Museum Week – Enda O’Brien

It’s the fourth day of Museum Week, a 7 day online celebration of museums, galleries and cultural institutions around the globe. This year’s theme is ‘Women in Culture’, and over the 7 days a different lifestyle topic will be used to explore and expand upon this year’s theme. Today the focus is on stories, something we cover in great detail in the Storytelling gallery at our museum. Follow the discussions as part of Museum Week online and on social media with the hashtags #WomenMW and #StoriesMW.

To write openly about sexuality or religion in the Ireland of 1960 was risky, yet undoubtedly brave – and Edna O’Brien embodies these qualities. O’Brien, featured in our ‘Storytelling’ gallery, was born in Tuamgraney, County Clare, and has lived in London for over sixty years.

A short-story writer, screenwriter and novelist, her writings depict the struggle of the modern woman, notably in the hands of a strict and traditional society. Like many other now-famous Irish writers of the era, O’Brien’s novels were initially banned. Her debut novel and first of a trilogy, The Country Girls, examines women coming to terms with the realities of everyday life in an often backward Irish society, and of course – sex. Her novels boldly comment on the often isolated existence women face, discriminatory gender roles, and the frequently unjust shackles of religion and marriage that have harmed women physically and emotionally.

WATCH: Edna O’Brien being interviewed on how “exile and separation” helped her as a writer.

O’Brien received harsh criticism, particularly in the mid-20th century, but has faced her critics with her trademark wry wit. O’Brien has won many prestigious awards including the 1962 Kingsley Amis Award for The Country Girls and in 2006, the Ulysses Medal (University College Dublin).

Catch up on our special blog series for Museum Week. Read our first article on Isabella McDougall here, our second piece on Sarah Durack here, and our third piece on Marie Narell here.