Living With My Century
By: Eda Sagarra
Publication Date: 2 June 2022
Professor Eda Sagarra, born in 1933, has been a significant and influential figure in Irish and European academic policy-making, contributing to the early development of the Erasmus scheme. Now, aged nearly 88, this memoir gives striking evidence of her self-discipline and formidable energy. This substantial memoir by one of the foremost female academics in Ireland starts with Sagarra’s own perspective on committing her life story to history during the pandemic lockdown of 2020:
The following memoir recalls for those born in the present century and schooled without the strong sense of Irish history, which defined our people from the Great Famine of the 1840s until recent times, what it was like to grow up as a woman in the twentieth century and seek a career in a man’s world. It tries to re-capture as much what it felt like to the person experiencing it as what was happening in society. Younger people today who read of the restrictions to which women were subject in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, will find it difficult to comprehend why our generation and the one that followed ours didn’t challenge them. But probably the greatest contrast between the Ireland of then and now was the room for manoeuvre – or rather the absence of it. Today our lives are premised on a constantly changing world. Ireland is more connected across the globe than ever it was. Today most people are mobile. The Ireland when I was young was in almost every respect a static, hierarchical and paternalist society, one in which the accident of your birth would generally determine your whole life. No life is representative, but every person’s experience is unique and worth recording for those who come after us.
A south Dublin convent girl, Sagarra probes childhood and family, schooling, and UCD — with a perceptive commentary on the Ireland of the 1930s and 1940s. Her remarkable memory and shrewd eye for detail present at times a painfully honest account of family and in the upper middle-class world of Catholic south Dublin, revealing the profound influence of Europe during her postgraduate years in post-war Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
Running through this forensic account of her academic life is a keen awareness of the constant if subtle barriers to female advancement.
For contemporary critics reconstructing the history of gender equality in Ireland and for readers of feminist history, this makes for essential reading. Her description of retirement since 1998 is colourful, poignant and revealing, and her reflections on old age and youth resonate.
‘Professor Eda Sagarra has written a fascinating memoir stretching over her almost ninety years of life constitutionally interested in a positive sense in the lives of other people, she shows herself to be an acute and shrewd observer of the political scene and human nature.’ – Senator David Norris
‘An absorbing account of a life well-lived over the last eight decades, offering keen observations on critical events in Irish and European history along the way – with great flashes of wry humour, particularly when reflecting on the many barriers faced by those women of Eda’s generation who boldly sought to build an academic career. Happily, much has changed!’ – Ivana Bacik, TD
‘A warm-hearted, witty and scholarly remembrance of a life well-lived … A book and a character to treasure.’ – Lelia Doolan
‘Peppered generously with self-effacing humour … a detailed social history as well as a personal memoir, it reminds us that while real gender equality still eludes us, we’ve come a long way.’ Anne Cunningham, Sunday Independent
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Professor Eda Sagarra has had an illustrious academic career. Currently emeritus Professor of German at Trinity College Dublin, she was also the first female Registrar in any university between Ireland and Great Britain from 1981 to 1986 and held the position of Professor of German from 1975 to 1998. Author of a number of key books on German history and literature, she has also written about Irish history in the form of a biography of her father, the Irish Volunteer Kevin O’Shiel, and her grandfather T.A. Smiddy. Read more.
|Dimensions||156 × 234 mm|
2 June 2022
Paperback with flaps, 400pp.
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