Independent Spirit: Essays

Overview

Independent Spirit introduces to American readers the work of Hubert Butler (1900-91), a writer of uncommon elegance and power, whose essays on an amazing range of subjects are gathered here for the first time in the United States. Born to an Anglo-Irish Protestant family which had lived in Kilkenny from the twelfth century, Butler was passionately devoted to the cause of Irish political and cultural independence. An astute, intrepid international observer as well as a canny writer about his own country, he ...
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Overview

Independent Spirit introduces to American readers the work of Hubert Butler (1900-91), a writer of uncommon elegance and power, whose essays on an amazing range of subjects are gathered here for the first time in the United States. Born to an Anglo-Irish Protestant family which had lived in Kilkenny from the twelfth century, Butler was passionately devoted to the cause of Irish political and cultural independence. An astute, intrepid international observer as well as a canny writer about his own country, he taught English in Leningrad on the morrow of the Revolution, worked in Vienna for the liberation of Austrian Jews after the Anschluss, investigated the deportation of four thousand children in Vichy France, and exposed the Vatican's complicity in a campaign to forcibly convert Orthodox Serbs in Catholic Croatia. His essays on these and other dramas of modern history are small masterpieces, and so are his considerations of Irish history and Irish writers; of English and American literature; of fascist and anti-fascist politics before, during, and after the war; of life in Riga and in Zagreb; of the tone and meaning of country life in the corner of Ireland he called home. Independent Spirit also includes Butler's masterful explorations of the moral and political issues embedded in decisions about abortion and euthanasia. Throughout, Butler's prose exhibits the precision, beauty, and bold originality of a rare European master.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Perhaps because of his "hiberno-centeredness," Butler (1900-90) is not as well known outside Ireland as he deserves. These insightful essays, originally appearing in Irish publications from 1930 to 1988, cover such topics as literature, life in rural Ireland, and the politics of Russia and Yugoslavia. The common thread, the Anglo-Irish author maintains, is that even when he is writing about the continent, his subject is really the Ireland in which he lived throughout his life. Thus, the Irish countryside becomes a microcosm for the world at large, and parallels are notedfor example, Croatia is called the "Ulster of Yugoslavia." As a teacher of English in eastern Europe in the prewar days, Butler was an eyewitness to events that continue to shape history. Of particular interest are such essays as "Peter's Window," an account of life in Leningrad during the 1930s. His descriptions of everyday life are sometimes reminiscent of J.M. Synge. The volume is well footnoted with explanations of unfamiliar terms and includes cross references to related essays. Highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.Denise J. Stankovics, Rockville P.L., Vernon, Ct.
Kirkus Reviews
Posthumous but prescient historical, autobiographical, and literary essays from an Irish writer only now receiving his due.

Uncategorizeable Butler (190191) was a passionate Irish nationalist but also a steadfast Anglo-Irish Protestant, a cosmopolitan who lived in Soviet Russia, pre-Anschluss Austria, and Yugoslavia and wrote with rare insight about these lands yet maintained that everything he wrote was ultimately about Ireland, a vigorous essayist, and a scholar with diverse interests in local history, provincial archaeology, literature, and politics. Butler's penetrating, determinedly nonideological essays on European politics and the complex relationship of Ireland and England earned him a reputation as a writer with an Orwellian political conscience and a Swiftian sense of indignation. But he also had a rare gift for communicating his enthusiasm for Irish history. In reminiscences and essays on his native Kilkenny County, he writes with vigor about the Protestant "descendancy" in Ireland following the Easter rebellion and the Irish civil war. Butler never excused his fellow Anglo-Irish for choosing exile in England or insular nostalgia rather than an active involvement in Irish affairs. Butler was deeply involved in Irish affairs, but his most difficult moments were caused by his exposure of the Zagreb Catholic archbishop Stepinac's complicity during WW II with the Croatian war criminal Pavelitch and his regime's bloody attempt to compel Greek Orthodox villagers to convert to the Roman Catholic faith. Butler's efforts to document his charges against a popular church figure, in a fervently Roman Catholic nation, caused a scandal that forced him into private life.

Displaying lucidity, incisiveness, and uncompromising ethical sense, these essays demonstrate that Butler, whether he was writing about his own life, recent events, local history, or modern Irish writers, was above all, as Joseph Brodsky described him, a "dishonesty hunter," determined to locate the truth and speak it, without fear or favor.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374175511
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 11/1/1996
  • Pages: 588
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.38 (h) x 1.88 (d)

Table of Contents

Editor's Preface
Introduction 3
A Fragment of Autobiography 15
Henry and Frances 26
Beside the Nore 35
Aunt Harriet 42
The Auction 52
The Deserted Sun Palace 63
A Visit to Hesse and Some Thoughts About Princes 80
The Bell: An Anglo-Irish View 85
Crossing the Border 91
Divided Loyalties 96
Wolfe Tone and the Common Name of Irishman 104
Grandmother and Wolfe Tone 124
New Geneva in Waterford 132
Down the Parade 139
Three Friends 147
Boycott Village 157
The Eggman and the Fairies 168
Abortion 180
Saints, Scholars and Civil Servants 190
Boucher de Perthes: The Father of Prehistory 198
The Decay of Archaeology 209
Influenza in Aran 230
Maria Edgeworth 244
Irish Literature 254
Topical Thoughts on Shaw 260
Leavis on Lawrence 268
Two Critics 271
Ernest Renan: The Statue and the Calvary 281
Peter and Paul 289
Materialism Without Marx: A Study of Chekhov 294
Leonid Leonov 302
Riga Strand in 1930 307
Peter's Window 316
Mr. Pfeffer of Sarajevo 348
Carl von Ossietzky 360
The Kagran Gruppe 364
The Invader Wore Slippers 375
In the Adriatic 385
The Last Izmirenje 413
Report on Yugoslavia 422
Yugoslavia: The Cultural Background 434
Yugoslav Papers: The Church and Its Opponents 447
The Sub-Prefect Should Have Held His Tongue 452
The Artukovitch File 465
In Russia and China 488
The Children of Drancy 515
The Writer as Independent Spirit 526
Little K 531
Note on Sources 569
Index 573
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