For the first time, the selected works of Frank O’Connor, the writer Yeats dubbed ‘Ireland’s Chekhov’, in a single volume, edited by novelist Julian Barnes.
The contents have been intriguingly divided into eight narrative threads that influenced and informed O’Connor’s oeuvre. War includes the famous ‘Guests of the Nation’, set during the Irish War of Independence; Childhood draws on autobiographical writings to present a revealing picture of the author as a boy, the only child of an alcoholic father and doting mother; Writers bears witness to his literary debt to Yeats and Joyce. The stories in Lonely Voices movingly demonstrate O’Connor’s theory that in this genre can be achieved ‘something we do not often find in the novel - an intense awareness of human loneliness’; yet they are counterparted by his wonderfully polyphonic tales of family, friendship and rivalry in Better Quarrelling. In Ireland come poems, stories and articles inspired by the native land he loved but never sentimentalized, while from Abroad the writer in exile discourses upon universally relevant themes of emigration, hardship, absence and return. Finally, Last Things contains O’Connor’s thoughts on religion, the church, the soul and its destiny, but remains above all a celebration of humanity ‘who for me represented all I should ever know of God’.