A window on Sean O'Faolain's thinking


Three decades of correspondence between a Brazilian scholar and Seán O'Faoláin were launched in book form, Letters to Brazil, yesterday which provide valuable insight in to the mindset of the Cork writer in his later life.

Prof Munira Mutran of the Universidade de Sao Paolo was in UCC last night to discuss letters she received from O'Faoláin between 1973 and 1986 detailing his concern with his work, his views about Ireland and his evaluation of writers such as Joyce, O'Casey and Yeats. As a student, Ms Mutran, an admirer of the writer, wrote to O'Faoláin asking his thoughts on a variety of subjects.

"I sent him a naive letter asking him questions and he wrote back. He said: 'Do ask questions', so we corresponded until 1986. I met O'Faoláin and his wife Eileen three times at their home in Dún Laoghaire.

"Looking back on his letters, I think that he was a visionary. He wanted to see Ireland as it is now. So many different cultures, and so on."

O'Faoláin is generally celebrated for his earlier writings, but Mutran says he was particularly proud of his later, more avant-garde, work. In one letter he said he was very pleased with his 1979 novel And Again. The letters to Mutran also reveal O'Faoláin's thoughts on Seán O'Casey's later work.

One letter shows how he regarded O'Casey's anti-war polemic The Silver Tassie as inferior to his earlier work. In this he was in agreement with Yeats who famously rejected the play as not being worthy for a run in the Abbey Theatre.

Prof Mutran has set up a special post-graduate course on Irish Studies in her home country and has been recognised by President Mary McAleese for her contribution to what she refers to as "Ireland's colonisation of Brazil".

Prof Mutran was in also in Cork to deliver a keynote address at the George Moore: Literature and the Arts conference.

The conference opened with UCC's annual Yeats lecture on Yeats and Love Poetry. Poet Bernard O'Donoghue spoke of the distinctiveness of Yeats's great love poems.

Other speakers included Dr Adrian Frazier (NUIG) and Prof Lucy McDiarmid (Northwestern University/Villanova University).

The conference ends tomorrow with a discussion on George Moore, Maud Gonne, Kathleen Clarke and the Improvisational Moment.