Burns Library Adds to Its Irish Collection

(4-30-97) -- Boston College has obtained the collected works of prominent Irish writers Flann O'Brien and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, acquisitions which are expected to strengthen the University's international standing as a prime research center in the field of Irish Studies.

The O'Brien and Ni Dhomhnaill papers are the latest additions to the Irish Collection at the John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections, which houses works of poet William Butler Yeats and playwright Samuel Beckett, as well as thousands of rare books and manuscripts documenting Irish life from the late 1700s to the present.

"These acquisitions solidify our position as the premier repository in America for Irish research materials, while enhancing Boston College's place as a major research institution," said Burns Librarian Robert O'Neill, who negotiated the acquisitions.

The addition of the O'Brien and Ni Dhomhnaill papers also reflects the evolution of the University's Irish Studies Program, with its growing emphasis on Irish language as well as literature, music, history and art, O'Neill said. While the Irish Collection centers on writers in the Anglo-Irish tradition like Yeats and Beckett, O'Neill said, the O'Brien and Ni Dhomhnaill works are the library's first major acquisition of Gaelic-language Irish poets and writers.

Flann O'Brien was a pen name of Brian O'Nolan (1911-66), who earned critical acclaim for novels, as well as a long-running series of newspaper columns in The Irish Times. O'Brien was a prolific wordsmith in both English and Irish, O'Neill said, churning out novels, short stories, social satire, poetry and plays in the course of a 30-year career as a professional writer.

The O'Brien collection includes typed manuscripts, extensive correspondence and a library of more than 400 books and personal effects.

Ni Dhomhnaill, whose recent books include Pharaoh's Daughter and The Astrakhan Cloak, is widely considered one of Ireland's finest contemporary poets writing in the Irish language, and will serve as the Burns Library Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies during the 1998-99 academic year. The Ni Dhomhnaill collection includes drafts of poems, as well as copious notebooks on the Irish folklore from which her poems have often evolved.

Irish Studies Program faculty member Assoc. Prof. Philip O'Leary (English) called Ni Dhomhnaill "the most accomplished writer now working in the Irish language and is indeed one of the two or three most acclaimed Gaelic writers of this century.

"The acquisition of these papers makes Boston College a mecca for all interested in contemporary Gaelic writing and in contemporary Irish poetry in general," O'Leary said.

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