Between the 1960s and the 1990s, through his journalism, books and pamphlets, Desmond Fennell acquired a wide and varied readership. Immersed as he was in the affairs of Ireland - the art scene in Dublin, the implementation of the Second Vatican Council, the restatement of Irish identity, the completion of the Irish Revolution, decentralisation of government, solving the Northern problem - it became apparent to readers that they were dealing with an unusual kind of Irish intellectual, not readily assignable to any of the usual Irish categories.
In The Turning Point, Desmond Fennell reveals the story of his intellectual development from his teenage years in Dublin to the 1990s in that same city. The books focus, however, is on his thirty-first year, 1960, which he spent largely in Sweden. Sweden was to have been the culmination of eight years spent by Fennell in Europe and Asia enlarging his knowledge of the world and mankind. Sweden was then the avant-garde country of the western world, the place where the future was being pioneered, and he went there believing that he would relish that future. But the reverse occurred, with a result that shaped his life in the following decades. Disappointed and shocked by what he found there, his worldview fell apart. Returning to Ireland, he was faced with the task of reconstructing a view of the age that corresponded with its reality.
In his final chapter, The Rest of My Life So Far, Fennell recounts his battle against the tide in a Republic of Ireland that, far from completing the Revolution, was becoming a province again.
Born in Belfast in 1929, Desmond Fennell attended school in Dublin, where he learned Latin and Greek and in the Leaving Certificate Examination won first place in French and German. With a Scholarship in Classical Languages he entered University College, Dublin, and there and in Trinity College studied history, economics and languages. He researched his MA thesis in Modern History at Bonn University. In 1991 the National University of Ireland awarded him its highest degree in the humanities, D. Litt., for his published work. He has lived and worked in Spain, Germany, Sweden, the USA and Italy - adding three more languages to his repertoire - and has travelled in Asia. Living in Conamara 1968-79, he was active in the Ã¢â‚¬ËœGaeltacht revolutionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ which changed the nature of the Irish language movement. His journalism 1969-75, rethinking the nationalist approach to the Northern problem, laid the intellectual basis for the peace process of the 1990s. From 1976 to 1982 he taught History and Politics at University College, Galway, and from 1982 to 1993, English Writing at the Dublin Institute of Technology. His books and journalism have dealt with Irish and international culture and politics, and with history, travel, religion and literature. From 1997 to 2007 Fennell lived in Anguillara on Lake Bracciano, near Rome. In the latter year he returned to Ireland.
The Turning Point is an extraordinary piece of vivid narrative and searching introspection by one of Irelands most creative thinkers, who now lives in Italy.