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Time of her life: Edna O'Brien at 90

The great Edna O'Brien is celebrating a landmark birthday. Dónal Lynch looks back at her life and legacy, and the author explains that while love may have consumed her, it never harmed her writing - quite the opposite.

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'I do want to write one more thing, maybe two.,' says Edna on the eve of her 90th birthday. Picture by Ulf Andersen

'I do want to write one more thing, maybe two.,' says Edna on the eve of her 90th birthday. Picture by Ulf Andersen

Edna O’Brien and Ernest Gébler with their two children in 1961

Edna O’Brien and Ernest Gébler with their two children in 1961

Edna O'Brien

Edna O'Brien

Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O'Connor

Christine Dwyer Hickey

Christine Dwyer Hickey

Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry

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'I do want to write one more thing, maybe two.,' says Edna on the eve of her 90th birthday. Picture by Ulf Andersen

For a woman once famous for her parties, the public fanfare for Edna O'Brien's 90th will be muted. On Tuesday evening, she will preside over a guest list of ghosts. TS Eliot will be there, as will James Joyce, and Edna will take their hands and dance - or 'leap' as she puts it - through a talk, which will be beamed to an online audience around the world.

In spirit it will be light years from her legendary soirées of old, where Marlon Brando or Samuel Beckett might drop in, but, in one way, this bijou gathering makes perfect sense. Men - her father, her husband, her lovers - disappointed her, but, like reliable godparents, Joyce and Eliot were there at the crossroads of Edna's life.


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