"Someone said to me in Dublin: masses are down, confessions are down, but funerals are up!" She laughs. "Religion. You see, I rebelled against the coercive and stifling religion into which I was born and bred. It was very frightening, and all pervasive. I'm glad it has gone. But when you remove spirituality, or the quest for it, from people's lives, you remove something very precious. Ireland is more secular, but it went to their heads: a kind of hedonism. They're free, yes, but questions come with freedom. What about conscience? Conscience is an essential thing." She didn't see the crash coming, but she knew no good could come of the boom. "It generated an ethos of envy. I'll never forget walking along by St Stephen's Green [Dublin]. There was a big hoarding with an advert on it for a motor car. 'Enjoy the begrudgery,' said the slogan. It was very cynical, but very true. Not a healthy sign."
From Rachel Cooke: "Edna O'Brien: 'A writer's imaginative life commences in childhood'", The Observer, 6 February 2011.