The Most Natural Thing In The World by Desmond Traynor


Shortlisted for The Laurence Sterne Prize 2021

About the Author 

Desmond Traynor is a Hennessey Literary Award winning short story writer, whose stories have been widely published in anthologies and magazines and has been nominated for the Hughes & Hughes/Sunday Independent Irish Novel of the Year Award. He has a Distinction in the M Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin, in 2000. He currently reviews new fiction for The Irish Times: website  and 

Praise for the author

“A highly original essay from a master stylist. With brutal honesty Desmond Traynor weaves the  enthralling story of his personal experience with philosophical musings on the ethics of reproduction. Provocative, profound, and ultimately very balanced.” Éilís Ní Dhuibhne is a writer and critic8.

“Desmond Traynor’s ‘The Most Natural Thing in the World’ is a sweeping, personal, at times grippingly candid examination of perhaps the most fundamental decision a human being will ever make: whether or not to beget new life.” Rob Doyle is a writer, whose most recent book is Autobibliography.

“Reflecting on his own experience of family, Desmond Traynor has written a moving, clear-eyed examination of why society pressures women and men to reproduce. It is erudite, provocative and necessary.” Patrick Chapman, author of The Following Year.



‘The Most Natural Thing In The World’ began as a meditation on childlessness and the child-free existence, but rapidly grew into a kind of apologia pro vita sua. So it has evolved into something which is more autobiographical and even confessional than I am usually comfortable with; but such memoir/life writing is increasingly popular in contemporary literature, so here is one of my contributions. 

Build me a cabin in Utah
 Marry me a wife, catch rainbow trout
 Have a bunch of kids who call me “Pa”
 That must be what it’s all about
 That must be what it’s all about

-  Bob Dylan, ‘Sign On The Window’, from New Morning (1970)

When I was eighteen, during a summer spent working as a bus conductor while waiting on Leaving Certificate results, I thought I’d got my then girlfriend pregnant. Through a warm, endless July, she crept from two to three to four weeks ‘late’. Finally, one evening, a phone call came with the good news that she was happily surfing the crimson wave, and there was great relief all around. It must have just been prolonged exam stress, we agreed. But the strange thing is, while obviously not quite ready to be a father then, I have never really been as open to the possibility of parenthood since. During the extended period of waiting for her period to arrive, we discussed what we might do if worse came to worst. She contemplated an abortion – a big deal in Ireland in 1979, even if she was, rather too neatly symbolically, nine months older than me, and already in college; as was, if you can believe it, the very fact of having premarital teenage sex itself – while I was prepared to abandon all immediate plans for further studies and instead get a job to support her and our offspring. Never such innocence, or foolhardiness, again. It must have been Love.

Throughout my twenties, I hardly ever gave much thought to reproduction, unless it was as to how to forestall it. Of course, there were girlfriends, but I was never with anyone with the underlying agenda of ‘getting married, settling down and having a family’ (or any combination thereof).

Previous Publications


‘Safe Home’ (Short Story), Derry, Abridged, October 2006.

The Myth of Exile and Return (Novel), Dublin, Silenzio Press, June 2004. (ISBN: 9780954700805)

‘Financial Services’ (Short Story), Dublin, Dogs Shot From Cannons, Wholly Trinity Press, 2000. (ISBN: 9780953891603)

‘How To Live’ (Short Story), Dublin, The Sunday Tribune New Irish Writing, June 2000, and The Attic, Wholly Trinity Press, March 2001.

‘Inside Out’ (Short Story), London, Irish Short Stories 1998, Phoenix House, 1998. (ISBN: 978-1861591302)

‘At The Arthouse (A Farce in Super 8)’ (Short Story), Dublin, The Sunday Tribune New Irish Writing, February 1998.

‘Old Man Dies Happy’ (Short Story), Dublin, Books Ireland New Writing, September 1997.


‘The American Taliban: Steve Earle, John Walker Lindh, and the ‘problem’ of socio-political commentary in songwriting at times of (inter)national crisis’, in The American Matrix: Identity Formations and Deformations, eds. Louise Walsh and Kate Kirwan, Newcastle, Cambridge Scholars Press, September 2012.

‘Zaireeka by The Flaming Lips: An Introduction and Some Implications’, in Performing Technology: User Content and the New Digital Media, (proceedings of a conference at the Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queens University Belfast, May 2009), ed. Franziska Schroeder, Newcastle, Cambridge Scholars Press, November 2009.

‘Making History and Making It Up: On The Reliability of Herodotus, and Subsequent Historians’, in Literatures of War, (proceedings of a conference at the Durrell School of Corfu, May 2007), ed. Richard Pine, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, August 2008.   

‘Tradition, Continuity and Innovation in Popular American Protest Song’ (first published under the title ‘The Art of American Dissent: Singing Out Against American Foreign Policy’), Dublin, The Journal of Music in Ireland, Volume 6, Number 5, September/October 2006.

‘Why Ireland Does Not Exist’, Dublin, The Dubliner magazine, Number 35, June 2004.

‘Fictionalising Ireland’, Oxford, Irish Studies Review, Volume 10, Number 2, August 2002, pp 125-132.

‘Some Aspects of the Treatment of Class, Gender and Religion in George Moore’s A Drama in Muslin’, Dublin, New Voices in Irish Criticism, ed. Karen Vandervelde, Volume 3, Four Courts Press, 2002, pp 187-196.

‘Modes of Subversion in Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World’, Dublin, Alumnus 2000, pp 1-10.

‘We Are All Writers Now’, New York, Irish Literary Supplement, Spring 2000, pp 10-13.


Performing Technology: User Content and the New Digital Media, Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queens University Belfast, May 2009.

War and American Identity, Clinton Institute for American Studies, University College Dublin, March 2009.

Engaging Exception: Perspectives of Cultural Identity and the Nation, Clinton Institute for American Studies, University College Dublin, January 2009.

The Literature of War, Durrell School of Corfu, May 2007.

New Voices in Irish Criticism 3, NUI Galway, May 2001.

Background, cover image and cover design by Michelle Moloney King.

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