Literary Programme 2017

Emma Jane Kirby

Emma Jane Kirby
(The Optician of Lampedusa)

Emma Jane Kirby

LÉ Samuel Beckett

Tue 18 July 2017


€30 (including return ferry – the ferry will depart from Railway Pier at 3pm sharp)


The heart-breaking true story of an ordinary man whose life is changed forever by one of the greatest human tragedies of our time.

I can hardly begin to describe to you what I saw as our boat approached the source of that terrible noise. I hardly want to. You won't understand because you weren't there. You can't understand. You see, I thought I'd heard seagulls screeching. Seagulls fighting over a lucky catch. Birds. Just birds.

The Optician of Lampedusa lives a quiet life with his wife on a remote Mediterranean island. He has seen the headlines about shipwrecked migrants, noticed the reception centre, even crossed paths with the occasional lost soul. Yet it is only when, one sunny October morning, a relaxing boat trip with friends unexpectedly turns into a heart-breaking rescue mission, that he truly comes face to face with the human tragedy unfolding on his doorstep – and on all of our doorsteps.

‘Why couldn't I save them all?'

This moving book turns the testimony of an accidental hero, who saved migrants from drowning, into a timeless story about the awakening of human courage and conscience.

‘Poetically written, absorbing, harrowing . . . a moving and unusual achievement.’The Times

‘An important book… I cried all the way through.’Tracy Chevalier

‘An ambitious and important book that goes far beyond the voyeurism of 24-hour news to identify something timeless and troubling... a moral tale, following events through the eyes of the fastidiously ordinary optician never named in the text and thereby transformed into an everyman… Emma Jane Kirby challenges us to do more than cry.’The Observer

‘A novelistic retelling of a man's tragic encounter with the European migrant crisis - a true story that brings a fresh perspective to events that are often hard to visualise.’Financial Times

Emma Jane Kirby is a radio journalist for the BBC and has reported extensively on international affairs, from Brussels to Afghanistan. She is a former foreign correspondent in Europe and Paris. She won the Bayeux-Calvados Award for War Correspondents for her report ‘The Optician of Lampedusa’, on which this book is based. You may read Emma Jane’s article about the book here

This event will take place on board LÉ Samuel Beckett. LÉ Samuel Beckett completed two deployments to the Mediterranean in 2015 and 2016, involving the rescue of over 4,000 people. The ship’s 2016 deployment was featured in the recent RTÉ documentary ‘The Crossing’.