“Lucy Caldwell blessed our grey and rainy Monday morning – a true dreich day, just like the one mentioned in her short story “Here we are” – with a captivating reading on her life and work. A classroom full of students was taken along on a fascination trip across her childhood in Belfast, her move to England as a student, and her first steps as a writer. Reading excerpts from some of her stories, engaging with student questions and musing about the power of litany in the music of Van Morrison, and, as Louis MacNeice famously put it, “the drunkenness of things being various,” she managed to entertain her audience all throughout the reading, sending everybody home with the reassuring thought that no matter what others tell you, your own stories really do matter.” (Lara Dutry on the morning session) “In a morning lecture on the 24th of February, the Northern Irish author Lucy Caldwell was invited to present her successful collection of short stories Multitudes and her newest collection Intimacies, creating a wonderful opportunity for us to get in touch with her life and work. Her reading was very insightful, not only focusing on her past and her inspiration to write these stories, but also inspiring us to start writing ourselves. She explained what motivated her during her writing process, and demonstrated the immense effect you can create in your writing with just minor differences in detail. This lecture was an amazing experience where we became acquainted with a brilliant writer and her fascinating vision on literature and identity.” (Julia Matvij on the morning session) “On Monday evening, we attended a reading by the amazing Irish author Lucy Caldwell, who captivated all of us with her enthusiastic and inspiring anecdotes and a beautiful excerpt from her new short story collection. She told us that throughout her life she always negotiated the world through reading, and in my opinion, she most definitely does this through writing as well.” (Kelsey Dewulf on the reading in Waterstones) “Lucy Caldwell’s reading at the Brussels Waterstones store was the perfect way to heat up and face the dreich, as she herself described it, February day. While the wind and rain were playing outside, her voice transported us right into Belfast. She showed us the city through her eyes, using her own voice to create a collection of short stories that united it. By telling how she got to writing the stories, you could not help but feel the itch to pick up your own pen. She assured everyone present that it is exactly in the moments of big, important discourse that one should write about the things they do not see in those discourses. Creating the literature that you always felt lacked in the current world of literatures. We all have a voice, and we should use it to create what we feel we need today.” (Ariëlle Decroix on the reading in Waterstones)
The German-Irish Society Saarland in cooperation with the Chair of British Literary and Cultural Studies at Saarland university and Saarbrücken City Library was delighted to welcome Mary O’Donnell on her Irish Itinerary tour in Germany. Mary gave a fantastic reading to an audience eagerly listening to excerpts from ‘Empire’ and ‘Where They Lie’ followed by a Q&A session. Questions covered a wide range of topics from the contents of the books to the author’s creative writing process. We were delighted to see a good crowd showing up made up of students, workers, retirees and more – exactly the kind of general public the Irish Itinerary is hosted for. The reading was held in a hospitable and attentive atmosphere at the City Library’s Reader’s Café surrounded by large windows giving us a feeling of being in a room that was at once enlightened and shining brightly, spreading its glow out into Saarbrücken’s December dark. Following the reading and the Q&A Mary was signing copies of her books, some of which she brought along herself and some of which members of the audience brought along; the latter, undoubtedly, goes to show Mary is an author much-read not only in Ireland but also abroad. We are absolutely over the moon with the wonderful writer that is Mary O’Donnell and would like to express our heartfelt thanks to her for joining us. In addition, we would like to thank EFACIS and Culture Ireland for their administrative and financial support, and Saarbrücken City Library for being such a kind host. We look forward to working further with all of them in the years to come.
Invited to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and Braga, Portugal, I went in September. The events were at the Universities, both of them crowded with an attentive assembly, some of them students and faculty who were reading my work, and others who were interested in Ireland and Irish writers and in writing in general. And each was different in its emphases, an enjoyable challenge for me. It was great too to be warmly welcomed by an enthusiastic Faculty in both places and to explore these fascinating places. Special thanks to Manuela and Filomena who brought me uphill and down dale in their respective cities. And to my billet in Santiago, the Casa de Europa, for being a lovely haven.
In the summer of 2019, the renowned Cork-based novelist, poet and short story writer William Wall was invited to participate in the annual Joyce School in Trieste. Here is what he had to say about the event: "As to the Joyce School itself, it was possibly the best festival/school I have ever attended. The hosts and the attendees were both equally weloming and appreciative. The location is superb and the accommodation provided was first class. I couldn't think of a single negative aspect. In addition, I heard numerous fascinating papers, some of which will spill over into my own writing for the future. So thank you EFACIS for sponsoring me. I look forward to working with you in the future." Photo credit: Liz Kirwan
Students’ Reactions to Marina Carr’s Reading on the Irish Itinerary 2018 at the SWANE Café in Wuppertal “I had never attended a reading before. Therefore, I didn’t know what to expect. Now I can say that the reading of Marina Carr was a fascinating and memorable experience which I would recommend to any student of English literature. To hear the voice of the author herself gave me a completely new impression of the play we've read before.” (Caren Maria Germscheid) “The atmosphere created by Marina Carr's calm aura, the attentive audience and the candlelight ambience of the Swane Café made this reading a unique experience. The perfect setting for a first-time encounter of such an event.” (Yonca Karabatak) “For me the 20th of November 2018 was a very special and memorable day within the course of my literary studies. My fellow students and I had the chance to get in personal contact with one of the most popular dramatists of our time. Thanks to the Irish Itinerary Marina Carr found her way to Wuppertal all the way from Ireland and provided an evening full of dramatic reading and memorable emotion. This event gave me an insight into the life of a playwright and helped me to connect previously gained knowledge with reality.” (Timo Speck) “The reading by Marina Carr was a new experience to me. I’ve never been to a reading before nor met an author so far. It was a great pleasure to meet Marina Carr and to listen to her amazing voice. The way she presented the three plays made it easy to get into the plays and to imagine each and every character. If I get the chance, I’ll definitely visit such a great event again!” (Shinthujaa Nithianantham) “The reading by Marina Carr was an amazing experience I did not expect to encounter. Her way of presenting and reading three different plays was fascinating and mesmerizing at the same time. The atmosphere she was able to create with her voice, captured every person in the SWANE Café and allowed us to immerse in her plays.” (Miriam Köll)
"Traveling to the EFACIS conference in Ljubljana in August of 2019 was a rare pleasure and privilege. Meeting with so many well-informed and interesting people with a passion for Irish history, politics and culture was inspiring and I feel I have developed some true and lasting connections. Reading to such a generous audience was a real highlight of the trip, and of my reading year so far. The discussion afterwards was enriching, and I came away feeling energised. The setting in beautiful, laid-back Ljubljana was also second to none. I hope I have many more EFACIS and Irish Itinerary-related trips ahead of me!"
(Szirák Anna Mária, BA student, University of Debrecen) It is a shame that sending postcards seems to be a dying art, because as author Jan Carson stood in front of us (an audience hopeful, yet worn after a long day’s work), I thought to myself, “This is the kind of thing I would send a postcard about.” It was, in fact, quite similar to the idea of a postcard; it was something pleasant and unexpected you find when going through the motions and reaching into the mailbox. Carson shared more than just her stories already published, she gave a light, sometimes bubbly, sometimes profound, and surprisingly educational talk, offering us dead grandmothers in the closet, bonfires making people leave their homes, warm yet unhappy coffee shops, and notorious Christmas-haters. The room was warm with laughter, and the rows reached so far Carson herself could barely make out the back of the crowd, but even that did not stop the brave ones (never myself) from asking questions at the end of the night. Truly, my postcard writes itself. One more thing, then time for stamps: even the gentleman sitting behind me, who used every 20 seconds to cough very loudly, could not stop me (and my peers) from having an enjoyable evening. (Németh Réka Virág, MA student, Debrecen) Jan Carson’s name was not completely unknown for me when I arrived at Nagyerdei Víztorony for the annual reading. I have read Postcard Stories and two of her short stories: “Settling” and “Larger Ladies”, and I was delighted when she started the evening by reading out one of my favourites from the short story collection: “Week 41”. From then on, I was completely captivated by her. I got to know an easy-going, funny, and genuine person and an outstanding author from Northern Ireland. She did not try to avoid talking about the Troubles and how it affected her life; she talked about her personal experiences without making it too personal and uncomfortable for the audience. I definitely could have listened to her for days without realising how much time have passed. I am really glad she accepted the invitation, it was a wonderful evening, and I am really happy I was introduced to her work and got to hear her read.
(Sara Calvo de Mora Mármol)- This International Seminar has been a very interesting experience, full of key figures that have shown us new things about Ireland that I believe most of us did not know before. This year’s edition has been particularly powerful because of the presence of a Magdalene survivor, Gabrielle O’Gorman and I am glad and grateful to have had her with us, sharing her sad story. But for me, the highlight of the week’s interventions was, by all means, the presence of Irish authors such as Colette Bryce, Chris Lee and Eibhear Walshe. And even though I liked all of their works, the reading by Bryce was the one that I enjoyed the most; very grateful to Pilar and to EFACIS for bringing this amazing writer to Spain and for getting to know her work better. (Lara Fernández Delgado)- I really enjoyed Colette Bryce’s reading. I love poetry and I feel very grateful when I have the chance to hear the author reciting her own work. Colette Bryce deals with a lot of interesting topics and the way she builds them in her poems is very inspiring. I also found very interesting the debate that took place after the reading. We talked about poetry and ideology and the way it can change consciousness. I want to thank the organizers and all funding institutions involved for making this seminar possible and for giving us the chance to learn about such an incredible culture. The cultural approach is the better way to get to know others and also ourselves. (Miguel Ángel Expósito)- I am so pleased to be a student of Pilar Villar! She has been organizing this seminar for 4 consecutive editions, and I never miss any of her events! One of the best things is to have the opportunity to meet artists studied in class and getting to know them personally. Colette Bryce is not only an amazing poet, but also a deeply humane, sensitive character. Thanks to EFACIS for making this possible! (Maeve Evelyn Reilly)- Colette Bryce’s reading was definitely a highlight in the whole week’s International Seminar. Colette reads beautifully with a soft but strong tone and with great sensitivity. We had a question time afterwards in which she interpreted her poems with us. She treats poetry as a non-didactic experience where she wishes to be true to herself. It was wonderful to listen to her read and hear her own interpretations of the poems and compare them to our own. I must say that I consider the seminar a total success. It was a very enjoyable experience for all involved. I truly appreciated meeting such interesting and accomplished people. It was very informative and motivating. Pilar was a great facilitator and the direction, along with the coordination and organization committee, did a wonderful job. They succeeded in bringing Irish culture to Granada and in highlighting the ‘otherness’ in Irish society. (Claudia Hernández Linares)- The IV International Seminar on Irish Studies was a celebration of Ireland’s culture, arts and history through different events that took place in the University of Granada during 5 consecutive days. Thanks to all institutions involved, particularly to EFACIS and the Irish Embassy in Spain, and of course, thanks to the main organizers (mainly Pilar Villar and Encarni Hidalgo) for making this possible. As a student, the lectures were a unique opportunity to benefit from the knowledge of professionals and artists and apply it to my own work in the future. It was especially interesting that the attendees were so approachable; the event successfully combined formal instances like literary readings and academic presentations with other more informal ones like the Celtic music concert or the question rounds. (Gülcin Demir)- On the second day of the seminar, we had the great opportunity of listening to Colette Bryce and ask her some questions throughout the poetry reading session. She was so nice! What truly impressed me by heart was her accessibility and modesty; and also the way she talked about the political conflict in the North, her family experiences and other aspects of life such as loneliness. Thanks a lot to Pilar and to the support granted by EFACIS, without which this could not have been possible. (Jonatan Dale Prieto)- This International Seminar was an amazing experienced, as it allowed us to hear and interact with some of the authors we studied in class. The organisation was very good, and I think that the seminar should be continued the following years, as it is certainly the highlight of the whole MA programme. Thanks a lot to the main organizers of the event and especially to Pilar Villar Argáiz for organizing it.
I was delighted to take part in the 2017 Irish Itinerary, on the German / Dutch circuit. It is an honour to represent Irish writing on continental Europe, and to meet dedicated scholars and readers who take a passionate interest in contemporary Irish literature. The tour was nicely organised for me - with three venues in four days, a lot can go wrong, but the successful administration of the visit meant that it all ran smoothly and pleasantly. I had a lovely welcome at each of my three different venues, and good conversation with a variety of people about Irish writing and publishing. I would gladly recommend the Irish Itinerary to other writers, and would like to express my gratitude to EFACIS for the invitation, and for ensuring I had such a stimulating and enjoyable trip.
I thought I would enjoy Scandanavia and I did; enjoyed, too, the spirit of the perenigration. It is sad to think that Irene and Britta are retiring from Irish studies, though there seems to be no stopping those chicks, I feel they will go and go. So, lots of hard work and good people, and snow - some sense of connection, too - these, to quote Julie Andrews, are a few of my favorite things.
BA student, University of Debrecen
“Tonight, my friends, there will be no translations,” said the poet Mac Lochlainn to all of us, thus giving the undertone to the evening. There would be no translations, and in a way, there were not any: Northern-Irish Mac Lochlainn recited his poetry in such a manner that could never be mirrored in any other language – something would always be lost. However, translation was already happening by the very act of announcing that it would not. The strange and alien-looking texts from the sheets of paper distributed became language and sound when spoken by the poet, and then that sound became music when accompanied by the Debrecen band Luan. Hearing a language spoken by few is always a wonder, but hearing it put into poetry was a revelation. There was a rhythm to it, something we, the audience had not known but still could not help but find familiar: the not-understanding of Irish became our own way of understanding. And so, it was a small Northern Ireland at Sikk klub that night; we were initiated into it by words, by sound, by music. Hearing actual translations of Mac Lochlainn’s works – because the command of banishing translations had only been partly true – could be described as sruth teangacha – a stream of tongues. That is what it was; tongues moving and sound escaping, giving way to a meaning that moved beyond language.
Director of the Centre for Irish Studies in Prague
Mary McPartlan sang in Prague at the Marjánka dance hall on 20 November, accompanied by Aidan Brennan and Pádraic Keane to a dedicated and enthusiastic audience, aged 5 months to 60 years – even an impromptu jig was danced by some audience members during the final number. The concert was followed by a music session in a Scottish bar owned by the concert producer where our Irish guests were astonished to see that, as soon as they played the first few bars of the first tune, about 20 people whipped out their instruments and joined in. It turned out that some of the participants travelled over 200 km to be able to play with Mary, Aidan and Pádraic. The wave of energy was simply amazing, and needless to say, the session turned out to be long. In addition, Mary lectured to Charles University students on Irish women singers on 21 November.
Winter sun in Nijmegen, snow and ice in Brussels and Leuven, blizzards in Kortrijk but the weather paled into the background. What I'll remember is the brightness and curiosity of the students I met, who made me think about my work in a new way; Hedwig Schwall's irrepressible energy; the exquisite beauty of Leuven; the warm welcome at the Irish College and the famine soup recipe courtesy of Chris Cusack, one of my hosts at Radboud Univeristy Nijmegen.
We flew into Prague. Petra, a postgraduate student, met us and took us by tram and metro to the town centre hotel. Justin and Ondrej took us for a lovely meal. The reading in the Shakespeare bookshop was well attended … there was a very thorough introduction and a reception hosted by the Embassy. Next morning we took the train to Vienna where Werner met us. We attended the Joyce songs and had dinner with Sinead and Darina which was excellent. The reading was more formal in a lecture hall lots of questions, good introduction by Werner, the Ambassador was represented. Next afternoon I did a poetry workshop with 12 students of various backgrounds … they were very eager and Julia organized it well. On Saturday we enjoyed the Austrian festival in the park. Train to Budapest on Sunday where Borsca met us …. We were very well looked after. Donald and Chilla were great hosts in Debrecen and our reading with interview was well attended. We saw a little of the park with the writers’ statues. Borsca drove to Pécs on Wednesday; the audience were lovely people mostly women. Final reading in a large lecture hall at Pázmány Péter University near Budapest. Beautiful campus. Many very erudite questions. I was intrigued by how interested students were in the political aspects of my work.
I had a wonderful time last spring in Spain as part of the Irish Itinerary with EFCAIS. I was hosted by the University of La Rioja in Logroño and the University of Granada. Dr Melania Terrazas Gallego gave me and my husband a lovely welcome in Logroño. The students were excellent and very interested in Irish Literature and were incredibly well read on contemporary Irish poetry, fiction and drama. We were also taken on a tour of Logroño and had a great final lunch and visit to a winery where many wines were tested and tasted. Granada was also fantastic. Here we were hosted by Dr Pilar Villar-Argaiz who took us on a tour of Granada and for several dinners and celebrations. Again the students were lively, engaged and very well informed on Irish Literature and Culture. Dr Pilar Villar-Argaiz and I conducted a reading and conversation which was live streamed and also recorded for the university’s archives. Overall it was an excellent tour with wonderful hospitality and lovely to see such interest in the work.