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Five Novels Set in Dublin

By Visit Dublin

4th June 2019

Known rightfully as the cradle of modern fiction for raising such luminaries as Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and WB Yeats, Dublin continues to produce Booker-worthy, groundbreaking authors today. What's more, Dublin itself plays the muse to so many key works from its novelists – capturing the culture, society and everyday life of the city is a challenge in itself; a challenge many of Ireland’s best authors have taken up.

Take a walking tour of these authors’  Dublin and you'll find Ireland’s literary heritage seeping up through the streets. Literary tours, readings, book festivals and events celebrating Irish literature of all kinds dot the city weekly. Before you go looking for the next generation of ingenious Irish authors, read up on these five masters of the art...
Image of James Joyce lookalike on Bloomsday

James Joyce – Ulysses

If you've read Joyce's masterpiece, it's likely that you'll have your own imaginary impression for your time in Dublin. If you haven't, it's just as likely that Joyce's writings will play a part in how you experience the city during ​your stay. As the novelist's international following grows year on year, 21st century Dublin has fully embraced one of its most eminent sons, both in the annual Bloomsday festival and beyond. Joycean walking tours and events continue all year long, which is useful for slow readers who might need a year to actually get through the book itself. 

Flann O'Brien – At-Swim-Two-Birds

It took the world a long time to come around to the electric genius of Flann O'Brien's fiction. The posthumous cult success of The Third Policeman, though, has led to a wide revival of this experimental writer who perhaps most embodies Dublin humour. At-Swim-Two-Birds uses local landmarks (such as Grogan's pub, still popular with Flann-types to this day) amongst layers of fantasy and mythology.

Dublin Castle at night
Sheridan Le Fanu – The Cock And Anchor

Subtitled ‘a chronicle of old Dublin city’, gothic horror innovator Le Fanu's 1845 novel made an impact on both Joyce and Bram Stoker, evident in their great novels. Like all of the author's pieces, these are best read during late nights by low lamplight, as descriptions of Dublin Castle by night and other shady landmarks backdrop are still sinister enough to chill. And what's more, you can download it for free.

JP Donleavy – The Ginger Man

Once considered so raunchy it was banned both in Ireland and the USA, this novel from 1947 follows the hedonistic, hard-drinking life of an American student living in Dublin. The novel remains controversial for its portrayal of a truly dislikeable anti-hero, but even nay-sayers will admit that the glimpses of 40s Dublin seen through the narrative give a spirited, incisive account of the city at the time. 

Roddy Doyle – Paddy Clarke Ha-Ha-Ha

You might think a strong grasp of English will get you through your time in Dublin, but in truth, Dubliners speak something of a different language here. Roddy Doyle is a master of the colourful Dublin dialect and has been showcasing our colloquialisms to the world since his 1987 debut, The Van. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha remains his masterwork though, a Booker Prize-winning coming-of-age saga filled with a particularly Irish brand of tragedy to complement its inherently Dublin sense of humour.

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