This month, GCN returns to the Dublin International Literature Festival for a very special Town Hall Talk featuring our editor Brian Finnegan in conversation with Jamie O’Neill, author of the Irish queer epic, At Swim Two Boys.
Set in the year before the Rising, the book focuses on the intimate friendship between Jim Mack, the son of an ambitious shopkeeper, and Doyler Doyle, the son of an old army buddy of Mr Mack. The boys make a pledge to swim from the Forty Foot to the nearby Muglins Rock on Easter Sunday 1916, as the political landscape of the nation changes forever. (MacMurrough, a gentleman returned from England after two years’ hard labour, provides wit and a window to the harsh realities of the world beyond the cosy confines of Glasthule.)
A novel ten years in the writing, it’s a hugely atmospheric and deeply impressive work more than a little reminiscent of Joyce, and placing a gay romance at the heart of the most ‘sacred’ era of Irish nationalism remains a potent, subversive touch.
Twenty-five years on, the canon of Irish LGBT+ literature may still be a work in progress, but what’s not in doubt is the central place At Swim, Two Boys will always occupy in it.
Jamie O’Neill will be in conversation about ‘At Swim Two Boys’ with Brian Finnegan at Belvedere House, Saturday May 19 at 7pm, tickets €8/5 from www.ilfdublin.com