ILX10: Ferdia Lennon

Meet Ferdia Lennon, a rising star of UK writing.

Ferdia Lennon was born and raised in Dublin. He holds a BA in History and Classics from University College Dublin and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. His fiction has appeared in publications such as the Irish Times and The Stinging Fly. In 2019 and 2021, he received Literature Bursary Awards from the Arts Council of Ireland. After spending many years in Paris, he now lives in Norwich with his wife and son. His debut novel, Glorious Exploits, is published by Fig Tree in the UK and Henry Holt in the US.

Instagram @ferdialennon

Website

ILX 10: Rising Stars of UK Writing

The ILX10 is NCW’s selection of ten exciting, dynamic, and thought-provoking early-career writers based in the UK whose work has the powerful potential to speak to and engage with global literary audiences. It forms part of a three-year programme called the International Literature Exchange.

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Reviews

‘Bold and totally unexpected, I loved this book. A brilliant novel about friendship, the healing power of art, and why we must fight for our dreams. I was hooked from the first page’ ― Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain

‘With all the blunt humanity of Roddy Doyle, Glorious Exploits is a vividly conjured vision of the past. Madly ambitious, cathartic like all great tragedy, but shockingly funny too, Ferdia Lennon’s outstandingly original début is just glorious’ ― Emma Donoghue, author of Room

‘In At Swims-Two-Birds, Flann O’Brien gave us cowboys riding through Dublin. Now, Ferdia Lennon gives us modern-day Dubliners living among the ancient Greeks. This is a very special, very clever, very entertaining novel’ ― Roddy Doyle

‘As thrilling for me as the first time I picked up a Kevin Barry novel. Glorious Exploits is exuberant, funny, lyrical and profoundly moving. It is, quite simply, a rare beauty’ ― Sarah Winman, author of Still Life

Glorious Exploits stinks of misery, despair, love, war, poetry, reckless ambition, terrible failure, and glorious triumph. It’s a novel thick with the stuff of the Classics, in other words. A delicious treat of a read. I loved it ― Jon McGregor

‘What a voice! What a story! A darkly funny double act from Lampo and Gelon, sandwiched in between the transformative experience of theatre and forgiving your enemies. I loved it from the first line’ ― Claire Fuller

‘Sublime. Pitch-perfect dialogue, a fast-moving story that is both dark and lyrically beautiful, tragic and funny in equal measure. Glorious Exploits is an astonishingly original and gripping story of brotherhood, war and art. Ferdia Lennon is a fierce new talent’ ― Rebecca Stott, author of In the Days of Rain

‘A glorious thunderbastard, with a unique, stark voice that is expertly drawn. It is cheeky, contemplative and sly with an outrageous sense of humour and a massive heart. Lennon beats you with a club then whispers you poetry. It is harsh and fun in a way that few other books are … A book like this is long overdue and very welcome. Thank the Gods.’ ― Rory Gleeson, author of Rockadoon Shore

Glorious Exploits is an agonising exploration of the cost of violence, for both its winners and losers. It is also a reminder of how dangerous and radical the making of art can be, as the attempt to stage Medea with prisoners-of-war in 412 BC comes to represent war’s opposite. This perfect first novel is a tragicomic masterpiece. Ferdia Lennon has created a story worthy of the Athenians: mortal, maddening, heart-mending’ ― Clare Pollard, author of Delphi

‘What a truly magnificent novel this is: in turns riotous, brutal and deeply affecting. I am in no doubt that Ferdia Lennon is the real deal. His captivating storytelling resonates with all the beauty of Euripides’ plays.’ ― Imogen Hermes Gowar, author of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

‘Contemporary yet classical, vulnerable yet self-assured, a beautiful story about the very power of storytelling’ ― Santanu Bhattacharya, author of One Small Voice

‘Funny, thoughtful, moving, brilliant’ ― Nick Laird, Irish Sunday Independent

‘I loved this book. Fierce, funny, fast-paced. Glorious Exploits brings the ancient world roaring to life in a brilliantly non-stuffy way – as if the figures on a Greek vase turned round, offered you wine, and started chatting. Thoroughly enjoyable, occasionally brutal, and shot through with insight, pathos and hope. Reminiscent of Kevin Barry and George Saunders, but wholly original – an unforgettable debut’ ― Joanna Quinn, author of The Whalebone Theatre

Writers I admire

Hilary Mantel, Roberto Bolano, Pat Barker

How do the classics help us explore and tell stories about today?

In a sense, the beating heart of the classics has always been their ability to speak to contemporary issues. The story of Medea was already very old, 2500 years ago, when Euripides sat down to write his version. When, in 415 BCE, he wanted to write an anti-war polemic, he didn’t write directly about the ongoing Peloponnesian War but instead took inspiration from Homer’s Iliad. Although instead of telling yet another story of the famous Greek heroes, he focused on the war’s victims in his masterpiece The Trojan Women. Then, as now, the obliqueness of shifting the perspective of a familiar narrative was a way to create novel layers of engagement, dramatic irony, and meaning. The real power of the retelling lies in the active role it gives to the audience. They are the ones making the connections and noticing the points of departure, allowing them room to explore and reconsider what they think they know on their own terms. Today, a new generation of writers has realised, just like Euripides, that old and familiar stories can sometimes be the best way to say something new, strange and urgent.

The International Literature Exchange is a programme from National Centre for Writing, supported by the British Council and Arts Council England.

 

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