Dublin has so far had three Nobel Laureates in Literature.
James Joyce was not one of them.
Dubliners William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett were all honoured.
Alfred Bernhard Nobel, whose legacy is the Nobel Prizes, invented dynamite and was a major manufacturer of armaments. He left a few bob for peace prizes and the like, to be awarded in his name, after he was dead.
He was not from Dublin. James Joyce was.
William Butler Yeats was awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize for Literature: “for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.”
Yeats famously told a rioting audience, from the stage, at the Abbey Theatre’s 1926 production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars: “You have disgraced yourselves again. This is O’Casey’s apotheosis.”
Dubliners have disgraced themselves ever since, as opportunity arose.
George Bernard Shaw the 1925 winner received his Prize a year late, in 1926. For, during the selection process in 1925, the Nobel Committee decided that none of the year’s nominations met the criteria outlined in the will of Alfred Nobel.
Shaw therefore confusingly received his Nobel Prize for 1925 in 1926, for his work; which the Committee said is: “marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty.”
Samuel Beckett, the 1969 Nobel prize winner, was denounced as a “bawd and blasphemer” by Oliver St John Gogarty’s counsel when, in his 30s, the younger Beckett gave evidence on behalf of William Sinclair, his late uncle-by-marriage, in a libel case against Gogarty for words used about the uncle and his twin brother Harry Sinclair in Gogarty’s 1935, As I Was Going Down Sackville Street.
The book is described as a semi-fictional novel-memoir telling the story of Gogarty’s Dublin through a series of interconnected anecdotes and lively characters sketches. Gogarty lost.
He was ordered to pay £900 in damages, plus court costs.
Gogarty appears in a fictional guise of Buck Mulligan in the opening pages of Joyce’s 1922 Ulysses, a book about a day-in-the-life of Dublin.
Beckett worked as Joyce’s assistant in Paris in the late 1920s.
His Nobel citation read: “for his writing, which—in new forms for the novel and drama—in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation”.
Beckett was involved romantically with Lucia Joyce daughter of James for a while; but it came to nothing.
In 2013, the Irish Naval service declared that two new ships would be named the LE Samuel Beckett, (delivery 1914) and the LE James Joyce (delivery 1915).
They did not say if Yeats or Shaw would be so remembered.
Still, they got a medal off the fella that invented dynamite, so there was that.
Extract from a forthcoming book on Dublin by Brendan Nolan