Tonight I read something and it made me smile, because on reading it I knew it would have really got the Irish going. What did I read? I read this 20 best British and Irish novels of all time. Why you may wonder would that upset a nation, well when it was first printed it read “British novels” with no reference to “Irish novels”. Listed were James Joyce, Flann O Brien and John Banville, all very fine, famous, well known Irish writers.
Now there is nothing gets the Irish going faster than hearing of an Irishman being claimed by the British. It happens regularly and without fail it unites the nation.
Each year around the time of the Oscars, or BAFTAs we listen intently, waiting to take umbridge as our countrymen are “stolen”. The same is true during major sporting achievements, although this becomes a little more complicated as some of those who compete, such as Rory McIlroy in golf, come from northern Ireland, and declare themselves for Britain.
Despite our new polite and increasingly friendly relations between our two nations, including last weeks visit by our President to the British Queen, do not be fooled. Beneath the surface the Irish still have a “thing” against the British, most particularly the English. A rivalry and a will to beat them, and I have no doubt for some who live in England the feeling is mutual.
Our modern relationship is complicated. We watch British television constantly, English is now our first language, many follow the young royals, British football teams, and many more move to Britain for work and are more than happy to stay there for many years or forever. Yet if the Irish team are competing in any sport, soccer, rugby, tiddly winks, whatever against England, the nation are as one in a giant Ireland v England moment.
So today when the Telegraph gave credit to three books placing them within the top twenty “British” novels of all time the country was suitably incensed. Old rivalries were relived and the country slipped into the old Us v Them mentality. How dare they?
Twitter went into meltdown and The Telegraph changed their title to read “20 best British and Irish novels of all time”.
That’s great all sorted you say. Wrong. Now the Irish want to know if it is the best British AND Irish novels how come they only chose three Irish novels?
You just can’t win against the Irish!