Sebastian Barry on Dublin: ‘It was my town right enough’

The new laureate for Irish fiction recalls his first trips to the cinema, playing by the sea – and the adventure of beginning to make his own stories

In the beginning it was my own town right enough, but so ancient that memory had not even begun – a haunted flat overlooking St Stephen’s Green, a cot, and a big sister to protect me from as yet unnamed wolves and goblins. I remember dimly my grandfather taking me to the cinema in Grafton Street, and the old elegance of the bollards and sweeps of the city – still unmolested by the brutalist architects just graduating. The brown slouch of my grandfather’s trilby hat, his highly polished shoes. Mickey Mouse and Pluto dancing in the shadows.

Then a more remembered flat between the Grand Canal and my grandfather’s house in Donnybrook. Dartmouth Square, with its sycamore-shrouded green, and big old bells ...

Sebastian Barry: ‘Eventually, a serviceable first line is rendered from the heavens’

The author on divine inspiration, desk hunger and drink Let us talk about the ideal writing days, because the litany of days thrown to the wind by my main job of the last 20 years, taxi-driver to my three kids, is another story altogether. We live high up in the Wicklow mountains, not too far from the house of those very Bunburys mentioned by Ernest in Oscar Wilde’s play, as signifying a place far far from the city and nestling in a state of remote unavailability. So there was a lot of driving as well as writing. However, having to do something other than writing is very good for writing, I think. It creates that desk hunger. Those ideal days begin when I have managed to survive that awful waiting period with a novel when you are writing, but also crossing out crossly, beginning again, floundering, panicking, blushing in ...

The Chosen Ones by Steve Sem-Sandberg review – visions of wartime horror

Nothing is held back in this astonishing novel set during the Nazis’ programme of forced euthanasia for ill and disabled children At the end of this long, harrowing book, there is a brief image of a lonely, forgotten graveyard. On one of the graves stands “an angel on guard”. This is a terrifying novel but its angel on guard is its author, Steve Sem-Sandberg, a novelist girded for moral battle. His last book was the monumental The Emperor of Lies, set in the Łódź ghetto in Poland during the Nazi Holocaust, which won the August prize in his native Sweden. You don’t so much read Sem-Sandberg as stand in the fiery wind of his prose. He makes his reader strangely complicit in his terrible subjects. He does not offer that tattered lifebelt of “redemption” so often thrown to the modern reader, nor much space to rest your reading eyes; ...