Majestic But Marginalised


Sebastian Barry; Melatu Uche Okorie

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, the Laureate for Irish Fiction with the Arts Council of Ireland Sebastian Barry spoke about his Life Lines Book Club.

The book club initiative sees Mr Barry meet people who live in what the Irish Arts Council have termed “harder to reach settings”.

Mr Barry spoke about his experiences with the club and paid special tribute to This Hostel Life author Melatu Uche Okorie, who was born in Nigeria and came to Ireland, with her infant daughter, in 2006 seeking asylum.

They spent eight-and-a-half years in direct provision.

Speaking of the club, Mr Barry said:

“It just adds to my wondering sense that some of the most majestic people are these who seem to be in so-called marginalised places or their backs are against the wall.

“And when you go and see them, you know, as something as simple as a book club, to talk about a book, you find people in this really almost untoward state of grace.”

Speaking of how the club works, he said:

“…I have seven or eight novels, all sort of interconnected and they choose one of those to read.

“It’s often just a starting point for other more urgent and important things that people will talk about.

“But I will usually read from the book, just to give the birdsong of myself and the book.

“…And then they will respond to the book. But more often it’s a door into a sort of more brightly lit room of their lives and the things they know and the important information they have for me, actually.”

Mr Barry mentioned that next month he will be holding one of his book clubs with people who live in direct provision before he paid tribute to Ms Okorie.

He said:

“Having spoke to Melatu Uche Okorie last year, again, it brings to mind, it brings forcefully the issue to mind, the actual madness of direct provision.

“Because if you take Melatu for instance, I hope she doesn’t mind me speaking for her or about her.

“But there’s a woman now, one of our principle writers now – her opera has just opened a few nights ago and her book is being republished in England, ‘My Hostel Life’ it’s called.

“How long do you think it would take you or I to notice how amazing she was. I would say about two hours?

“But bureaucracy took eight years to notice how amazing she was. And how fit she was supposedly to be an Irish citizen.”

Listen back here in full.

Previously: ‘Lives Stunted By Purposelessness, Arcane Rules And Condescending Officiousness’

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6 thoughts on “Majestic But Marginalised

  1. eoin

    Who do you spend 8.5 years in direct provision, presumably between 2006 and 2015? Appeals and finally exhausting the legal system? On what basis can a Nigerian get international protection status in Ireland “, the five grounds are “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group and political opinion”.

    Also, can anyone find a book “My Hostel Life” by Melatu Uche Okorie?

    1. Jake38

      The lawyers need their beach houses so the appeals go on for ever and ever. And you’re paying for them.

    2. george

      If you read the post above you would see it is called “This Hostel Life”.
      The reason it takes so long is the system is completely inefficient.

      1. eoin

        Ah right, my mistake. “We [Fionnuala Cloke and Gráinne O’Toole] set up Skein Press to publish fresh and thought-provoking fiction that starts conversations. Our first title, This Hostel Life, by Nigerian author, Melatu Uche Okorie, was launched at the International Literature Festival Dublin on the 19th May”

        Did it sell many copies. Can’t find it on any sales charts.

        As for the direct provision system, in my opinion, it is completely weak because applications can drag on for years as applicants lodge endless appeals. The system for delivering decisions is reasonably efficient.

  2. Rob_G

    We should open the borders to all-comers on the off-chance that they are super librettists – righto, Seb.

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