Evelyn Conlon / Hans-Christian Oeser (Hrsg.): Cutting the Night in Two. Short Stories by Irish Women Writers. Dublin: New Island, 2001.
Thirty-four women writers are represented in this collection, with a determinedly feminist banner held aloft by the editors. The stories have no agenda, however, and are as various and mood-different as people are. For a choice of writer, setting, period, this collection is comprehensive (...).
(RTE Guide, 22. Juni 2011)
Do we need anthologies of women's writing any more? Yes, say the editors of this one; and it has a celebratory feel (...). All the stories have been published before but still there are surprises. The unflinching honesty of the older stories makes them more shocking than the expletive-clad pieces from a younger generation. A certain wry humour threads its way through the whole, as does an interest in the intimate. At their best the stories are irresistible (...)
(Arminta Wallace, Irish Times, 14. Juli 2001)
Cutting the Night in Two is an accomplished compilation because the selection is rounded and substantial, and the reasons for publication are clear and well thought out.
(...) Their anthology provides a coherent impression of Irish women's writing in the 20th century. It is placed alongside other collections in a new canon of writing which identifies and celebrates the Irish female voice.
(...) One failing in the book is the lack of information about the stories themselves. While the reader is given some idea of each author's work, the lack of a specific date for the writing of each story is a shame. It's helpful to know not only the date of each story, but at what stage in the writer's life it was written.
(...) While the collection has occasional moments of light-hearted comedy, it is essentially a serious book; loss, betrayal, death and loneliness are common themes. Because the editors are trying to create an alternative literary canon, you have to query the overall tone of the anthology. Do Irish women only write about depressing subjects? Or were the editors looking for stories that would create a certain atmosphere?
As with any representative collection of Irish writing, the settings range widely from urban to rural, from emigrant life in London and New York to Greece. But Conlon and Oeser have chosen to include some writers they don't regard as Irish, but who are part of that ubiquitour mass, the Irish diaspora.
The fact that these writers are segregated in a group at the end of the book is perplexing.
Reading their biographies, it seems that at least one has more direct connections with Ireland than some of the other 'Irish' writers. They should either be included in the collection or not. And if they are included, they should be accepted wholly as part of the Irish tradition and Irish female voice.
In general, though, the writers included in this collection are representative of the last century of Irish writing. Of course, there are omissions, as with any anthology, but the selection of stories is very strong, and makes for fulfilling reading.
The final mention has to go to Blanaid McKinney's 'Please', a most heart-wrenchingly tragic and tense piece of writing.
It is worth buying this book for that story alone, never mind the rest of this collection of entertaining and highly enjoyable short stories.
(Vanessa Berman, Sunday Business Post, 15. Juli 2001)
Sadly, what the century throws up is not wholly encouraging. Set against such global (male) giants of the genre as Carver and Chekov, Joyce and de Maupassant, some of these women writers have no business occupying the same breath. Their stories are tedious and dull, told without inspiration and lacking the form's fundamental demand of an emotional response. They may be attempting to explore the human experience, but they never quite manage to do so.
That said, there are some gems here, and most of them come from the pens of older women. (...) The good and the really good stories in the anthology more than compensate for the mediocre.
But perhaps, it would have been better to set a standard so as not to dilute its cumulative effect. The anthology's only flaw is that the editors were too kind in their selection, and perhaps there were ideological reasons for that.
It is well laid-out with brief biographies at the back, followed by a list of acknowledgements giving the original publications and dates. This is a lucky-dip of a book. Fortunately, it has more treats than turkeys.
(Justine McCarthy, Irish Independent, 21. Juli 2001)
All the stories have appeared in other anthologies or collections of short stories by the individual authors; the editors see their job in compiling such a collection - the first in 10 years - as marking out the history of the genre.
(Sylvia Thompson, The Irish Times, 31. August 1001)
When Evelyn Conlon and Hans-Christian Oeser set out to produce a collection of stories by Irish women writers, their objective was to bring less well-known stories to the reader. They were pleasantly surprised to find how many stories gave a new slant on an old subject. The 34 stories included in Cutting the Night in Two are, without exception, a joy to read. The editors have taken great pains to ensure that each of the stories from established names like Elizabeth Bowen, along with some lesser-known writers, is both literary and enlightning. (...) This is a simply stunning collection. It is one to keep, re-read and savour.
(Sue Leonard, Books Ireland, Dezember 2001)