Creative writing students will have a rare opportunity to experience a masterclass with Man Booker prize winner Anne Enright this week as part of a new fellowship in UNSW Arts & Social Sciences.
The distinguished Irish writer, who won the 2007 Man Booker Prize for her novel The Gathering, is the inaugural Thomas Keneally Fellow and will meet creative writing students, deliver them a masterclass and appear at a public event on 31 May presented by Irish Studies at UNSW.
The Thomas Keneally Fellowship was created after the acclaimed Australian writer received an honorary doctorate from UNSW late in 2015 and pledged to fund a fellowship for an Irish writer to spend a week at UNSW.
Professor of Irish Studies Ronan McDonald says Enright’s name was one of many that were discussed as possible Fellows.
“I used some writer friends I know to see if there were any Irish writers coming to the Sydney Writers’ Festival,” he says. “Serendipitously, it turned out Anne was coming this year.”
McDonald was thrilled when Enright accepted the fellowship: “I wasn’t surprised but I was pleased,” he says. “It’s a rare opportunity for creative writing students to meet with a major contemporary novelist.”
On 31 May, McDonald will be in conversation with Enright for the public event Writer's Night with Anne Enright: ‘The Landscape Solution: Hurt and Healing in the Irish Countryside’.
Enright will read from some of her books, including The Gathering and her most recent novel The Green Road, as she discusses the Irish landscape and its connections to institutional abuse.
“Ireland was shocked recently by the discovery of child remains in an unmarked mass grave in a mother and child home in the west of Ireland, the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, County Galway,” McDonald says.
“There has also been a history of cover ups of sexual abuse in church-run schools and homes that have come to light in Ireland. These have prompted inquiries. So, the Irish situation resonates with the Australian Royal Commission.
“We hope this event might also echo with the themes of UNSW’s Inequality Grand Challenge.”
If the subject matter sounds grim, McDonald says Enright will ensure the evening is not all gloom.
“Anne is a very entertaining speaker. I expect some laughter and dark humour,” he says.
UNSW has a long tradition in Irish and Irish-Australian studies. Past public events include a public Q&A with former President of Ireland Dr Mary McAleese and several Bloomsday on Bondi celebrations. In 2014, the Irish Anzacs project was launched, with the aim of identifying all Irish-born enlistments in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the First World War and compiling a publicly accessible database containing information on each of them.
The Anne Enright event on 31 May is free but places are limited. Register here.