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Photograph: Photo by Magharebia, used under CC BY

To be born Irish means to face the legacy of a rich, diverse and complicated history, Irish playwright, novelist and poet Sebastian Barry has said in an interview with Hina ahead of the Zagreb Book Festival, which will be held on May 16-22 with focus on Irish literature.

Barry says he thinks that the Irish "have been prisoners" of their history up to recent decades. "But we have also been the survivors of it".

In response to the question why his novels are full of the national history and how important history is for the Irish, Barry answers that "it's difficult to generalise for the Irish people, because they are infinitely more varied and non homogeneous than is commonly believed."

"Perhaps it's easier to say that there are many histories, often in competition with each other, and sometimes there is a somewhat unthinking reliance on old verities and versions. But we are also capable of new thinking, revisiting old stories, and embracing the findings," says Barry, who won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel The Secret Sculpture in 2008.

Barry, who is considered one of Ireland's finest writers, will arrive in Zagreb for the Book Festival, and on 16 May he will be a guest on the first day of the second edition of this cultural event. The festival will take place in the Museum of Arts and Crafts.

On 17 May, Barry, who has been twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for his novels A Long Long Way (2005) and The Secret Scripture (2008),  will also participate in an informal gathering called "Irish Coffee" in the Croatian National Theatre.

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