The Nobel Laureates of Ireland

Ireland is a small island, but it has more Nobel Laureates for literature than any other country— which is remarkable. And even beyond the laureates there are world famous writers like Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde and James Joyce. The four laureates of Ireland are W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and a modern author Seamus Heaney who won the award in 1995. If you’ve not read any of their works I’d suggest: 1) Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Endgame; 2) a wide variety of Yeats poems, including ‘the Second Coming‘; 3) several of Shaw’s plays— Antony and Cleopatra, St. Joan, Pygmalion. I am not a big fan of James Joyce, but his most famous work is Ulysses. Be prepared for stream of consciousness, or as I prefer to call it, stream of unconsciousness. As for the ever clever Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest is a good start.

Near St. Patrick’s cathedral there are plaques in honor of some of these men…

If I was to try and find a characteristic they all share in common, it would be some sarcasm, and pessimism about things, but if you had gone through the history they did to try and get free from the shackles of England, you’d understand why.
These men are honored elsewhere too…. for instance at pubs which display some of their famous sayings…


Writers such as these reflect the zeitgeist, the spirit, of their times, and should be interpreted in light of their contexts and not in isolation from them. And note that the oldest most influential writer of this sort of Irish lit, was Jonathan Swift, who was a satirist.!

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