Colm Tóibín: A Few Words from Listowel Writers’ Week President

Colm TóibínAs always, we’re delighted to be welcoming Listowel Writers’ Week President, Colm Toíbín back to the festival this year, where he will give his Opening Night address on Wednesday night. Colm will also be interviewed by Carlo Gebler and give a reading on Thursday 30 May at 2pm The Arms Hotel.  He’ll then go on to take part in a timely and relevant forum discussion on The Experience of Migration in Contemporary Irish Writing later that evening at 7.30pm, also in The Arms Hotel.

Colm is a multi award-winning novelist, playwright and journalist. Born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in 1955, he studied at University College Dublin and later worked as a journalist for In Dublin, Hibernia and The Sunday Tribune, becoming features editor of In Dublin and editor of Magill.

He lived in Barcelona between 1975 and 1978 and during the 1980s he travelled extensively in Africa and South America. The Trial of the Generals chronicles his journalism from the 1980s. His other journalism and travel writing includes Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border and The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe.

His novels include The Master, which won the Dublin IMPAC Prize; The Blackwater Lightship, which was shortlisted for both the IMPAC and the Booker Prize and made into a film with Angela Landsbury; and Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year. His recent novel The Testament of Mary was adapted for stage and was nominated for three Tony Awards.

Colm shared a few thoughts with us last week:

The MasterJG.  You have been president of Listowel Writers’ Week for seven years now. What does the role involve?

CT.  I do everything I can to make the event as successful as it is. But this is very little compared to the committee and the people who work all year round.

JG.  What do you value most about the festival?

CT.  It takes writing and reading as something which belongs to everyone; it also treats writing as something miraculous and special.

JG.  What are you hopes and fears for the future of the arts in Ireland in the coming years?

CT.  I think you need a government which believes that reading and theatre, visual art and music are essential parts ofBrooklyn our lives.

JG   If you had a choice of inviting any writer – living or dead – to the festival, who would it be and why?

CT. George Eliot. I think she would love North Kerry.

JG. In what ways do you think migration has affected contemporary Irish literature?

CT. It is hard to write a novel when you are in a foreign country looking for a job.

JG.  What propels you to write? Do you find it easy or difficult?

CT.  It is easier than working in a strawberry canning factory, or picking strawberries in a field. And I know.  What propels? Often, something which has been like an idea becomes rhythm and you write down a sentence. That is how it begins. Then you must work.

The Testament of MaryJG.  Do you use computer or quill?

CT.  I use a pen with ink. Later, I use a computer.

JG. What contemporary writers do you enjoy reading?

CT.  I like David Malouf, Alice Munro, John Banville.

JG. What advice would you give to our emerging writers here at Listowel Writers’ Week?

CT.  Finish everything you start.

For more information or to book Colm Tóibin’s events please click the following links:


Migration Forum

Leave a comment