Home News The National Library acquires Edna O’Brien’s papers

The National Library acquires Edna O’Brien’s papers

Edna O’Brien pictured in front of a new portrait of her by renowned artist, Colin Davidson

The National Library of Ireland acquires Edna O’Brien’s papers (2009—2021).

The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin T.D. has announced that the National Library of Ireland has acquired the Papers of Irish author, Edna O’Brien, covering the period 2009 to 2021.


The archive spans twelve years, beginning in 2010. It contains Edna O’Brien’s literary and personal papers and comprises approximately 50 boxes of manuscripts.

The drafts are written entirely by hand, using notebooks, loose foolscap sheets and scraps of paper. The collection relates primarily to the acclaimed novels, short stories, plays and other writings from that period, including Girl (2019), The Little Red Chairs (2015), The Love Object: Selected Stories (2013) and the memoir Country Girl (2012), as well as ongoing work and extensive correspondence with other literary figures such as Philip Roth, and Seamus and Marie Heaney.

Author Edna O’Brien and Minister Martin

Edna O’Brien

Edna O’Brien was born in County Clare in 1930. Her first book, The Country Girls, published in 1960, was banned in Ireland for its portrayal of female sexuality. 

She is known for her skill as a novelist and for centring women’s experiences in her work. She received the prestigious French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in May 2021. At 90 years of age, Edna O’Brien continues to write. She is currently working on a play about James Joyce, ahead of the centenary of the publication of Ulysses in 2022.

I am delighted that the National Library of Ireland has acquired this most invaluable collection of papers from Edna O’Brien.  Her place in the literary canon both nationally and internationally is assured and her importance as a novelist and a chronicler of Ireland is unique. That Edna O’Brien’s work is so widely regarded throughout the world speaks of the universal nature of her themes, and most especially that of the lived experience of women. Edna O’Brien’s writing shines a spotlight on women and their agency and autonomy. She has recounted women’s stories unflinchingly, doing so when the stakes were high and it was unbecoming to speak about women’s lives with such frankness and honesty.

—Minister Martin

Dr. Sandra Collins, Director of the National Library of Ireland said it was her hope that “all those who view and study this archive will glean deep insight into Edna’s practice, and feel inspired, not only by her work, but by her trailblazing, tenacious spirit. This is a proud day for the National Library of Ireland.”

“I am thrilled and honoured that the National Library has acquired my archive. It has always been my wish for my papers to reside in Ireland, the country of my birth – my home.  My works are stories of place as much as people, and Ireland has long featured as a central character. It is only right that my most recent archive should find its lasting home there.”

—Edna O’Brien