World Writers' Festival 2015: Edna O'Brien

Three hundred people turned out to hear Dame Edna O’Brien, hailed as one of Ireland’s greatest living writers, in the moonlit gardens of the Irish Cultural Center on Saturday night. Eighty-four year old O’Brien, an engaging story-teller, had the crowd laughing as she described anecdotes from her early years as a writer, some of which feature in her 2012 memoir, A Country Girl.

September 28, 2015

When asked if she would want her mother to read her autobiography, including the more scandalous bits, she replied, “yes, but only in the hereafter.”

She then went on to explain how she had sent her mother a copy of her first book, The Country Girlʼ, which caused an uproar in Ireland when it was published in the 1960s because it spoke frankly about young girls’ sexual desire and their need to break free of their overbearing Catholic upbringing. Years later, O’Brien found the copy amongst her mother’s things and, looking inside, saw that her mother had crossed out “every offending word.”

“Can you imagine the patience and, yes, the suffering that was required to do that?” she asked.

The book so scandalized her local community that she was accosted by her hometown postmistress, who told her that she ought to be kicked out in the streets naked. “I almost got up the courage to ask her, why naked?” O’Brien remembered.