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Ireland’s rich literary history is peopled with unforgettable characters. The female protagonist of Frank Delaney’s new novel joins their ranks. Kate Begley is the matchmaker of Kenmare. She’s strong, fearless and dangerously charming. She persuades the novel’s narrator, Ben MacCarthy, to accompany her on missions to wartime Europe in search of a lost American officer. Part love-story, part-spy thriller, the book is a sequel to “Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show.” It explores friendship and the boundaries of faith. And it forces the reader to question whether neutrality is truly possible — in war or love.
- Frank Delaney Author of the best-selling novel "Ireland" and several other books; former BBC broadcaster and judge for the Man Booker Prize.
Author Extra: Frank Delaney Answers Questions
Mr. Delaney stayed after the show to answer a few more questions.####
Q: What is it about the English that permitted them to go forth and divide and conquer? The Welsh? The Scots? The Irish? The French? Spanish? The Americas? India? Etc., etc. – From Efrain via email
A: Well – they had the energy and they had the means. They were a belligerent island nation who saw opportunities early, and who had the imagination to explore. When they found countries less well developed than themselves they colonized them. Remember – a ship full of armed sailors could easily overwhelm unarmed native people.
Diane would have liked to ask Mr. Delaney the following questions, but she didn’t get to them during the show:
Q: What it is about the narrator, Ben McCarthy, that has sustained you through two novels?
A: His essential decency: Is it possible to have a good but somewhat tragic man as a hero-protagonist?
Q: Is there anything quintessentially Irish about Kate?
A: She is full of possibility and she is imaginative. She can’t be confined, she won’t stay in any box, and she believes much more in the law of possibility than probability or determination.
Q: Is there a tradition of matchmaking in Ireland?
A: Yes – as there is in all mainly rural societies. But they don’t have to be rural. And there’s always been informal matchmaking too!
Q: In what ways do you see the characters of Charles Miller and Sebastian Volunder as similar?
A: They are both men who understand that ruthless killing is a necessary part of war and neither will permit the element of emotion to enter.
Q: You’ve written on your blog that you have an almost obsessive fascination with mythology. How did that come about?
A: I suppose I must have been exposed to mythology earlier. If you’re taught as fact that the first political division of your country was between the conquerors who took command of everything above the ground and the vanquished who took control of everything below the ground you tend to ingest mythology early!
Q: Could you describe the Ireland of your childhood?
A: Mystical and impoverished; magical and violent; green and silent; lonely and invasive – a land of contrasts and strong opinions; a land of safety and sudden danger – and a land of stories, stories, stories and glorious horses.
Q: Why did you give up your journalism career for writing fiction?
A: I wanted to go deeper and I wanted to live my emotional life according to my own stories.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Irish author Frank Delaney has written a sequel to his popular novel, "Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show," set mostly in neutral Ireland in World War II. It tells the story of a young matchmaker possessed of strong intuition and loads of charm. Her friendship with the books narrator is forged from grief, compassion and shared adventures. They traveled together to war torn Europe and the American Midwest. Along the way, they discover the dangers of not taking sides.
MS. DIANE REHMThe book is titled, "The Matchmaker of Kenmare." And Frank Delaney joins me in the studio. Of course, we'll welcome your comments. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to you, Frank.
MR. FRANK DELANEYGood morning, Diane. It's a pleasure to meet you after...
REHMGood day -- having you here.
DELANEY...after listening to you for so long.
REHMOh, I'm so glad, thank you. I understand that your fans really demanded this book.
DELANEYThere was a certain pressure. The end of, "Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show," was to some, unsatisfactory. More interestingly, it was unsatisfactory to me.
DELANEYAnd that's always a difficulty.
REHMBecause it just kept going.
DELANEYIt was unfinished business. You don't necessarily know always what you're writing about until long after you've written it. And I didn't know that what I was writing about was Alan's uncertain future after the 19 -- after the early 1930s. So Ben MacCarthy in, "Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show," he's a young man coming of age at the same time as his nation. His new nation is coming of age. And when he's left, finally, at the end of, "Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show," when he's left in something of a dire situation, the book seemed, to me, to call for a sequel.
DELANEYHere's what so interesting. And since I'm a commercial writer -- since I write for a living, that's what I do, I didn't know there was going to be a sequel, nor did I know it was going to turn into a trilogy which I'm writing -- I'm writing the third book...
REHMOh, how wonderful.
DELANEY...in the trilogy at the moment.
DELANEYAnd it's going to be called, I think, "The Last Story Teller."
REHMSo the ideas that begin in the heart…
REHM...travel to the brain, but then remain in the heart even after you've written them down?
DELANEYIt's remarkable. You're right on the money. It's remarkable. My objective is to tell as a great a story as I possibly can. My books always start slightly slowly. The objective of the exercise being, it's not American at all, it's very non-American. Usually American novels start with a bang, so to speak. The object of the exercise is to settle you down, tell you a story as though you were by the fireside in Ireland, get you settled, get you calm and then get you into the story in a way that you will never get.
DELANEYAnd this actually follows a process in my own head. And I only realized this recently. If you asked me how long it took me to write "The Matchmaker of Kenmare," which is this convoluted and I hope very gripping story, I would say to you that it took the normal length of time it takes to write a novel, sometime between six months and 15 months. But an actual fact, I have notes for this novel going back six, eight years. The place of the matchmaker in the world has always intrigued me.
DELANEYThe matchmaker is an archetypal figure. And almost everybody, Diane, has a matchmaker in them. How often have you used the words fix up? You see.
REHM...less frequently than you might think. I'm one of those people who, like your matchmaker, believes that somewhere out there is a thread. And that thread, somehow finds its way to two people and ultimately makes a circle around them.
DELANEYBut that makes you a true romantic and it was always said, colloquially, where I come from, that the best matchmakers were true romantics. In this, "The Matchmaker of Kenmare," Kate Begley, tells the narrator, Ben MacCarthy, that there is a god of matchmaking and the god of matchmaking throws out a silver -- two silver cords that wrap themselves around the ankles of a boy and the ankles of a girl at birth. And slowly, slowly, slowly, over the years, the god of matchmaking rolls that silver cord tighter and tighter and tighter until the two come together.
DELANEYHowever, however, it's not always what it seems. A friend of mine, sadly deceased now in Ireland, dabbled in matchmaking once and he made, he told me, seven matches. Five were successful marriages, the sixth split immediately and the seventh couple never spoke to him again. So sometimes, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
REHMBut you know, it does seem to me that more and more these days because the old institutions, like, church and parents and friends don't exist to say, I'll fix you up, that people are using technology to be somehow coupled.
DELANEY...all the network dating sites...
DELANEY...and the wonderful thing about that, of course, is that on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. On the internet, you don't have to say who you are. You can have great privacy in this. The thing that always interests me about matchmaking is that for the people involved, there was in the old days, an element of embarrassment because to go to a matchmaker meant somehow a hint of despair in your life. Not so much -- not so difficult for men, perhaps.
DELANEYBut more an embarrassment for women. It meant that people had not chosen you. On the internet, you can do it anonymously by yourself and, of course, it's getting a validation from the sheer numbers of this.
REHMFrank Delaney and his new novel, the second in a trilogy, is titled, "The Matchmaker of Kenmare." I would love for you to read for us from chapter one, just start there at the beginning.
DELANEYThe very beginning.
REHM"The Matchmaker of Kenmare," taught me much of what I know.
DELANEYAll right. I'll do it quite formally, Diane. "The Matchmaker of Kenmare," by Frank Delaney, chapter one. "The matchmaker of Kenmare taught me much of what I know. 'If a giraffe isn't weaned right,' she said once, 'you'll have to provide twenty gallons of fresh milk for it every day.' Another morning she told me, 'If you're going out in the rain, always butter your boots. It makes them waterproof.' She knew a terrific card trick, but she refused to teach it to me."
DELANEY"'Big hands are for power,' she said, 'not for trickery.' At our very first meeting, she asked, 'How can you tell whether and egg is fresh?' If it doesn't bounce when you drop it? In those days, I had a sardonic inner voice, my only defense mechanism. She said, 'Put it in a pan of cold water with salt, and if the egg rises to the surface, it's bad.' You must have seen a lot of bad eggs, said my secret voice. I think I was afraid of her then."
DELANEY"She went on, 'If you're hard-boiling an egg, a pinch of salt in the water will stop it cracking.' A pinch of salt, indeed. 'If you ever want to catch a bird,' she said, 'just sprinkle salt on its tail.' How useful. You just have to get close enough. 'Not too much salt,' she added. Does it depend on the size of the bird? Could she hear what I was thinking? 'But don't do it,' she said, 'with an ostrich. Ostriches hate salt."
DELANEY"Hoping to sound tactful, I asked, ' Are there ostriches here in Kerry?' 'Ah, use your imagination,' she said. 'They're around here all right. But you have to know where to look for them.' I nodded, in confusion more than agreement. 'Do you have a strong imagination, Ben?' 'I do,' I said, 'but I'm not sure that I trust it.' 'There are only two words,' she said, 'in which I put my trust. Magic and Faith."
REHMFrank Delaney reading from his new book, it's called, "The Matchmaker of Kenmare." And, "A Novel of Ireland." If you'd like to join us, I look forward to hearing your calls, 800-433-8850. One of our producers, Susan Nabors, has fallen in love with Ireland. She has gone twice now in the last six or eight months. When did you leave Ireland?
DELANEYWell, I first left Ireland back in the 1970s. I was working as a news anchor for the Irish Television network, radio network, RTE. And the BBC recruited me to cover the southern half of Ireland, the southern -- the 26 counties of the 32 counties during the troubles. During that huge, while it was a war, whatever they want to call it, it was a war.
DELANEYThe troubles, such a euphemism in World War II, as you'll find in the Matchmaker -- as you found in the Matchmaker, we called World War II the emergency. We're good at euphemisms. So I was working for the BBC for a number of years, covering it on a daily basis. It was effectively being a war reporter, we had bombs, shootings, kidnappings, lootings, everything. And as kind of rest and recreation, they took me to London in 1978 and I was there for 25 years.
DELANEYAnd then I came to live here in 2002 and I've been living here ever since.
REHMHow has that transition -- hoarding...
REHM...and transformation, how has that affected the way you look at the world?
DELANEYOh, it could not be more interesting. This is the most interesting country in the world at the moment. The melting pot that is America, culturally, politically, spiritually is utterly fascinating. I've always been interested enormously in the United States.
DELANEYBut never more so than now.
REHM...it's going to get even more interesting, I believe. Frank Delaney, "The Matchmaker of Kenmare." Do join us, 800-433-8850.
REHMWelcome back. If you've just joined us, Frank Delaney has written a brand new novel. It's the second in a trilogy, "A Novel of Ireland." It's titled "The Matchmaker at Kenmare." And indeed it is about a matchmaker. The narrator, she's involved with the adventures they have. Do join us, 800-433-8850. What was it about the narrator, Ben MacCarthy that really has seen you through two novels so far and then going on with the third? What was it about him?
DELANEYHe seems to me, Diane, to epitomize much of what I knew about Irish men growing up in Ireland, as I did indeed. I was born in 1942. He seemed to me to epitomize this combination of imagination, but uncertainty, a man who had to figure out a way in life because he's told on two sides by government and by church how he must live. But that doesn't speak to his imagination and he's trying to find his way through the world by the use of his imagination. Now, one of the great hidden powers in Ireland is the power of imagination. Our literature -- our ancient literature believes in the supernatural. In all ways, it believes in people living under the ground. It believes in gods living in the trees and in the skies. And nothing he was learning growing up was responding to this.
DELANEYSo the novels I'm writing at the moment tend to look at Ireland through imagination. And it's in the imagination that we found our great power of storytelling. So he believes that if he can tell himself the story of his own life, that's how he will resolve his confusions.
REHMHe works for the Irish government. He's collecting folklore. How and why does he meet up with Kate Begley?
DELANEYHe's an Alan Lomax figure. Before there was an Alan Lomax, there were great folklore collectors in Ireland. The Irish folklore commission set out to gather much of the nature of tradition of the country, song, story, legend, everything. And, in fact, my father was one of the amateur collectors.
DELANEYAnd I remember people coming to the house and telling my father stories, for example, of the Irish famine...
REHMWhich he would then write down.
DELANEY...which he would then write down, and I have found my father's notes in the Irish Folklore Commission Archive.
REHMOh, how lovely.
DELANEYSo they were given various assignments. So Ben MacCarthy in this is given an assignment by his boss, the great James Glare (sp?) , who is a fictional character, but modeled on somebody. He is actually asked to put together a report on matchmaking in rural Ireland because the social life in rural Ireland was extremely limited. They had dances. There was a famous dance at Killarney every year, which is featured in this, the farmers' dance. And usually in the counties there would be one or two big farmers' dances a year and that's where people went to meet people.
DELANEYAnd it seemed to me that if I am to investigate the inner space of Ireland, so to speak, at the same time as being able to tell a gripping story, this was a way in because the matchmaker met everybody. He went to every farmhouse, every cottage, he sat by firesides and he would hear people telling stories. And, of course, he was live. Ben was traveling while there were still traveling storytellers.
REHMSo he meets Kate Begley. He's heard about her. Her grandmother is also a matchmaker. She has some very set ideas about what matchmaking is, what it should be and how to go about it. What are Ben's impressions early on of Kate Begley?
DELANEYHe goes to this cottage on the cliffs by the sea in the southwest of Ireland where the Atlantic beats beneath them and he sits outside the door with her. She's 25. She's small, very pretty, very determined, very precise. And her grandmother, who has lived in the United States for several years, is also a great matchmaker. And from the grandmother, Kate gets the idea of how important matchmaking can be. For example, they both tell Ben that marrying a woman is the most important thing a man can do.
REHMAnd has Ben ever been married?
DELANEYBen has been married and his wife has disappeared.
REHMAnd that was Venetia...
DELANEYThat was Venetia.
REHM...the subject of your first novel.
DELANEYBen fell in love with an actress who had a road show called "Venetia Kelly, a brilliant and beautiful woman who had been in the Abby Theatre in Dublin, who took to the road to bring Shakespeare to the Irish countryside. She's 14 years older than 18-year-old Ben. In "Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show" Ben's father falls in love with her. But because of Ben's father's attitude towards his son, when Venetia meets Ben, she falls in love with him. Now, it's an eternal triangle, father, son...
DELANEYBut tragically she is taken from him. Because of a family row...
DELANEY...she disappears. He doesn't know whether she's alive or dead. And in actual fact he has traveled the countryside looking for her. He has spent in the interim traveling the countryside trying to find her. His pain is almost over when he meets Kate Begley, the matchmaker of Kenmare.
REHMNow, we have to say, too, that Kate has known real tragedy...
REHM...early in her life.
REHMHer parents were on a boat...
DELANEY...coming home from a wedding -- they're coming home from a wedding coming down Ballinskelligs Bay on the way back to their home at Lambs Head out on that Atlantic cliff. And a sudden squall comes up -- and I have seen them racing up those bays -- and overturns the boat and they are drowned, the woman still wearing the dress that she wore to the wedding. Kate is four years old at the time. And Kate spends the rest of her life until Ben meets her believing that they're going to come back. She even erects a little plaque on the wall down by the sea welcoming her parents back from the sea. She has never given up the idea that they will come back. And from this slowly, almost by osmosis, Ben picks up the idea that maybe one day he will find his beloved Venetia.
REHMSo both are seeking.
DELANEY...magic and faith.
REHMFrank Delaney. The book is called "The Matchmaker of Kenmare." And when Kate begins her search for an American soldier, I found myself wondering about your sense of World War II, knowing you were born in 1942, and therefore must've heard the stories afterwards about World War II and the so called neutrality of Ireland. Give me a sense of that because I would not -- I did not remember that Ireland remained neutral in World War II.
DELANEYI clearly must have been absorbing things from infancy because I grew up with a huge awareness of World War II. The GIs were our heroes. They liberated Europe. I remember them visiting afterwards, coming to Ireland to visit when they were stationed in Europe. I remember meeting a family called Beyondy (sp?) who came to my home in County Tipperary and I took them on a tour of the local castle. I was all of eight or nine years old.
DELANEYThere was a sense of World War II and there was a sense that we had been extraordinarily fortunate not to have been involved. There was a tug of war literally going on between the Germans and the British at that time. Churchill wanted our ports to sequester the Royal Navy fleet because it was still outside the reach of the German bombers. Hitler wanted Ireland so that he could launch attacks on Britain from there, 60 miles from Britain.
DELANEYSo de Valera, our extraordinary and controversial Prime Minister struck the following bargain. He maintained a diplomatic relationship with Germany which included the pact they could not invade us, while saying to Churchill, if you give us back the six counties of Ireland you still occupy, and which Britain occupies to this day, we will give you our ports. The unionists, the Protestants in northern Ireland wouldn't let Churchill do that and de Valera knew that. So he was making a devil's bargain, if you'd like, but he was the devil who won. We stayed out of the war.
DELANEYNow, we stayed out of the war physically, Diane, but we did not stay out of the war emotionally. It became something that imbued us all. I used to give staff lectures at the BBC and one of the things I used to refer them to was something I remember since childhood. Richard Dimbleby, the great BBC broadcaster, made a broadcast from Belsen. At the BBC as a reporter he was not allowed to editorialize and yet he finished his report from Belsen where he walked into the camp and saw it for the first time with the bell of the camp tolling behind him and he said, this has been the most terrible day of my life. I knew that somewhere in my psyche. Nobody told me but I grew up knowing that. That was the kind of awareness we had.
DELANEYI remember hearing my father and my uncle talking about the excitement of listening to the BBC when the allies came ashore in France in 1944 and the sheer thrill that went through the neighborhood when they realized that the American's were on their way to Berlin. That's deep in me so I wanted to write a novel of World War II as well as a story of the kind of neutrality, the kind of productive and kind and loving neutrality that can exist between two good friends, one of whom is male and one of whom is female.
REHMBut you also point to the dangers, the difficulties, the hardships of remaining neutral even in friendship.
DELANEYYou have to take sides. How can you see a dear friend whom you love in an allegedly platonic way -- James Joyce said there was no such thing as platonic love between a man and a woman, that there couldn't be -- but if you have a dear friend who you love and you see him or her suffering, what do you do? Do you cross that neutral border? Where do you go?
DELANEYThroughout this novel, we do not know what is going to happen between Kate and Ben. They take off their clothes and lie down side-by-side their arms around each other, but that is as far as it goes. That is neutrality taken to a very far degree. The metaphor there, of course, is that Ireland was in fact flirting nakedly with Germany and with Britain at the same time. But between a man and a woman, it seemed to me, it's always been one of the great conundrums of life. At what point does a loving friendship zoom up into something else, and should it or should it not?
REHMHelp is part of that love...
REHM...friendship offering help.
REHMBeing asked to help...
REHM...to that help, which is clearly very, very much a part of Frank Delaney's new novel, "The Matchmaker of Kenmare: A Novel of Ireland." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Frank Delaney, you mentioned James Joyce. Let's talk about what you've done with James Joyce because you feel so strongly about what he has written and how he has written it. And the fact that so many people have difficulty understanding James Joyce.
DELANEYWell, let me make it very clear from the beginning that we are not going to go as far as "Finnegan's Wake."
DELANEYJames Joyce wrote a collection of short stories "Dubliners," a novel -- an autobiographical novel, a portrait of the artist as a young man. And then he wrote the mighty novel, "Ulysses." Now, if you go into any gathering in the world and ask people the following three questions, how many of you have handled the book, "Ulysses," all the hands will go up. How many of you have tried to read it? All the hands will go up. How many of you have finished reading it? Very, very few hands will go up.
DELANEYWhen I was in my early 30s, I was frustrated by the fact that I was never able to finish reading "Ulysses" and I thought, this is no good. I'm an Irishman. He's our greatest artist of all time. I must understand this book. The centenary of his birth was coming up in 1982 so I decided that I would write a guide to "Ulysses" for people who had failed to finish reading "Ulysses." To my astonishment it became a bestseller, but here's the point. The great thing about that book for me was that I had to read the book very carefully at attempt to understand it in order to write about it. So at the moment every Wednesday on my website, frankdelaney.com...
DELANEY...now, there is a podcast -- a five-minute weekly podcast -- five, six minutes deconstructing "Ulysses" line-by-line. It's only been up a few months. We've had 50,000 downloads so far. People are downloading at the rate of 2, 3 and 4,000 a week. And by the time I have finished -- it'll take about 27 years we reckon -- by the time I have finished, Diane, there will not be one word of "Ulysses" that you will not understand.
DELANEYPeople are calling it "The People's Ulysses." It is the best fun I have ever had...
DELANEY...in my life.
DELANEYI've never enjoyed anything so much. And it energizes me. It lifts my spirit, it focuses me, it demands of me and it just -- I just love it.
REHMAnd you have learned anew regarding "Ulysses."
DELANEYAnd my affection for him for this difficult, half blind, curmudgeony, awkward, unpleasant and the man who ultimately bit every hand that fed him has increased by leaps and bounds. There is a kindness at the soul of this book. There is a generosity at the soul of "Ulysses." There is a love at the soul of "Ulysses." There is this theory, you know -- I don't know if you've heard it -- that if you got a an absolutely perfect copy of "Ulysses" in which there is an uneven number of words, the center word in this 300,000, approximately, word book, the center word is love. And the last word of the book is, of course, yes. It's a book about humanity in all its forms. In some of the sentences you will find six, eight, ten, twelve classical references. It is extraordinary but it is adorable. It has given a new dimension to my life that I never expected.
REHMWhy is it so difficult for people to get through it on their own?
DELANEYBecause he meant it to be .
REHMHe was that way.
DELANEYHe was a difficult man. He said -- he said two things that completely conflict. Only the Irish -- and I say this somewhere in "The Matchmaker of Kenmare" -- only the Irish, Diane, can hold two totally conflicting ideas with equal passion. Joyce said, on the one hand, there's nobody in any of my books worth more than a hundred bucks. He said, there's nobody. He said, they're porters and waiters and fruit sellers and tailors. On the other hand, he said, I have written a novel that would keep the professors busy for 300 years.
REHMFrank Delaney talking about his website, frankdelaney.com. But we're also talking about his new novel "The Matchmaker of Kenmare: A Novel of Ireland." Do stay with us and give us a call, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd we're back with Frank Delaney. He is an author. He is a former journalist with the BBC, now having written the second in a trilogy of his novels of Ireland, this one "The Matchmaker of Kenmare." And he talked earlier about the silver cord.
REHMNancy has left a message for us on Facebook, who says, "I love the imaginary of the silver cord. As for a question about matchmaking, I don't know if the author himself has ideas about what makes a match work, but if he does, it would be interesting to hear his opinions about what others recognize to be the signs that show one person to be, above others, the other ankle to which the silver cord is tied."
DELANEYThat's a great question, actually.
DELANEYI'll answer it with the first word that comes into my head and the first one that comes into my head is respect. I think it's the foundation of good relationships, good working relationships, good marital relationships. I think if you can respect the person, supposing you're introduced to somebody by a matchmaker and you find them not hideous, emotionally or physically and you find that at least there's some immediate gentle rapport at the very beginning.
DELANEYIf you find the position that they've taken in life where they have respect, then you're a long way down the road towards establishing some kind of relationship. I think if you don't have that, the natural bedfellow of respect is resentment, and I think when resentment comes into a relationship, it's always under the surface. It should never be spoken, I suppose, but when it comes in, it erodes respect. It's like a salt corroding it. I think the respect carries you through so many things, so many of the normal difficulties of life.
REHMHave you ever been married?
DELANEYYes, I have and I'm married to an American who was born and raised in Manhattan. I try very, very hard not to hold that against her. She's a Yankee from Mayflower territory way, way back. But luckily there's part Scot in her and therefore she's part Celt and that is a great, great salvage.
REHMHow long have you been married?
DELANEYWe've known each other for very close to 20 years and we've been married for, it will be 10 years next year. My God, the time is flying. There is no time.
REHMHere is a comment from Bill in Dallas. "has the school system in Ireland learned to suppress imagination with teach-to-test teaching mandate like those in our system? What is the state of reading for pleasure among the young in Ireland?"
DELANEYI went to a Christian Brothers school in Ireland. They don't exist any longer. I'm afraid they're now defunct in Ireland. But I went to a country school, local town. Tipperary, a small town, population 3,355 firms of lawyers and many, many pubs. That'll tell you something about the society. I had a wonderful secondary education.
DELANEYWe did, I think, in the six years that I was there, I think we did something like 17 Shakespeare plays. We were encouraged to read for pleasure and at the beginning of the year when the school texts were handed out, when we were told what books we would be reading for the course studies, set down by the National Department of Education, for the national exams, all the teachers who were dealing in that arena, who wasn't mathematics, for example, or science, they encouraged us to read the books and read the books by other authors and would occasionally lend us their books.
DELANEYSo from that point of view there was no suppression of imagination. The suppression of imagination in Ireland when I was growing up came entirely from the church, which had a stranglehold on the country in an extraordinary because the church controlled so much education. But we did produce some of the greatest, Dublin, I think, is the only city in the world that has produced four Nobel Prize winners for literature and that kind of imagination will not change.
DELANEYWe have the great advantage in Ireland of 800 years of oppression. We became the most professional victims in the world. We, because we had been so suppressed by England, we turned into power. There's a wonderful line by, I think it's G.K. Chester, the English writer. "From the great gales of Ireland are the men that God made mad, although wars are merry and all their songs are sad."
DELANEYSo we're able to turn this victimhood into triumph and power and it gave us something fight against, which is why the Irish use the English language so inventively, we made it political. We thought if they kill our language, which they tried to do and mostly succeeded in doing, only 10 percent of the Irish people speak Irish now, which is a shame.
DELANEYBut if they're going to do that to our language, then what we're going to do is we're going to take their language and we're going to do it far better than they ever did. And not only that, in the person of James Joyce, we're going to fraction it a little, we're going to play with it a little, we're going to kick it up and down the field a bit.
REHMAnd that was certainly done.
DELANEYAnd see, and what does it look like at the end? It looks like "Ulysses" and "Finnegan's way."
REHMTo Alexandria, Va. Good morning, Faye, you're on the air.
FAYEHi, Diane. I have never called your show before. I'm an avid listener, but I have a funny story for Frank Delaney.
DELANEYI love a story.
FAYEOkay. Well, what I did was borrow from the library "The Traveling Show of Venetia Kelly."
FAYEAnd I was so, I was just, it was so fun, the whole book was so fun I couldn't put it down and so I decided I'd take in the bathtub with me and have a good read...
DELANEYShould you be telling us this, Faye? This is a family show.
FAYEYes, and it was a traveling book. But then, what did I do, but drop the whole book in the bathtub and I thought to myself, I've been reading books in bathtubs.
DELANEYAnd it wasn't even a dirty book. You didn't have to clean it.
FAYENo, and it was like I was destined to own that book because of course they wouldn't take it back and I had to pay the full price...
FAYE...and I thought, well, you know what, that's okay. Now, I own this book and I was destined to own it and so I knew when I put that book down, I said to myself, that man is going to do a sequel to this book. It's too much fun to let go.
DELANEYThe sequel is "The Matchmaker of Kenmare." By the way, does the book read any better now that it has been washed?
FAYE(unintelligible) this one in, I will not.
REHMYou will not go into the bathtub with "The Matchmaker."
FAYENo, Diane, I think -- and I'm around your age, I should, I mean, I don't care. I just now have a really fat book in my library.
REHMThanks for calling, Faye. That's a great story. Let's go to southern Vermont and Sylvester. Good morning to you.
SYLVESTERGood morning Diane. It's a pleasure to be on your show and I've been listening to you for years.
SYLVESTERAnd I'm grateful I was listening this morning because my children gave me James Joyce to read for a Christmas present. And, I mean, you know, on the first 100 pages -- and I'm glad there's a website that I can go to so I can get some idea how to read this book because that first 100 pages, I was seeing language that I'd never seen before.
DELANEYYes, yeah. Sylvester, the point is all the podcasts that I've done so far -- there are about 30 of them. They're all already there. You can go back. And here's what we're hearing from people who are experiencing this podcast. People are sitting at their desks at lunchtime with the text of "Ulysses" open every Wednesday and they're following my podcasts line by line because I literally do not leave an unfamiliar word unexplained.
DELANEYNot anywhere in the book. Whether it's in Latin, whether it's in Greek, whether it's Swahili, whatever, and every single reference, every single classical reference, every single Irish colloquial reference referring to 1904, the year of which the book is set, they're all explained so literally you will be able to follow it and understand it, I hope, completely.
SYLVESTERWell, thank you, Frank. I was born in Ireland and I came over to the United States when I was 17.
DELANEYI knew there was something good about you.
SYLVESTERSo I, you know, I'm familiar with, you know, when he talks about Dublin and the surrounding area in the book and stuff like that but I'm going back to Ireland the end of the month and I haven't been back since 1988...
DELANEYYou'll see changes.
SYLVESTER...and I was just wondering what can I expect that's going to be so much different in Ireland?
DELANEYA proliferation of bungalows.
REHMFrank Delaney and we're talking about "The Matchmaker of Kenmare." you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And now to Daytona Beach Florida. Hi there, Robert, you're on the air.
ROBERTHello, I've been listening to your show forever and I never had a chance to call but when the gentleman was talking about his description of the role that Ireland played in the war. I had a friend who was madly in love with this girl all through four years of college and the indicators showed that the girl like him too and never, ever expressed his affection for that girl.
ROBERTAnd I was wondering, my (unintelligible) of my friend after all these years was cowardice. And I don't want to insult the gentleman, but is -- Hitler was definitely a pretty nasty fellow. Was not choosing a side just because you hate the Brits because of what they're doing, something that you would keep you from dealing with someone like that?
DELANEYNo. I would've done exactly the same had I been in our Prime Minister's position at the time. Look, we're now under 33,000 square miles. We would've been pummeled by either side into oblivion. We'd already come out of 800 years of people attempting genocide. What would you do, side with Germany and be hammered by Britain and the United States, who had so many people of Irish descent living in the United States?
DELANEYOr side with Britain and the Allies and have Germany hammer you? We would have lost most of our population. We had already been through the Great War, where one-third, one-third, of the male breadwinners in Northern Ireland were wiped out in the Great War. We enlisted in huge numbers in the Great War in return for an independence that was never given to us. If we had taken either side in World War II, the population of Ireland would've been bombed to eternity. It was the right decision. It wasn't a cowardice of any kind. It was a calculated decision taken to protect the lives a growing nation.
REHMTo Tampa, Fl. Good morning, Denise.
DENISEGood morning, Ms. Rehm and to your lovely guest from Ireland. I was born in Northern Ireland and I'd just like to have Mr. Delaney realize the difference. I always was glad I missed the Second War, but in contrast to the neutrality of the Irish free-state, so called, my mother's elder brother was in the Royal Air Force and he helped Montgomery by cover, air cover, to fight Rommel in the North African deserts. He then later was in Burma.
DENISENow, he never talked about the war, he died young, 42 years of age of a heart attack. And 19 years later I was told all of this by his widow. So I was told as a child that when his plane was shot down he fell without a parachute opening and survived. Now, there is this contrast between the attitudes below the border and north of the border.
DENISEAnd please, Mr. Delaney, do stop this ancient idea of the British occupying Northern Ireland. I was born in Northern Ireland and my parents and my grandparents (unintelligible) and my great-grandparents. And I would like to say to all the people in the United States where I've lived for a long time, we're very happy to be British.
DENISEAnd while I do sympathize, I do sympathize.
DELANEY...you will have seen discrimination at -- first hand then growing up in Northern Ireland.
DENISENo, I did not. I had no problems with anyone, whatever their belief was. And I will tell you something else. There's a very old Presbyterian church in the center of Belfast built in 1770. And just across the street in Chapel Lane, St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church. And from when I went in there as a child until I left to work overseas, age 26, in overseas development in the Bahamas, there was never one word of dissent and that is an example, a shining example to all.
DELANEYCan I give you a very specific example from my own life? The former Catholic religious advisor to the BBC, Bishop Edward Daley of Dairy, when he joined the BBC in the 1970s asked the BBC management in Northern Ireland, there were 220 staff there, how many, what was the religious breakdown between Catholic and Protestant.
DELANEYIt took him a year and a half to get the answer. When he became the religious advisor there of the 220 staff in the BBC in Ireland, seven were Catholics, one reporter, one producer, five cleaners.
REHMTell me what you see in Ireland today considering the economic turmoil going on there?
DELANEYI see a country coming of age. I see a country that survived its infancy in the 1930s and '40s. I see it growing through its troubled adolescence in the '50s and '60s and '70s. I see it coming into its first flush of money, which was the greed of the '80s and '90s and 2000s, the green greed of Ireland. And I see it now facing reality for the first time and understanding that just as a student gets a credit card and overspends on his credit card for the first time, then you have to pay back your debts.
DELANEYI see a settling down there and an equalizing that will no longer depend upon the handouts from Europe. And I see some people buckling down to some real work and understanding that a country has to be run well economically if it's to take its place properly among the nations of the Earth, which was the original idea we had. What going on in Ireland in financial terms has been absolutely scandalous.
DELANEYThere was a massive corruption. There was lending something like, it's a miniature version of what has happened in many countries in the world. But now, there will be a calm period and they will resettle and they will pay some of their debts, if not all of them, but they will pay some of their debts like so many other countries in the world. And they will come of age and be a more mature country and a better settled country and start to look at their dependencies.
DELANEYThe thing that isn't understood here is that Ireland has always depended on other countries. It depended on the United States, when I was growing up, for about 50 percent of its economy. It still depends on the foreign industry that has come into Ireland. Now, we have to start doing things for ourselves.
REHMFrank Delaney, the second in his trilogy "The Matchmaker of Kenmare," a novel of Ireland. How wonderful to talk with you. Thank you for being here.
DELANEYThank you, Diane. It's a great pleasure to meet you at last.
REHMMy pleasure as well. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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