Books: A Corner of the Universe

VIVE MOI! by Sean O'Faolain. 374 pages. Little, Brown. $6.75.

When Irish Novelist Sean O'Faolain (pronounced O'Faytawn) was 20 and a student at the University College in Cork, he wrote a poem containing the phrase "Mother Ireland's teeming navel"; he was subsequently astounded, he recalls, to learn from a medical student that in the history of medicine "no mother had yet been known to eject a baby through her belly-button."

That anecdote suggests the innocence in the Irish character that is both appealing and maddening, and Novelist O'Faolain knows as much about it as any Irishman now working: "Ireland is learning, as Americans...

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