The Irish Times

The best of British?


Sir, – I do not understand how Fintan O’Toole (“100 best British novels”, December 8th) can maintain that CS Lewis, Iris Murdoch or Elizabeth Bowen are not British. Clearly all were born on the island of Ireland but their cultural arenas, citizenshi­p and arguably national loyalties spanned both islands. Indeed, surely it is precisely that very duality which in different ways shaped each as writers? There has recently been an effort to “claim for Ireland” various Anglo-Irish artists and writers (for example, Eileen Gray), many of whom never had anything to do with a separatist Irish state or cultural Irish nationalis­m. Maybe this reflects an awareness of how unwelcome these individual­s might have been had they stayed in Ireland (and not just for their art). But I do suggest it misses a point, and refusal to admit a British dimension feels more like a manifestat­ion of old-fashioned cultural irredentis­m than a generous inclusiven­ess. – Yours, etc, IAIN McKERROW, Walthamsto­w, London.

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