The Cuirt Festival, Galway, Ireland

   If you’re ever in Ireland the latter half of April, you ought to visit Galway and the Cuirt International Festival of Literature.The festival, which begins on the 21st this year, is six days of events, mostly readings by poets and writers, but also some interviews, panel discussions, a lecture or two, book and magazine launches, a nightly play, youth events and poetry slams. There are also numerous literature-inspired  events in dance, theatre, music and film, more abundant this year than in the past.

   Some of the writers who’ll attend this year are Joseph O’Neill (author of  Netherland), the Pakistani-born Nadeem Islam, author of  Maps for Lovers, the American poets Jane Hirshfield and Philip Schultz, Ma Jian, whose novel Beijing Coma will appear in the U.S. in early June, short story writer Claire Keegan, Colm Toibin, Louis De Bernieres, Sana Krasikov, and Thomas Lynch.

   About fifty writers in all will take part, as well as numerous performers.The festival is truly international, but at the same time has an intimate feel and a very enjoyable social dimension.  For one thing, many of the writers don’t just touch down for a few hours on either side of their reading–though some do; they tend to hang around for a few days. You may find yourself sitting next to J. M. Coetzee at a poetry reading, engaged in conversation with Ian McEwan at the late-night festival bar, or shopping next to Annie Proulx at the Saturday street market.  The small, lively city of Galway is the perfect setting for it all.

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