Stories Create Realities

Frank Delaney

     ... novelist and former BBC journalist. Born in Tipperary, Ireland, Mr. Delaney has written a novel bearing the name of his hometown, building further on his best-seller Ireland in providing fictional entré into the rich culture, history and current realities of the Emerald Isle. Among his 20 books, he debuted his non-fiction in the U.S. with Simple Courage. In addition to having gained fame in the U.K. during his broadcasting career, he is a judge for the Booker Prize, and writes frequently for American and British publications. He has made the U.S. his home since 2002.

Audio Preview of Frank Delaney
Conversation 1 RealAudio1:53             


The Luck of the Irish is mercurial and not luck at all, says Irish storyteller Frank Delaney who was a distinguished BBC journalist. “It’s based entirely on the fact that we’re Celts, an ancient European tribe capable of something that almost no other race has ever been able to do -- we can hold utterly opposite beliefs simultaneously.

“That's how we make our life. We are unique in that history is usually written by the winners. In Ireland, it was written better by the losers. For the many years when we Irish were oppressed, we told ourselves our own history. We kept going in the underground, in service of the old narrative tradition. That's where we got our power from, our psychic power, this tiny island.

“I've never been to university, and my English friends always say to me, ‘If you had gone to Oxford or Cambridge, they would have put you in channels.’ In Ireland you can't do that to us. We are much too free and unfettered. That's ultimately why we become such a great model for democracy. When you allow the mind unfettered imagination, then you are ‘the legislator of the Law of Unintended Consequences’ -- LUC.

“Luck is also unexpected collisions and the Irish are always fusing. Things are always breaking off each other. When I was writing Tipperary, I refused to believe that people would not go on rebelling and having revolutions.

“When the hero is born in the year 1860 -- which is when the modern era we know today begins -- 85% of the land is owned by 15% of the people. The native people who had been on this island for three, four or five thousand years were completely dispossessed in order for a Protestant monarch to provide for a Protestant people. Perfectly understandable politically, but not understandable democratically.”

Mr. Delaney sees the process of democratization taking many forms and going on and on.

“If you want to see how that happened over the ages, the centuries, Ireland is a terrific model,” he says, remembering how startled he was when he settled in the United States in 2002.

“I'm astounded by your timidity. Astounded. I've always loved coming here. I love Americans. I love the fact that you can see the trace elements of so many cultures in this culture. It’s like a mineral discovery and it’s marvelous.”

So what’s missing?

“In the United States, there is a serious absence of people power. You're not pushing back enough. You're not saying, ‘Hey! This is my right!’ I see it in small towns, but I don't see it nationally.

“I can anticipate a revolution in the United States that is based entirely on a new kind of democracy -- the democracy of the right to have something, to carve into the pie. This is not socialism. This is not communist. This is nothing like those things. But there are now super rich people and by comparison therefore super poor people. It has gone completely out of balance.

“Now, in Ireland, you damn well let them know, ‘This is not good enough.’ America has not been doing that. And it can. America only has to find that within itself if it wants to be the greatest nation on earth. You make your own luck.”


[This Program was recorded June 28, 2008, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.]

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Mr. Delaney embodied the charms and wit o’ the Irish on the day he joined us. We admire the grace with which he embraced adversity and transformed it into an act of kindness. It is our pleasure to be counted among his many admirers and friends.

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Tipperary is published by Random House; Ireland is published by Harper Collins.

Another native of Ireland, Gerry Adams, sees Irish history in much the same way as Mr. Delaney.

In an oddly parallel way, Aminatta Forna has documented a people's struggle for freedom (Sierra Leon) and crafted a novel from that experience.


And, here's a little background information on Paula Gordon and Bill Russell, the Program co-hosts.


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