Ireland `is too easy on its writers'

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The Independent Online
The Irish author of a new biography of Samuel Beckett said last night it was too easy to get published in Ireland, arguing that state subsidy and patronage was too generous.

Anthony Cronin, whose biography of Beckett has just been published, sounded a note at variance with the theme of the Frankfurt Book Fair, "Ireland and its Diaspora", and the address by Irish president, Mary Robinson.

The Irish participation at the fair the has more than doubled this year. The country where writing is occasionally called "the national affliction" was selected as the fair's focal theme and this encouraged 35 of the 60 publishing houses active in Ireland to attend, many of them for the first time.

Last night the poet, fiction writer, critic and biographer Anthony Cronin, told theIndependent there were three reasons why people were leaving Ireland: "Sunlight, booze and sex".

"You may think that in Ireland we have more booze than we know what to do with, but it's not true. Nice drinks in sunlight are different from nice drinks in a poky pub," he said.

"Sunlight still is a big draw. I suppose sex and booze are more available at home, but the combination of all three in a Mediterranean climate is a good thing."

In her opening speech the Irish President Mary Robinson made a special plea for writers. "I think we should remember that the individual writer is the source and the focus here, and that the writer's life and experience is not easy, is still not secure and still needs to be honoured and rewarded if we are to be certain of treasuring the energies and self- knowledge in our midst.

The book as an object, as a commercial venture, as a cultural opportunity loses all its resonance and meaning if we forget that" she said. The difficulty is, of course, that the world of publishing may seem to be infinitely convivial and public and festive.

"But the life of the writer is solitary and easily overlooked: we need to be careful not to make the first a distraction from the second."

But Mr Cronin, 68, begged to differ. "Maybe it's a bit too easy to be an Irish writer now," he said. "People now regard writing and artistic creation generally with a sort of approval which was certainly absent when I was growing up - and it's very very easy to be published."

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