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We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland

Fintan O’Toole, English and Lewis Center for the Arts Fintan O'Toole, Lewis Center for the Arts

April 14, 2022 · 6:00 pm7:00 pm · Labyrinth Books and Livestream

Labyrinth Books; Humanities Council
Image of Fintan O'Toole

Join us for a discussion of a celebrated Irish writers magisterial, brilliantly insightful chronicle of the wrenching transformations that dragged his homeland into the modern world.

This event is planned as a hybrid event with a vaccinated, masked, and distanced audience at Labyrinth and an online streaming option here.

Fintan O’Toole was born in the year the revolution began. It was 1958, and the Irish government, in despair because all the young people were leaving, opened the country to foreign investment and popular culture. So began a decades-long, ongoing experiment with Irish national identity. In We Dont Know Ourselves, OToole, one of the Anglophone worlds most consummate stylists, weaves his own experiences into Irish social, cultural, and economic change, showing how Ireland has gone from a reactionary backwater to an almost totally open society.

Born to a working-class family in the Dublin suburbs, O’Toole served as an altar boy and attended a Christian Brothers school, much as his forebears did. He was enthralled by American Westerns suddenly appearing on Irish television. O’Toole narrates the once unthinkable collapse of the all-powerful Catholic Church, brought down by scandal and by the activism of ordinary Irish, women in particular. He relates the horrific violence of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which led most Irish to reject violent nationalism. In O’Tooles telling, America became a lodestar, from John F. Kennedys 1963 visit to the emergence of the Irish technology sector in the late 1990s, driven by American corporations, which set Ireland on the path toward particular disaster during the 2008 financial crisis.

A remarkably compassionate yet exacting observer, O’Toole captures the peculiar Irish habit of deliberate unknowing, which allowed myths of national greatness to persist even as the foundations were crumbling. Forty years in the making, We Dont Know Ourselves is a landmark work, a memoir and a national history that ultimately reveals how the two modes are entwined for all of us.

Fintan O’Toole is a columnist for the Irish Times and a professor at Princeton University. He is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and the Guardian. The most recent of his many, celebrated books are Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks; Judging Shaw; Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain; and The Politics of Pain: Postwar England and the Rise of Nationalism.

This event is cosponsored by Princeton University’s Humanities Council.

Free and open to the public. However, donations in any amount are greatly appreciated and directly support Labyrinths events programming

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