The EFACIS Kaleidoscope Series engages with writers and artists from the island of Ireland about topical interests they may like to share with scholars and lovers of Irish literature and culture in the rest of Europe.
Kaleidoscope 1 collected fiction authors’ observations about the act of writing fiction. This resulted in the website https://kaleidoscope.efacis.eu/ which published original insights by 50 authors.
While EFACIS usually looks at Ireland from a European point of view Kaleidoscope 2 inverts the perspective: we asked Irish authors what Europe means to them. Forty-one contributors answered, sixteen men, twenty-five women; twenty from the South, eight from the North, six from the diaspora and seven who have roots in the North or abroad but tend to live in the South most of the time. The project is led by Anne Fogarty, Professor of James Joyce Studies at University College Dublin, Joachim Fischer, Jean Monnet Chair in European Culture (2019-2022) and Hedwig Schwall, project director of EFACIS.
There can be little doubt that Ireland’s integration in the EU will be considerably accelerated by both Brexit and the COVID-19 crisis. Irish writers may be particularly well placed to comment on the curious situation where English is the effective lingua franca of the EU but its native speakers only represent 1.5% of the EU population. Writers in Irish may have an entirely different take on this situation and on languages as carriers of culture.
In many EU member states, people vaguely know that the European Union is a good thing. This certainly appears to be the case in Ireland, where according to the latest Eurobarometer survey in Summer 2020 (no. 93) 71% of the population state that the EU evokes positive feelings (the highest percentage of all member states) and only 9% are negatively disposed towards it. In order to make this picture more precise we also asked the forty writers to illustrate more concretely how they experience Europe in Ireland and in which way it has changed Ireland (North and South) since 1973 when Ireland joined what was then the EEC. From March to June 2021 the authors’ texts will be published in alphabetical order in groups of five, so that every instalment of Europe in Ireland will alternate with the publication of the Irish Itinerary Podcast (https://www.efacis.eu/podcast), in which European scholars interview Irish authors.
These texts on Europe will be accompanied by the results of a survey we conducted with the writers by means of a questionnaire with more specific questions relating to the writers’ personal perception of the European Union and Ireland’s place within it, past, present, and future. A summary of their responses will also be published over the next few months.
Our sincere thanks go to the EFACIS board who supported the initiative; to Carlos Solis Reyes who is a most efficient and creative webmaster; to Jing Yun, intern of Cultural Studies at KU Leuven who did all the nitty-gritty work. We are especially grateful to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Embassy in Brussels who made the whole enterprise possible thanks to the grant from the Irish Government Emigrant Support Programme (ESP). Likewise we thank KU Leuven and the Irish College Leuven for the many ways in which they support EFACIS initiatives.