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Ní Dhuibhne, Eilis

Ní DHUIBHNE, Eilis

Also writes as Elizabeth O'Hara. Nationality: Irish. Born: Eilis Deeney in Walkinstown, Dublin, 22 February 1954. Education: University College Dublin, Ireland, B.A. 1974, M. Phil. 1976, Ph.D. 1982. Family: Married Bo Almquist in 1982; two sons. Career: Folklore collector, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, 1978-80; assistant keeper, National Library, 1980-95; folklore lecturer, People's College, 1986-92; writer of books for children, 1990. Lives in Dublin. Awards: Listowel Poetry Award, 1985; Art Council Bursary, 1986; Bisto Merit Award, 1994; Bisto Book of the Year, 1995; Readers' Association of Ireland Overall Winner, 1995.

Publications

Novels

The Bray House. Dublin, Attic Press, 1990.

The Dancers Dancing. Belfast, Blackstaff Press, 1999.

Fiction (for children, as Elizabeth O'Hara)

The Uncommon Cormorant, illustrations by Carol Betera. Swords, County Dublin, Ireland, Poolbeg Press, 1990.

Hugo and the Sunshine Girl. Dublin, Poolbeg, 1991.

The Hiring Fair. Dublin, Poolbeg, 1993.

Blaeberry Sunday. Dublin, Poolbeg, 1994.

Singles. Dublin, Basement Press, 1994.

Penny-Farthing Sally. Dublin, Poolbeg, 1996.

Short Stories

Blood and Water. Dublin, Attic Press, 1988.

Eating Women Is Not Recommended. Dublin, Attic, 1991.

The Inland Ice and Other Stories. Belfast, Blackstaff Press, 1997.

Plays

Dún na mBan Trí Thine, Peacock Theatre, Dublin, 1994.

Other

Voices on the Wind: Women Poets of the Celtic Twilight. Dublin, NewIsland Books, 1995.

* * *

That Eilis Ní Dhuibhne's literary work is heavily influenced by Irish culture and mythology is not surprising when one considers that this prolific short story writer and novelist also has an M. Phil. in Medieval Studies and a Ph.D. in Irish Folklore. Born in Walkinstown, Dublin, in 1954, Ní Dhuibhne has found much in Ireland to sustain her as a writer, and Ireland in turn has recognized her contribution favorably. Since the publication of her first collection of short stories, Blood and Water, Ní Dhuibhne has received numerous prizes including the Bistro Book of the Year Award, the Readers' Association of Ireland Award, the Listowel Writers' Week award, the Stewart Parker Drama Award, and an Oireachtas award. Her most recent novel, The Dancers Dancing, was the first Irish novel ever shortlisted for the influential Orange Prize for Fiction. Nothing if not versatile, Ní Dhuibhne has also published academic articles on folklore, written a play, Dún na mBan Trí Thine, which was staged at Dublin's Peacock Theatre, and edited an anthology of women's poetry from the Irish Revival, Voices on the Wind. She has also published a number of very successful children's books under the pseudonym Elizabeth O'Hara.

In her creative work Ní Dhuibhne considers universal themes through the specificity of Irish life and culture, particularly as they impact the lives of women. Blood and Water explores the lives of a number of women as they attempt to negotiate the politics of a tumultuous outer world, more often than not reflected in their fractured personal lives. In almost every story the female protagonist must confront the personal desires she has suppressed in the face of larger social desires or expectations, and attempt to generate a livable solution. The Inland Ice and Other Stories continues to juxtapose the lives of various women in order to expose their commonalities, all the while weaving throughout the short stories a mythological tale of a woman in pursuit of lost love. By framing the stories of different female characters with a folktale quest of passion, love, and losswhich balances success, disillusionment, and wisdom in its conclusionNí Dhuibhne draws attention to the sacrifices women have often made in the pursuit of passion, and draws attention to the very gendered stakes of love. The Inland Ice and Other Stories further questions the roles women have historically been expected to play in relationships and events defined by patriarchal conventions, including the project of nation building.

For Ní Dhuibhne, the politics of Ireland are inseparable from the construction of gender, sex, and class, and she is not afraid to engage these issues critically. Nowhere is this more apparent than in her most recent novel, The Dancers Dancing, where she explores the impact of these tensions on the lives of teenage girls in 1970s Ireland. As a diverse group of girls study Irish language and culture, they also confront a different definition of Ireland, one that predates the political strife by which they have defined their nation, and in turn, been defined as women. Deeply committed to Irish culture, Ní Dhuibhne is also just as deeply committed to feminist politics. Ní Dhuibhne handles these themes however, with equal portions of wit, humor, and occasional fantastical elements, which render her writing accessible, original, entertaining, and never didactic. Currently Ní Dhuibhne is affirming her ongoing commitment to Irish culture by following her successful Irish language play Dún na mBan Trí Thine, with a collection of short stories written in Irish.

Jennifer Harris

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