Hubert Butler (1900–1991), Kilkenny man-of-letters, remains a largely undiscovered treasure of Irish literature. Proud of his Protestant heritage while still deeply committed to the Irish nation, he sought in his life and writing to ensure that Ireland would grow into an open and pluralistic society. His four volumes of essays are masterful literature in the tradition of Swift, Yeats and Shaw, elegant and humane readings of Irish and European history, and ultimately hopeful testimony to human progress. To commemorate Butler’s life and writing, Dublin Writers Festival presents a series of three panel discussions focusing on different aspects of Butler’s work.
Widely travelled, Butler wrote on a wide variety of subjects concerning his experience of the Balkans, much of which remains deeply relevant to the recent history of the region. In the third and final discussion in our series, the poet Chris Agee, journalist, columnist, essayist, novelist and former religious, Drago Pilsel and founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Lilliput Press, Antony Farrell will discuss Butler’s extraordinary Balkan essays. N.B. Due to unforeseen circumstances Allan Little & Slavenka Drakulić are no longer appearing at this event.
Antony Farrell was born in 1950 and took a degree in history at Trinity College, Dublin. He is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Lilliput Press, Ireland’s leading independent publisher, with over 500 titles since 1986. The Lilliput Press was founded partly to publish Butler’s work, and Farrell personally edited the first editions of all four of Butler’s celebrated volumes. A fifth collection of Butler’s essays, The Appleman and the Poet, also edited by Farrell, will be published by The Lilliput Press in the autumn of 2013.
A journalist, columnist, essayist, novelist and former religious, Drago Pilser was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1962, to a family of Croatian political refugees. He took degrees in engineering, journalism and politcal theology in both Argentina and Croatia. Since 1979 he has worked as a journalist, and joined the Franciscans in 1986, before returning to Croatia in 1989, as Yugoslavia began to disintegrate. He has written for a large number of newspapers and magazines both within and outside the Balkans, as well as for radio, TV and the Internet. In 1991, after his younger brother was killed in action in the Croatian Army and his own time in the army, he left the seminar and became a freelance journalist covering religious and international affairs. His autobiographical novel, Argentinean Story, describing the transformation of a young man who grew up in an Ustashe (Croatian fascist) family in Argentina after the Second World War, will be published this summer. Pilser is a well-known essayist on the Ustashe period in Croatia (1941-1945), during which the fascist Quisling regime of Ante Pavelić was established by the Nazis and Italian fascists. Like Hubert Butler at an earlier period, he has focussed specifically on the collaboration of the Catholic Church and, in particular, Archbishop Stepinac during the Ustashe period. He has also written extensively on the Tito period; the war crimes committed by Croats during the break-up of Yugoslavia (1991-1995); and other human rights and ethical issues. Pilser’s grandfather was a friend of Pavelić in Buenos Aires (where many Croatian fascists fled) and his father (who is still alive) was one of Pavelic’s bodyguards when he was 20. Drago Pilser is now one of the leaders of the Antifascist Federation in Croatia and served as an analyst on the campaign team of the current President of Croatia, Ivo Josipović
Chris Agee is the Editor of Irish Pages, and the author of three collections of poems, most recently Next to Nothing (Salt, 2009), shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, funded by the Poet Laureate. He has edited Scar on the Stone: Contemporary Poetry from Bosnia (Bloodaxe, 1998, Poetry Society Recommendation) and Unfinished Ireland: Essays on Hubert Butler (Irish Pages, 2003) A Bosnian translation of Next to Nothing, Gotovo Ništa (Buybook, Sarajevo), appeared in 2011. He is currently completing a collection of essays, Journey to Bosnia, and reviews regularly for The Irish Times. He holds dual Irish and American citizenship, and spends part of each year at his house on Korčula, near Dubrovnik, in Croatia.