‘An rabhas-sa im ní riamh?’ — The concept of being in Seán Ó Ríordáin’s writing

Ríona Ní Churtáin


Seán Ó Ríordáin (1916–1977) was a prolific writer, and many academic works have been dedicated to exploring and analysing various aspects of his writing. However, very little has been written about the importance of his work in the context of contemporary European philsophy. In this essay, a comparative analysis is made of the concept of being in the work of Ó Ríordáin and central concepts in the work of renowned existentialist thinker, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980). Sartre conveyed many of his philosophical concepts through the medium of his literary texts, and we know that Ó Ríordáin had in his possession several of his works in translation. Five of Sartre’s works are currently available in the Ó Ríordáin collection at the Boole Library, University College Cork (In Camera (1958), Intimacy (1960), Words (1964), Nausea (1965) agus Room (1969)).

This essay briefly summarises Sartre’s definitions of being, and compares and contrasts his concepts with those of Ó Ríordáin. It demonstrates that although they had different opinions regarding the concept of essence, there were nonetheless many similarities between their opinions about the immense freedom of the individual and the existential anxiety which accompanies it. Both writers described the fearfulness experienced by the individual upon realising his/her freedom, and the strategies frequently employed to deal with such fear. Both Sartre and Ó Ríordáin examine the role of other people in these experiences, and acknowledge the threat posed to our freedom by other people. The impact of the aforementioned concepts on Ó Ríordáin’s life outlook are analysed in this essay, as are their consequences for his relationships, both with himself and other people. This paper thus highlights Seán Ó Ríordáin’s valuable contribution to European existentialist thought.

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© Comhar Teoranta, 2020.
ISSN: 2009-8626