(The following selection is based on an essay on O’Brien from The Daughters of Maeve by Gina Sigillito—available from Citadel Press, Amazon link below.)

In 1994, Edna O'Brien continued to pursue the truly controversial when she published House of Splendid Isolation, which portrayed the relationship between a soldier in the IRA and the older woman he has kidnapped. In 1999, she paid the ultimate tribute to James Joyce when she wrote a short biography entitled James Joyce for Viking’s Penguin Lives series. In this sensual and lyrical portrait of the artist, Edna uses stream of consciousness to depict the man in all of his glory and suffering.

    In one of her most controversial novels, Down by the River, Edna depicted the true story of a 14-year-old rape victim who was attempting to travel to England to obtain an abortion. The 1992 case became a cause celebre in Ireland and only served to fuel the abortion debate. The story would also go on to influence another novel, the bestselling Felicia’s Journey by William Trevor. Down by The River was widely acclaimed and only served to add to the controversy surrounding Edna’s literature in her native Ireland. She would also go on to produce two more plays, Our Father at the Almeida in 1999 and, in 2003, a version of Euripides' Iphigenia

    In 2008, Edna would write her most controversial and sexually-charged play yet, Triptych, the story of three women from the same family who are involved with the same man—a tortured but brilliant writer.  The play made its debut in Edna’s adopted home country of England, and it was praised by The Independent newspaper as one of her most daring works yet, especially for its  “lashings of adulterous and underage sex and liberal sprinkling of the worst swear words in the book.” It was clear that even at the age of 77, Edna had not lost her edge and passion for exploring the complexities of female sexuality.

    Edna now lives in New York City where she teaches writing at City College. With her unflinching eye for the troubles of women, she has influenced a whole new generation of female writers like Emer Mullins, Emma Donahue and Nuala O’Faolain. She has been the recipient of several awards, including a Kingsley Amis Award in 1962, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 1990 for Lantern Slides. In 2006, she was named adjunct professor of English Literature in University College Dublin. In the ultimate tribute to her work, Frank Tuohy remarked, “The world of Nora Barnacle had to wait for the fiction of Edna O’Brien.”

 

© 2007, 2010 by Gina Sigillito.  All rights reserved.

(View The Daughters of Maeve on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Daughters-Maeve-Irish-Women-Changed/dp/0806527056/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268836355&sr=8-1 )

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