The themes found in the work of Irish author Colm Tóibín are well known to his readers. They are often related to subjects we associate with Ireland — emigration, identity in terms of Catholicism and Protestantism, a focus on familial relationships, and struggles with sexuality, especially homosexuality. Many of his characters deal with loss, that of place or a loved one. Yet it seems misleading to categorize him first and foremost as an Irish author. What he addresses is too universal, too complex for that. The tales frequently stray from Ireland, though there’s often an attachment, too. Eilis Lacey in Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn — born, like the author, in County Wexford — emigrates to the U.S. at her sister’s urging. (Tóibín has homes in Ireland and New York.)
The author appears in discussion with literary journalist Michael Silverblatt, host of NPR’s Bookworm, on Wednesday, May 21, at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, in a Lannan Foundation Literary Series event. Sometimes, his works have little or nothing to do with Ireland. The Master follows American writer Henry James, a favorite Tóibín subject, out of his home country and across Europe. In The Story of the Night, Richard Garay, the son of a British woman, lives among a circle of Italian and American friends in Argentina. That book is largely about the denial of things apparent — whether a political situation or one’s own identity.