NUI Galway acquires literary archive of John McGahern

Monday, 6 October 2003

At a reception in NUI Galway today (October 6th 2003) John McGahern, the most accomplished and acclaimed writer of Ireland's living fiction writers, officially handed over his literary archive to the President of NUI Galway, Dr. Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh. The archive will be housed in the James Hardiman Library alongside other renowned literary works.

The extensive archive is enormously rich in content and consists of forty years of writings, personal papers, novella and short stories, correspondence and the manuscript of a novel, which although accepted for publication was subsequently withdrawn by Mr McGahern. The collection includes the manuscripts of earliest works including The Dark and The Barracks, Amongst Women and his latest novel - That they may face the Rising Sun. Importantly, all future work will also be part of the archive and will include John McGahern's memoirs on which he continues to work.

Commenting on the importance of the acquisition of the archive, the President of NUI Galway, Dr. Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh said, "We are honoured that John McGahern is with us here today as we take into our possession this outstanding and extensive literary archive. His influence on Irish literature of this era has been immense, as he captures the narratives of our changing society and the transition from rural values to the alternative challenges of urban living and economic modernisation.

This is a significant achievement for this University and an enormous enhancement of our literary and Irish Studies resource base. It firmly enhances NUI Galway as a centre of excellence for national and international scholars. We look forward to the new research possibilities that have been made possible as a result of this acquisition."

Ms. Marie Reddan, James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway said, "The acquisition of this archive greatly enhances NUI Galway, as a location of research into generations of Irish tradition and complements existing library strengths collected over centuries. Balancing our archival and preservation skills with our ability to exploit such collections using 21st century technology, will ensure access to this unique and highly valuable primary research resource for the benefit of both international scholars and McGahern's own regional community."

Dr Riana O'Dwyer, Department of English, NUI Galway added, "John McGahern's reputation as a consummate stylist and master of fiction extends throughout the English-speaking world and he is particularly appreciated in North America. The setting of these texts ranges from the rural west of Ireland, to Dublin and abroad, but returns always to the fulcrum of lived experience: the inland fields and lakes and bogs of Connaught and the lives of people rooted there. John McGahern is arguably the most important Irish novelist since James Joyce. Today we are honoured with his presence at NUI Galway."

Professor Ger Hurley, Dean of Research, at NUI Galway said, "Having the original papers of John McGahern is a tremendous research resource for the University and will be eagerly sought after by literary scholars inside and outside the University."

Dr. Louis de Paor, Director of NUI Galway's Centre for Irish Studies, where John McGahern has been Adjunct Professor since 2001 added, "This archive will provide a unique insight into the working methods and technical development of one of the most meticulous and scrupulous Irish writers of our time. It will be an invaluable resource for generations of literary and cultural scholars."

Professor Chris Curtin, Department of Political Science and Sociology, NUI Galway concluded, "John McGahern's work provides a deep and exceptionally insightful view of rural life in Ireland. His books represent a major source of information for a range of social sciences but for sociologists in particular."

Other works housed at the James Hardiman library include the Douglas Hyde manuscripts, O Tuairisc papers and the O Domhnalláin papers with an excellent collection of Theatre archives – Druid, An Taibhdhearc, Galway Arts Festival, Macnas and the archive of the early years of the Lyric Theatre Belfast.

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