How to remain visible in the face of death? Bringing Nuala O’Faolain on her final wish to see Berlin before she died was a sad and memorable journey, but also one of fun and optimism. For the writer whose memoir in German translation was entitled Just don’t become invisible, this was a remarkable way of staying alive
Today’s newspapers in Ireland are infused with images and memories of Nuala O’Faolain. Her radio interview a month ago with Marian Finnucane brought me to tears. Her death, while I was in New York last week, reduced me to silence. The New York Times ran an obituary and an opinion piece in which she was described as ‘fearless even when she insisted she wasn’t’. Fintan O’Toole, in today’s Irish Times, appreciates her understanding of the personal as political and indeed the reverse..
She solved one of the most difficult problems a writer can face – the use of the word “I”. In journalism it can be used to create a comic, self-depcrecating persona, or to bear raw witness to an exraordinary event. …Only very rarely can it be used with sincereity and integrity on the one hand and a cool objectivity on the other.
Hugo Hamilto’s beautiful tribute to his friend (see the first quote) is an extraordinary testament to a woman for whom
‘..coming to terms with her life experience was turned into something more vociferous. She felt the need to change things, to fight not only for herself but for everyone else, to expose the damage done by society’
It’s always personal. Even when it’s business, even when it’s framed as something else – it’s always personal. And that’s why I loved her writing because she connected with the humanity of every topic, person and issue she talked about. You were never in doubt as to where her interests and loyalties lay. And perhaps that’s the invitation – each and every time – to see the humanity and the person behind the problem, the issue and the solution. Because if we don’t then we’re missing the point that to be in any kind of relationship means relating on a human level – and that requires feeling and emotion and allowing ourselves to be impacted instead of defending ourselves against the intimacy. There has to be room for love – where ever we are and what ever our task.
May she rest in peace