Literature : Jean O'Sullivan - www.irisheyes.fr
Friday 12 September 2008 - 19h30
Homage to Nuala O'Faoláin au Centre Culture Irlandais Paris
" The Rhythm of truth "
Nuala O'Faolain (1March 1940 - 9 May 2008)
The date is still marked in my diary: “10 July 2008: Nuala O’Faolain at the Centre culturel irlandais”. Since noting it down, there was that extraordinary, gut-wrenching RTE radio interview in April in which the writer and broadcaster spoke fearlessly about dying. Her death followed swiftly on 9 May and triggered a kind of low-key national mourning in Ireland. I cannot claim a relationship with Nuala O’Faolain but like many who read her bestselling memoir, "Are You Somebody?", I felt I knew her well. For me it illustrated Socrates' claim that the unexamined life is not worth living. For her it was simply "a little advance in frankness". I was lucky enough to meet O’Faolain in person: I interviewed her for Irish Eyes five years ago in a Montparnasse hotel Before I knew it, she was interviewing me! Between answering her friendly questions about my work, my family and how I came to be in Paris, I practically had to drag the conversation back to her memoir which had just been published in France. Being published in France meant a lot to her. "When I saw my book with a French title, I burst into tears!", she admitted. "I love French literature, especially Proust, who can actually be very funny. The nuns who taught me always regarded France as an ideal place, next to Heaven in fact." I wanted to know how O’Faolain explained the universal success of her memoir. "I think there's something in the rhythm of the story that has a deep truth," she said. "People recognise that. It's a voice saying 'This is me!' Basically, people desire to be listened to." Her readers wrote back to her too - over 5000 of them. "They sent me their own little recipes for getting through life. What they were saying is: 'this is my story, do you care to listen to it?' " O'Faolain went on to publish "My Dream of You", in 2001 a novel set during the Irish famine. Two years later she published "Almost There", a sequel to her first memoir. In 2006 she brought out "The Story of Chicago May", for which France awarded her the Prix Fémina. A lifelong Francophile, she made one last pilgrimage to Paris shortly before her death.
(Nuala O’Faolain's books are published in France by Sabine Wespieser).
Listen to the RTE interview here :
Obituaries: The Guardian :
Book Reporter :
The Independent :
Daily Telegraph :
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