*Edna O’Brien. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod
An archive belonging to Tuamgraney’s Edna O’Brien has been acquired by the National Library of Ireland.
Literary and personal papers, notebooks, drafts and revisions plus correspondence with well-known literary figures is included in the archive which covers the period from 2009 to 2021. The papers will be added to a collection of her work dating from 2000 – 2009 already held by the NLI.
Born in East Clare in 1930, Edna’s first book ‘The Country Girls’ was published in 1960. She has a lengthy body of work to her name, novels, plays, works of non fiction and a collection of short stories among them. Her most recent novel Girl was published in 2019, and she continues to write, currently working on a play about James Joyce.
Edna said she was “thrilled and honoured” to have the archive acquired. “It has always been my wish for my papers to reside in Ireland, the country of my birth – my home. My works are stories of place as much as people, and Ireland has long featured as a central character. It is only right that my most recent archive should find its lasting home there”.
Arts Minister, Catherine Martin (GP) allocated the funding for the acquisition. She described the papers as a “most invaluable collection”. She stated, “Edna O’Brien’s place in the literary canon both nationally and internationally is assured and her importance as a novelist and a chronicler of Ireland is unique. That Edna O’Brien’s work is so widely regarded throughout the world speaks of the universal nature of her themes and most especially that of the lived experience of women.
“Edna O’Brien’s writing shines a spotlight on women and their agency and autonomy. She has recounted women’s stories unflinchingly, doing so when the stakes were high and it was unbecoming to speak about women’s lives with such frankness and honesty,” Minister Martin added.
Director of the National Library of Ireland, Dr Sandra Collins highlighted the library’s responsibility as “Ireland’s memory-keeper” with collecting and safeguarding the country’s story. “The experiences of women are an inextricable part of this narrative. The acquisition of Edna O’Brien’s archive is a momentous occasion for the National Library. It is a celebration of a writer who has contributed, indelibly and with brilliant style, to our understanding of Irish society and the lived experience of women. It is my hope that all those who view and study this archive will glean deep insight into Edna’s practice, and feel inspired, not only by her work, but by her trailblazing, tenacious spirit,” Dr Collins said.