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Controversial Author at Book Club Festival

Clare Champion, Friday, 19th January 2007

In another major coup for March's Ennis Book Club Festival, one of the country's most coontroversial and critically acclaimed authors of the 20th century has been confirmed to appear. Clare-born writer Edna O'Brien will perform a reading of her latest book and take part in a public interview at Glór Irish Music centre on Saturday, March 3.

The Tuamgraney author's appearance at the inaugural festival is another major boost for organisers, who have already secured such high profile contributors as Patrick McCabe, author of The Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto; Fergal Keane, a BAFTA-winning BBC journalist; Charlie Bird, RTÉ Chief News Correspondent and author of This is Charlie Bird; Denis Cotter, an acclaimed restaurateur and cookery book author; Ré Ó Laighlís, the biggest selling contemporary writer in the Irish language and novelist Carlo Gébler who was shortlisted for the Booker Award in 2000.

With nearly 20 books to her credit, Edna O'Brien is one of Ireland's living literary treasures, having published numerous works of fiction, from novels to novellas and short stories, as well as plays, essays, a non-fiction book, Mother Ireland and a biography of James Joyce.

After James Joyce, the Tuamgraney native is the best known banned Irish writer of the century. Born in the east Clare village of Tuamgraney, O'Brien eloped to London in the late 1950s with the Irish-Czech novelist Ernest Gébler. She began her writing career in 1960 with The Country Girls. The novel's immediate success and notoriety quickly propelled her into a new world. The Irish censors banned the book, objecting to the sexual awakening portrayed and further condemnation followed from the Irish hierarchy and the then Minister for Culture, deeming it "a smear on Irish womanhood". In her native village there was anger about the book, abetted by a few copies being burned in the grounds of the parish chapel.

Her recent works include The New York Times Notable Books and Book Sense picks Wild Decembers, In the Forest and Lantern Slides, which won The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. Other awards include Irish Pen Lifetime Award and The European Prize for Literature.

In 2002, she won the National Medal for Fiction from the National Arts Club and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2006, she received the Ulysses Medal from University College Dublin, the first writer to be given it.

She has two sons, Carlo Gébler (writer) and Sasha Gébler (architect) and divides her time between London, the west coast of Ireland and the United States. Her literary fans include Philip Roth, Harold Pinter, Mary Gordon and John Updike.

According to Patricia Callaly of the festival organising committee, "We are delighted to have secured such a high profile literary figure as Edna O'Brien to our festival programme. Her public reading and interview, which will be chaired by Clare county Librarian Noel Crowley, is expected to be one of the highlights of the three-day festival. Her involvement in the event also adds to a growing list of confirmed Clare contributors, including Rosita Boland, Eddie Stack, PJ Curtis and Sean Ó Ceallaigh. Demand for tickets is growing, so I would urge anyone interested in attending any of the festival events to book their places as soon as possible".

Meanwhile, the Ennis Book Club Festival Organising Committee has announced details of an ‘Early Bird Weekend Ticket’, which offers Book Clubs and individuals access to Festival events at a reduced price. Tickets for Edna O'Brien's appearance at Glór, however, are not included in this offer and have gone on sale separately in Glór. Further details on ticket prices and the festival are available at, telephone 087-9723647 or 085-7758523 or email

The Ennis Book Club Festival 2007, which is being supported by Clare County Library, will be a social and literary gathering to bring together some of the 150 Library Book Clubs and 300 Private Book Clubs that exist nationwide. The festival programme will feature author visits, readings, lectures, workshops, exhibitions and cookery demonstrations, Irish language drama, library book sales, musical entertainment, sale of Irish language books and youth theatre performances in various venues around Ennis. Other events include a presentation on the Kate O’Brien Papers by archivist Roisin Berry, a walking tour of the historic town of Ennis, a talk by Sean Ó Ceallaigh on Eamonn MacGiolla Iasachta and a presentation on the John McGahern Papers by archivist Fergus Fahey of NUI Galway.

Other authors scheduled to participate during the three-day event include poet and broadcaster, Michael Coady, winner of the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Poetry in 1979; Rita Ann Higgins, a poet and dramatist; PJ Curtis, professional broadcaster, record producer, author and music historian; Dermot Healy, a novelist playwright and poet; poets Mary O’Donnell, Mary O’Malley and Rosita Boland; writer Niall Williams; short-story writer Evelyn Conlon and award-winning author Anne Enright.

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