Enda O’Brien Takes New York

Edna O'Brien and Robert Ford.

By Irish America Staff
December / January 2020

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Fresh on the heels of her success with her latest book, Girl, Edna O’Brien was at Symphony Space for an evening of tributes and a one-on-one interview with Robert Ford, the American novelist and short-story writer. A host of authors and actors, including Gina Apostol (Insurrecto), Maeve Higgins  (Maeve in America), Zainab Jah (Deep State),  Aedín Moloney  (Yes! Reflections of Molly Bloom), paid homage and read selections from some of O’Brien’s most celebrated works. O’Brien’s 20th novel, Girl, released in the U.S. in October, is set in Nigeria during the reign of terror of the Islamist insurgency group Boko Haram, and has as its focus the fictional story of one of the girls, Maryam. O’Brien spoke about her research, how she had to abandon her own landscape and comfort level and reimagine herself thoroughly to bring the work to fruition. O’Brien, at 88, is a warrior queen. On stage she’s regal. When she speaks, there is not a sound from the audience – her voice still has the cadences of Clare, and Clare is nothing if it’s not music. She engaging and succinct in her answers, plays up her foibles, explaining that she’s “nervous,” and can be “difficult,” and thought that perhaps the nuns she stayed with in Nigeria were surprised that she could produce a book. It was an unforgettable evening, and one felt privileged to be there.

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