Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Summer 2006 Newsletter

Sebastian Barry Visits Ransom Center

Barry Audio Clips
More Barry Photos

Barry signs the "authors' door" at the Ransom Center.
Photo by Eric Beggs.

Irish novelist, poet, and playwright Sebastian Barry visited the Ransom Center on April 21, 2006, to meet with archivists and speak to the Advisory Council. Barry, whose archive is housed at the Ransom Center, was a finalist for the 2005 Man Booker Prize for his novel A Long Long Way.

Barry toured the Ransom Center, signed the "authors' door," and met with catalogers to answer questions about his archive.

The Center's collection of Barry's materials, acquired in 2001, includes literary papers, drafts of Barry's published and unpublished works, illustrations, personal and business correspondence, notebooks, photographs, personal papers, and clippings. The Center obtained additional Barry material, mostly correspondence, in 2005.

Barry wanted to find a home for the expanding number of literary papers in his house, and book dealer and friend Howard Woolmer recommended the Ransom Center. Barry's visit to the Center reinforced his decision. "The building was breathing with magic. In the proper sense, I felt really honored," Barry said.

Barry's archive is expected to be available for research later this year.  

Sebastian Barry Interview

Q: Tell us about being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for fiction.
Barry: "It was great fun. It was like a pinball machine, when all the lights light up. It was a circus. Unless you're there, it's hard to convey the craziness... The Booker is the most fun you can have at 50."

Q: Did it turn your life upside-down?
Barry: "It does change things, but your readership multiplies by six or seven times, and you reach people all over the world—and that can't be bad. It's a lovely thing that a prize can do such a thing."

Q: What was it like to visit your archive during your time at the Ransom Center?
Barry: "What is an archive? It's a memory trail, like those old Victorian photos—is that a ghost? But here, it's a ghost of your work, a ghost of yourself... When I was looking at it today, rising around me were the walls and people I was surrounded by when I wrote it. It's a haunted river, a long river. If you break the flow of the river, it destroys it. Let it be what it is."

Q: What did you find most interesting about your archive?
Barry: "I would be happy for people to see the immense amount of work that didn't come to anything—like prisoners still stuck in there... As with Annie Dunne, sometimes it takes 23 years to come to fruition and be done properly."

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