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In his essay about the life of Irish writer John McGahern, Tóibín reveals the tones of melancholy and amusement within both art and the artist. In his extraordinary essay on his cancer diagnosis, Tóibín unpicks the word 'battle', and illuminates the distress as well, the horror and the blankness of his experiences. From the shades of light and dark in a Venice without tourists, to the streets of Buenos Aires riddled with disappearances and tied up with dictators and politics, we find ourselves considering law and religion in Ireland as well as in Marilynn Robinson's fiction.
A Guest at the Feast reveals the places where politics and poetics meet, where life and fiction overlap, where one can be inside writing and also outside of it. The imprint of the written word on the private self, as Tóibín himself remarks, is extraordinarily powerful. In this collection, that power is gloriously alive, illuminating history and literature, politics and power, family and the self.