful clear water, then just as suddenly it would dry up. The water-diviners would come with their rods and sometimes another spring would be found. It is hard, especially as writers are always anxious, always on the run—from the telephone, from people, from responsibilities, from the distractions of this world.

The other thing that can destroy talent is too much grief. I think the grinding suffering might have killed her talent later. It is not that you have to be happy—that would be asking too much—but if it gets too painful that sense of wonderment, or joy, dies, and with it the generosity so necessary to create. Before that you said that you read a great deal in Ireland, partly to escape. What sort of books did you read? And which ones influenced you most?

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But I think literature is food for the soul and the heart. There are books that are pure escapism: Whereas from one page of Dostoyevsky I feel renewed, however depressing the subject. Parnell had been dead for a long time, but the Irish, being Irish, persist with history. Reading that book made me realize that I wanted literature for the rest of my life.