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‘London Irish Fictions’ with John Healy and Tony Murray

Guests discuss the Irish migrant experience of the capital in literature, with Healey discussing his celebrated autobiography The Grass Arena.


‘London Irish Fictions’
with John Healy and Tony Murray

Wednesday 30th July, 7pm
Entry £3, redeemable against any purchase

Tony Murray’s ‘London Irish Fictions’ is the first book about the literature of the Irish in London. By examining over 30 novels, short stories and autobiographies set in London since the Second World War, Murray investigates the complex psychological landscapes of belonging and cultural allegiance found in these unique and intensely personal perspectives on the Irish experience of migration. As well as bringing new research to bear on the work of established Irish writers, this study reveals a fascinating and hitherto unexplored literature, diverse in form and content.

Among the works studied in Murray’s book is John Healy’s unflinchingly honest autobiography ‘The Grass Arena’, in which he describes his experiences of addiction, his escape through learning to play chess in prison, and his ongoing search for peace of mind. It won the 1989 J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography and is now published as a Penguin Classic.

Healy recounts his fifteen years living rough in London without state aid, when begging carried an automatic three-year prison sentence and vagrant alcoholics prowled the parks and streets in search of drink or prey. When not united in their common aim of acquiring alcohol, winos sometimes murdered one another over prostitutes or a bottle, or the begging of money. Few modern writers have managed to match Healy's power to refine from the brutal destructive condition of the chronic alcoholic a story so compelling it is beyond comparison.

John Healy is also the author of ‘Streets Above Us’ and ‘Coffeehouse Chess Tactics’. A documentary about Healy's life and work, ‘Barbaric Genius’, premiered at the Dublin International Film Festival in 2011.

Tony Murray is Director of the Irish Studies Centre at London Metropolitan University.

This event is part of Housmans' 'London's Burning' season, which explores the capital's radical past, present and future.

Praise for ‘The Grass Arena’:

‘Terrific’ - Harold Pinter
‘A masterpiece’ - Irvine Welsh
‘Beside it, a book like Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London seems like a rather inaccurate tourist guide' – Professor Colin McCabe


Dr Tony Murray | talks
John Healy | talks


Date and Time:

30 July 2014 at 7:00 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



Housmans Bookshop
5 Caledonian Road
King’s Cross
N1 9DX
020 7837 4473

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Entry £3, redeemable against any purchase

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Additional Information:

We're very easy to find - just a two minute walk from King's Cross/St.Pancras terminals. Housmans is at the bottom end of Caledonian Road where it meets with Pentonville Road. If you have any problems finding us, give us a call!

020 7837 4473

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