Tóibín reflects on the 'city of dreamers and chancers'
|Photograph: Bert Hardy|
In the autumn of 1974, I moved into a damp room at the back of the basement of one of two gaunt Victorian houses which stood on Upper Hatch Street, 10 minutes' walk away from here. They were the only houses on the street and were demolished in the early 1980s. My room was called the "garden flat" by the genteel landlady who lived upstairs and who often entertained her friends for drinks. There was a sink in the corridor in the basement and a toilet outside, but there was no bathroom. At night as I walked home from a pub or from the National Library, the street that led from Stephen's Green to Hatch Street was empty and desolate. These were the years before the National Concert Hall was constructed inside the shell of the old university building and when the Conrad Hotel had yet to be built. The university itself had moved to the suburbs, and the Harcourt Street train line, which had once run at the back of the house in Hatch Street, was also closed. It was not difficult to imagine that the city James Joyce wrote about in Dubliners was still in place, perhaps even more paralysed than he had ever imagined. The spirit of scrupulous meanness that he used in his prose was a spirit which a lone walker on those nights could sense as palpable and present. [Read More]Also at A Piece of Monologue: