Letters from Frank: A Playwright Reflects on His Work

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In the late 1970s, Frank McGuinness was editing fiction for Wolfhound Press, beginning to publish his own work on the New Irish Writing page of the Irish Press, and doing some teaching at University College Dublin (where he had received a MPhil in Medieval Studies in 1976). At UCD he developed a close friendship with a student from Finland, Fevronia Orfanos. The woman from Finland, 'a beautiful creature' who visits Marianne in The Bird Sanctuary, is probably a salute to Orfanos, to whom McGuinness's poem 'The Finnish Maid' (in Booterstown) is dedicated. The friendship has endured over the years, despite the distance between Dublin and Savonlinna, Finland, to which Fevronia (known to her friends as Ritva) returned, working as a translator, interpreter, and teacher. It is also a friendship that produced what McGuinness has described as the only letters in which he discussed his playwriting. (1) Because the letters were written early in his career they are intriguing glimpses of the passions and concerns that shaped him as a dramatist.

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