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Saturday, 20 December 2008

Conor Cruise O'Brien Has Died

Sad news. Conor Cruise O'Brien - writer, historian, public intellectual, and politician, has died. In some ways, it seems fitting (if nonetheless unwelcome) that his death should coincide with the 400th anniversary of Milton's birth, for O'Brien loved Milton, particularly Paradise Lost.

I have a great memory of spending New Year's Day morning with him, about a decade ago, at a lovely castle in Ireland, reading from that epic poem, with him, his wife the poet, and one of his sons. It remains one of the highlights of my life, to have been welcomed in to his circle of celebration.

A decade before, I had enjoyed his essays, especially on Yeats. His controversial literary opinions included a critique of Yeats as nationalist which profoundly questioned that poet's (quasi-fascist) role as Irish public man. Ireland has lost a troubling, problematic, great figure.
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