Anne Enright is this year’s Gerson Irish Reader

Anne Enright won the won the Booker Prize for her book “The Gathering” in 2007. She read this year at the Gerson Irish Literature Reading. Photo by Rikka Ameboshi/Pexels.

The Irish Studies Alliance held its annual Gerson Irish Literature Reading event on March 30, 2023 in the University of Connecticut Alumni Center. This year’s reader was Booker Prize-winning Irish author Anne Enright. 

The reading began at 7 p.m. following a one hour reception in Enright’s honor. Attendees were treated to selections from Enright’s 2020 work “Actress: A Novel,” a story about Norah, a woman who narratively traces and examines her own life as she reckons with the legacy of her Irish theater star mother, Katherine O’Dell.  

Enright was introduced by UConn alum and United States Military Academy assistant professor Dr. Mollie Kervick. Kervick is an Irish studies scholar and her 2022 dissertation includes critical analysis of Enright’s work. She remarked on the author’s contribution to feminine voices in Irish literature and contemporary fiction as a whole.  

“Currently Irish women authors are holding the literary spotlight across the globe, and Ms. Enright has a lot to do with this,” Kervick said. “Her characters, especially the women, are honest; some are hilarious, some are broken and some are even happy. Her writing has opened up avenues for many fearless literary voices.” 

Enright mainly explores topics like motherhood, identity and love in her writing. Her oftentimes gritty portrayals of life offer little consolation, but her authentic voice continually draws readers to her work. This was Enright’s second time as Gerson Irish Literature honoree. In 2012 she was hosted alongside Colm Tóibín, Belinda McKeon and James Ryan under the theme “Mother and Daughter.”  

Enright also was invited to a Question and Answer where she spoke about events that influenced her as a writer. Photo By Victor/Pexels

During a question and answer session moderated by UConn English professor Mary Burke, Enright discussed the ways recent discourse on sexual abuse in professional settings culminating in national movements like “Me Too,” allowed her to speak more freely in her book “Actress.” 

“Then I kind of thought, well actually that means I don’t have to explain things to the reader anymore. I don’t have to say ‘By the way, this really does happen!’ So it didn’t have to have that extra bit of persuasion in there, it wasn’t necessary,” Enright said. “I could just let the events settle down into the text and just be.”  

When asked about accessing memories to write about the past, she talked about piecing together experiences from a variety of sources to craft her stories.  

“The thing about being a writer, and I’ve been a writer now for maybe 30 years, is that you spend a vast amount of time on your own. I’m not sure if there’s anything I haven’t hit on,” Enright said. “You’re gonna steal from your own life and life itself. You might take a usually very well hidden detail from someone else’s life; you know, I regularly steal people’s curtains.” 

Enright has authored many short stories and seven novels including the 2007 Booker prize winner “The Gathering.” Her forthcoming novel “The Wren, The Wren” is set to be released in September 2023.  

Since 1998 the Irish Studies Alliance has annually selected and hosted a distinguished Irish writer as the year’s Gerson Irish Literature reader. This year marked the event’s return since 2020’s cancellation due to COVID-19. The program honors UConn alum Elizabeth Shanley Gerson (BA ‘48, MA ‘78) and was sponsored by the Gerson Family Fund in collaboration with the Irish Studies and Creative Writing departments.   

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