Tag-Archive for ◊ moralist ◊

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• Wednesday, March 04th, 2009

Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in the South East of Ireland in 1955. His father who was a school teacher and a local historian, died when Toibin was twelve years old.

Colm Toibin is the second youngest of five children. He went to St Peter’s college in Wexford and later studied English and History at University College in Dublin. After graduating he left Ireland and taught English for four years in the Dublin School of English in Barcelona (Spain).

He went back to Ireland in 1979 and worked as a journalist at In Dublin, then at Magill magazine followed by the Sunday Independent in Dublin, was a contributor to Esquire, the London Review of Books, New Statsmen, The Times Literary Supplement and the Irish Review.

He has been visiting professor at Stanford University and The University of Texas in Austin. He also lectured at other universities, including Boston College and New York University. Colm Toibin lives and works in Dublin. He is one Ireland’s leading contemporary writers.

Toibin won several awards. He is the author of number of fiction and non-fiction works.
Fiction:
The South, 1990
The Heather Blazing, 1992
The Story of The Night, 1996
The Blackwater Lightship, 1999
The Master, 2004
Mothers and Sons, 2006.

He has also written ten non-fiction books and a play staged in Dublin in 2004 called: Beauty in a Broken Place.

Mothers and Sons is Toibin’s first collection of short stories. Three long stories and six short ones of which, eight stories are set in contemporary Ireland and the last one in a village in the Pyrenees in provincial Spain.

In his book the author describes the relationships forged between mothers and sons in their adulthood; the very fine unseen tie woven between them,their lack of communication and understanding with what it entails of heartbreak and sadness, despair, loneliness and sometime guilt. The author also tackles the problem of how to deal with one’s losses of a dear one.

Toibin succeeds in conveying with great sensitivity and melancholy, the psychology that shapes, each time differently, mother to son or son to mother. Whether the son is a professional thief, or faced with his estranged mother, or a paedophile priest, or sad over his mother’s death, or suffering from depression, or looking for her under the snow.

The nine stories, despite the book title which infers love and warmth, are all gloomy, unhappy and devoid of the cosy feeling that could be expected between mothers and sons. Instead there is the deep pain inflicted by sons on their mothers and the consequences of mothers’ behaviour on their sons, which combined with the harsh reality of life that each side is faced with, helps to create an isolation between the two sides.

Toibin’s choice of short stories, lack of landscape description, or any usage of flowery prose for this delicate subject is deliberate and most suitable. His way to make the readers feel the pain of the character, by keeping the intensity of the feeling which could have been easily lost in a long story.

Toibin’s description of endurance, separation and longing with such depth, shows a keen understanding of the complex human psychology and its frailty, which is movingly haunting and thought provoking.

The author didn’t impose himself as a moralist, in fact the reader is not sure who is the unscrupulous and who is the sympathetic character because of the palpable but unspoken emotions. All the stories are left without a classical ending intentionally. Toibin wanted to withhold the conclusion in order to confront his readers with a conflict,dramatise it and leave it at that.

Mothers and Sons is melancholic like all other Toibin’s novels. The answer of the author to that, is in one of his interviews, he says : “When I started out writing I would have considered myself to be quite happy. I’m not a sad boy, but the books are full of terrible melancholy. I’ve learned about it from writing the books. If I had known all this about myself before I started, I probably would have gone into serious therapy instead of writing.”

Toibin’s style of writing is pure and neat without being cold. Mothers and Sons continues to collect international acclaim.

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