I arrived on this island behind an island, according to the lapidary formula of George Bernard Shaw, almost at the same time as the three envoys of the Troika in September 2010. The context, course and horizon of my stay and diplomatic mission in Ireland were then fixed: in time of distress – historical, moral, economic – the poets are needed. Amid the economic and banking crisis, culture gives meaning to the people. Just as for France, ideas and poetry are an essential part of the Irish identity. Writing shapes that identity as it gives form to the traumas: war, religion, famine. Bankruptcy.
A few days later, as I was going to my office on Kildare Street, I saw this cement mixer emblazoned with the words Anglo Irish Bank; massive, immobile, no ghost driver at the wheel, which barred the entrance of the Dáil. The same picture on my phone was a day later on the front page of Le Monde. At the time, Colm Tóibín relayed the thoughts of his fellow countrymen that Ireland was feeling occupied again. Colonised by Europe. When I met him a few weeks later at the Pen Club where he was awarded the annual prize, he told me about other matters: New York, where he spends half his time; Spain; writing; our mutual friend Edmund White.