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Lavin, Mary

irish stories ireland ‘the

(Irish, 1912–96)

Mary Lavin moved in the opposite direction to most Irish emigrants, having been born in Massachusetts and moving back to Ireland with her parents when she was nine. She lived in Ireland until her death. Her greatest achievement were her short stories, which won her the Katherine Mansfield Prize and the Gregory Medal, founded by W. B. Yeats as ‘the supreme award of the Irish nation’. Her tales vividly conjure a world of rain-sodden rural Ireland, dark, repressive, and priest-ridden, in which nevertheless acts of spontaneous human kindness, generosity, or impulsive passion break out brightly and dramatically. In stories like ‘The Will’, or ‘A Happy Death’, for instance, she manages to evoke such powerful emotions in only a dozen pages that you can see why some have called her ‘an Irish Chekhov’. But also Chekhovian is her light touch with humour, as in ‘My Vocation’. A standard collection is Selected Stories (1959), published by Macmillan.

William Trevor, James Joyce, Edna O'Brien  CH

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