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An Old German Man

September 18, 2014 by  

KnulpI am half-way through The Marquise Of O- (And Other Stories) by Heinrich Von Kleist, a German playwright and author of novellas dealing with violence and mystery. In 1811 thirty-four-year old Kleist in a suicide pact with Henriette Vogel who was dying from incurable cancer first shot her and then himself at Wannsee, near Berlin. He simply couldn’t cope with life, with existence.

Then, last week, I discovered that one of my readings in Berlin was going to be at the Heinrich von Kleist Library in a district of the former East Berlin – and what an occasion it turned out to be! The library was full, Marina Georgi and her staff laid on drinks and food and gave me presents of a pen, beers from the local micro-brewery, but most precious of all was a hardback copy of Knulp, published in 1925. Marina told me that earlier that day an old man called into the library. He couldn’t come to the event but that he would like her to give me the book as a memento of my visit! What a gesture, what kindness. Thank you, whoever you are.

16th September. Was part of a panel discussion on tonight’s BBC television’s Spotlight chaired by Noel Thompson. Was on with Fionnuala O’Connor and Alex Kane to discuss the legacy of Ian Paisley who died last Friday. I said that I was wrong when I thought he would never do a deal with Sinn Féin but that I was glad he had, and had brought the DUP over the line. I also doubted whether he had done it for egotistical reasons and I didn’t buy into the theory that he wanted ‘peace-maker’ rather than ‘trouble-maker’ on his headstone because he must have known that he could not so easily erase all that came before. Simplistically – although the cause of the conflict is much more complex – if the cause of our recent Troubles could be laid at the door of one man, it would be Ian Paisley. After we left the studio Fionnuala and I were criticised on air by Gregory Campbell for our ‘disgraceful’ remarks!

Brecht12th September. Went to Dorotheenstadt Cemetery and visited the graves of Heinrich Mann, Herbert Marcuse, Christa Wolf, and Hegel, and was standing at the grave of Bertolt Brecht when I received a text message from my brother Ciaran to tell me that Ian Paisley had died.

During one of my interviews I was asked about the provenance of the name Rudi which was thought not to be German. Then, as I was walking around Dorotheenstadt didn’t I come across this grave!

Rudi grave11th September. Visited the House of the Wannsee Conference. Here on 20th January 1942 Reinhard Heydrich chaired a meeting lasting just a few hours. Attended by fifteen high-ranking SS officers and representative of Germany’s public administration the plan was drawn up to murder all European Jews. The house itself is eerie for having been filled with evil but now it is the location for a permanent exhibit and an education department which offers youth groups and school children talks on the holocaust and the history of National Socialism and its consequences. There were about thirty young people there at two separate seminars. The historian Joseph Wulf had between 1965 and 1972 attempted but failed to found a documentation centre in the villa. It was only in 1992, after German reunification, that the Memorial and Educational Site was established – on the 50th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference.Wannsee

At Heinrich von Kleist library tonight I read from Rudi and was interviewed by Milena Adam who also acted as translator.

10th September. Visited the Stasimuseum in the morning. This afternoon, in the Haus Der Berliner Festspiele was my first event – ‘Approaches to Trust’ – which was moderated by the well-known translator Bernhard Robben with an actor, Matthias Scherwenikas, reading from a political essay I wrote. Later, it was the same platform but in the Martin-Luther Kirche and the discussion and reading was about Rudi.

9th September. Interviewed by Berlin’s Radio 1 about the situation in Ireland and my book Rudi.

Attended the official opening of the ilb.

8th September. With friends was given a personal tour of the Reichstag. Later, met the Irish Ambassador to Germany, Michael Collins. He introduced Jörg Rademacher who spoke about his exhibition on the life of Oscar Wilde which was on display and about his new translation of Dorian Gray for which I wrote the introduction.

7th September. Went to Jablonskistrasse, the setting of no 55, the apartment where the fictional Otto and Elise Hampel live in the Fallada novel Alone In Berlin.Jablonskistrasse

6th September.  In Berlin to attend the International Literature Festival (ilb).

1st September. Interviewed on Radio Foyle, then on the Nolan Show, re the 20th anniversary of the IRA ceasefire.

31st August. Went up to Long Kesh and looked out across the old car park towards where the visiting area and H-Blocks were, and reflected on the conflict on this the anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire.

30th August. Interviewed in RTE studio Dublin by Aine Lawlor for the Marian Finucane Show about the 20th anniversary of the IRA ceasefire and also about my writings.

27th August. Interviewed by Paul Clarke on UTV along with William ‘Plum’ Smith, former loyalist prisoner, about the 20th anniversary of the IRA ceasefire.

25th August. Did Skype interview with Leaving Certificate student Megan Conway on Bobby Sands and the 1981 hunger strike.

23rd August.  At meeting in Ulster Hall addressed by George Galloway whom I later took to the Andersonstown (PD) Social Club, then to Kelly’s Cellars.

18th August. Interviewed by Victoria McGroary who is at Brandeis University, USA, and who is working on her doctorate about the Troubles, in particular Sinn Féin and its transformation into the dominant nationalist party in the North.

9th August. At City Airport picked up Martin Sixsmith and his wife Mary. Later, did guest interview with Martin about his journalism but particularly about his book, Philomena.

8th August. Interviewed by Gerry Braiden for The Herald on the Scottish referendum on independence on 18th September. Chaired Féile event given by Sean Connolly on performance enhancement.

6th August. At City Airport picked up Marina Lewycka (A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian) who will be speaking at Scribes tomorrow along with Conal Creedon and Ronan Bennett.

5th August. Edited down a lengthy feature on Culture of Trust which will appear in Berliner Zeitung and Frankfurter Rundschau.

4th August. At Féile-organised discussion of 20th anniversary of IRA ceasefire. On the platform: Brian Rowan, Eamonn Mallie and Charlie Bird.

1st August. At the launch of white marble bust of Bobby Sands, sculpted by Paraic Casey from County Clare. At the event in the Felons Club both Paraic and Gerry Adams spoke.

31st July. Chaired launch of Tom Hartley’s new book, Milltown Cemetery – Written In Stone. This is my introduction:

My name is Danny Morrison and I am proud to chair this opening event of Feile 2014, especially since it is on behalf of one of my oldest friends, Tom Hartley.
I actually knew Tom’s brother Terry when both of us were waiters in the International Hotel back in 1968. I think it was in that hotel that the inaugural meeting of the Civil Rights Movement was held, and, of course, it was also from that hotel, where he worked, that in 1966 young Peter Ward went for a drink to the Malvern Arms and was shot dead on his way out.

Of course, none of us back then, fairly innocent, were to know of the darkness that lay ahead.

Tom and I became friends and comrades through our work in the Republican Press Centre where I was based as editor of Republican News and Tom was the manager.

He wrote a few pieces back then but was mostly in charge of putting pressure on people to pay their bills. In fact, he got a very angry reply back from a republican prisoner serving life in England who had received a letter from Tom saying that if he didn’t pay his bill his subscription would be cut off.

Later, Tom became general secretary of Sinn Fein and was a good, healthy and progressive influence on the party, and, of course, he has also been Lord Mayor of Belfast. Tom was the first member of Sinn Fein to attend the First World War commemoration service at Islandbridge in Dublin in 1994.

This festival, Féile an Phobail, celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Tom was involved from the outset but his initial contribution actually didn’t involve cemeteries but taking a minibus of tourists around West Belfast and pointing out famous landmarks. He would stop in Harrogate Street and point out a certain house and explain that a famous Irishman had been born in it. It was missing a plaque but it was, of course, the house were one Tom Hartley had been born.

When he first began his walks of City Cemetery he gave myself and the poet Michael Longley a private, fascinating tour, and he certainly opened my eyes to the history of the unionist people as ‘written in stone’ and our complicated history. For example, one grave he brought us to was that of Robert Lynd.

Robert Lynd was born in North Belfast in 1879. His father, a Presbyterian minister and former Moderator, was an anti-Home Ruler. Robert, though, declared himself a socialist, became a fluent Irish speaker and later a republican, but was opposed to physical force, believing that violence would alienate the unionists, for whom he always maintained a great affection.

He worked in London as a journalist and while there got to know Michael Collins. He taught Roger Casement Irish and was one of the most active petitioners for Casement’s reprieve in 1916, visiting him in Brixton Prison.

He was a member of Sinn Fein for a while and also wrote the introduction to James Connolly’s book, Labour in Irish History.

He died in London in 1949 but was buried in the city cemetery. There were tributes from George Bernard Shaw and Sean O’Casey. The Union flag at Inst.
College, his old school, hung at half-mast. Present at his funeral here on the Falls Road, were Vice-Marshall Sir William Tyrrell; Sam Porter, then Lord Chief Justice; Lynd’s nephew, Robert Lowry, a future Lord Chief Justice (who in 1978 would acquit Gerry Adams of an IRA membership charge); the artist William Conor; the former IRA Chief of Staff, Sean McBride, then Minister of External Affairs for the Dublin government; McBride’s assistant, Conor Cruise O’Brien; and Senator Denis Ireland.

Tom was discovering for us an almost, almost lost past.

I now have the honour of introducing our main speaker, Philip Orr, who will officially launch Tom’s companion volume to his book on City Cemetery. Philip is a former teacher, a consultant to various museums, a playwright and author of the best-selling book, The Road To the Somme: Men of the Ulster Division Tell Their Story.

He is a good friend of Feile and has appeared on many Feile platforms before -  performing along with Mike Gaston a selection of Robbie Burns poems and songs, discussing with Joe Austin the poppy and the lily and he will be speaking at the Falls Library next Wednesday on the subject of ‘The Great War and Unionist Memory’.

26th July. Went to the Gate Theatre in Dublin to see The Price by Arthur Miller. Brilliant.



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Féile na bhFlaitheartach

August 15, 2014 by  

BACK O'Flaherty Summer SchoolFéile na bhFlaitheartach (Liam O’Flaherty Summer School) will be held on Inis Mór in the last weekend in August (30-31). See clár below:

Saturday August 30

10.30am    Ferry departs from Ros a’Mhíl/Rosaveel to Inis Mór.
11.15am    Ferry arrives in Cill Rónáin – Local transport to Kilmurvey House available outside Tourist Office. (Fare to be paid)
12.30pm – 2.00pm Kilmurvey House. (Tea and coffee available for purchase on arrival.)

Opening of the School by Seosamh Ó Cuaig, the chairperson of the Liam & Tom O’Flaherty Society. Seosamh Ó Cuaig is a writer, film maker, and broadcaster.

TheoTHE BRUTAL TRUTH, THE SLAUGHTER OF THE POOR: Theo Dorgan (pic, right), poet, writer, editor, translator, broadcaster and member of Aosdána reflects on the First World War, looking at themes in the writings of Liam O’Flaherty with particular reference to his novel The Return of the Brute.
Followed by a discussion.
2pm      Lunch available in nearby restaurants.
3pm      Local transport available to Tom O’Flaherty’s grave í gCill Éinne. (Fare to be paid.)
4pm     Commemoration at the grave of Tom O Flaherty.

•    Address by Seosamh Ó Cuaig,
•    Reading  from Tom O’Flaherty’s Aranmen All by Fionnghuala Ni    Chonceanainn    with Deirdre Ní Chonghaile on fiddle
•    Sean-Nós  lament sung by Treasa Ni Mhiolláin.

8pm      Aran on Stage
Reading of Liam O’Flaherty’s only play, Dorchhadas, by Aisteoirí Cois Fharraige, in  Scoil Fhearann an Choirce,  to be followed by a discussion.

Sunday 31 August
12 noon:  Lecture at Tí Joe Mac in Cill Rónáin
Páipéar deireanach Thomáis Uí Fhlaithearta – ‘An t-Éireannach’ 1934-37′:  Éamon Ó Ciosáin, NUI Maynooth, speaks on Tom O’Flaherty’s Irish language articles in the radical 1930s newspaper An t-Éireannach.
Discussion  entitled “Cuimhne ar Mhícheál Ó Maoláin— ceardchumannach as Árainn,” led by Seosamh Ó Cuaig will follow.
Following the leacture and discussion, lunch will be available in local restaurants.

The Summer School Fee is €10 or €3 for attendance at inidvidual events. Admission is free to all  paid up members of the  the Liam & Tom O’Flaherty Society. Amount of contribution to local transport costs to be announced.

There are return sailings to Ros a Mhíl at 5pm and at 6.30pm on Sunday evening.


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The Soul Of The City

July 17, 2014 by  

Finished a wonderful novel by Armagh-born but England-based writer John McMillan, The Soul of the City. It is a Bildungsroman, set in Belfast and London and is evocative of the 1960s and early 1970s so fine, lyrical and powerful are the detailed observations of mores, language, fashion and music. So many good and serious Irish writers are ignored by the media and the mainstream. Earlier this year I read and was highly impressed by Colin Sloan’s The Volga German.

At the end of Part I, our hero Jim Mitchell is leaving for England and looks over to the County Down coast where he and his friends had so many happy summer weekends:
‘The ship was moving out into the Irish Sea, ploughing swiftly and powerfully through the furrowed, infinte dark heaving mass of water. We saw the lighthouse beam close by, stabbing the wild black darkness. Lighthouse Island! Then the indistinct shape of our island. It was strange to think of the little wooden house huddled there in its cove facing out to sea, its dark interior illuminated momentarily by each stroke of the lighthouse beam; the empty dark rooms filled with the ghosts of those carefree youthful years of friendship and carousal, guitars and girls around the crackling driftwood fire -.’

16th July. Interviewed on Nolan Show with Alex Kane about the amount of street drinking in Belfast on the Twelfth and whether it is any different to other events where crowds drink at concerts or on St Patrick’s Day.
15th July. Interviewed by Augusto Gazir Soares, who is doing an MA in Anthropology at QUB, and his final dissertation is about “social media, politics and humour in Northern Ireland”.
10th July. At the launch of Féile’s August festival programme.
2nd July. In Sligo for the funeral of my friend, the poet and writer, Dermot Healy (below), who had given me much encouragement for many years and who wrote to me while I was in prison – something that no prisoner ever forgets.Dermot
28th June. At funeral of Gerry Conlon (formerly Guildford Four) who tragically died a week ago from a short illness. He had been a year below me at St Peter’s School.
26th June. Interviewed on the Nolan Show with Alex Kane re Haass proposal of a Troubles Museum.
18th June.  Began work on reading and judging over three hundred short stories from schools in Belfast.
17th June. Interviewed by Peter Krause, a Research Fellow at Harvard University, who was in Belfast to conduct fieldwork for a university press book on ‘the internal politics of the Irish national movement, 1968 – 2001’.
Interviewed by BBC South East about the informer, the discredited Raymond Gilmour, making claims to have ‘new’ information about the IRA and Martin McGuinness from the 1980s.
16th June. Interviewed by John Braithwaite, Australian National University, for Peacebuilding Compared, about the root causes of the conflict in the North of Ireland and what has been effective and ineffective in dealing with them.
13th June. Interviewed by Christophe Boltanski, a French journalist with Le Nouvel Observateur, a weekly French newsmagazine, who is writing a story on truth and reconciliation.
Spoke at a Féile an Phobail event in Cultúrlann; introduced by Gerry Adams and gave my Féile  Schwanengesang as retired chair.
12th June. Did second part of interview with Marissa McGlinchey who is writing a study of dissident republicans.


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A Girl Is

June 9, 2014 by  

Finished A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride, her debut novel, written about ten years ago but which only went into print last year after many rejection slips. She took quite a risk in the style of writing but this stream of consciousness narrative about an outrageous, promiscuous young girl and her complex relationship with her family wins through by its passion. McBride’s staccato style occasionally jars but we are driven on by that classic, if not voyeuristic lure of wondering what will happen next.

5th June. Interviewed by Andrea Riccio, a researcher from Sapienza University of Rome who is currently working on a PHD about hunger striking.
Interviewed by historian Bob White from Illinois.
At QUB gave talk to US law students from Duquesne University.

13th May. Did interview with Roy Garland on Nolan Show, BBC Radio Ulster, about Protestant working-class boys’ underachievement at second-level education.

8th May. In Liverpool read from my novel Rudi as part of the Writers on The Wall Festival.

7th May. Interviewed by Marissa McGlinchey regarding dissident republicans.

2nd May. Interviewed on Louth radio station LMFM about Gerry Adams’ arrest. Interviewed on Nolan Show Radio Ulster and later Nolan on 5 Live about arrest of Gerry Adams.

1st May. Interviewed on Today FM about the arrest of Gerry Adams.

29th April. Interviewed on Skype by Maggie Scull, a PhD student at King’s College London, on the subject of the Catholic Church and the Troubles.

11th April. In Cork for the Lifelong Learning Festival and chaired their Scribes event.

9th April. Interviewed on Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show about Martin McGuinness’s visit to England and his toasting the Queen.

7th April. Interviewed on Good Morning Ulster and later BBC Radio Foyle about Martin McGuinness’s visit to Windsor Castle banquet.

31st March. Interviewed on Louth’s LMFM about the Boston College archives.

30th March. Interviewed on BBC’s Sunday Sequence regarding the banning of books in British prisons.

18th March. Interviewed by Brendan Byrne re the life and times of Bobby Sands.

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Tony Benn on Bobby Sands

March 14, 2014 by  


Back endLong an admirer of Tony Benn, the first time I actually met him was in 1984 when he came over to Belfast at the invitation of Sinn Féin and stood with myself and Gerry Adams outside Belfast’s Crumlin Road High Court to protest against the ‘supergrass’ trials which were then taking place.

I met him several other times after that – in London at events organised by the Guardian and twice at the Glastonbury Festival when he was speaking at the Left Field and we caught up on international politics. A few years ago I invited him to give a talk that August at Féile an Phobail but he explained, somewhat embarrassedly I thought, that he couldn’t make it because he was taking his grandchildren to Disneyland! In 2006, when I was compiling a book of essays to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike, he agreed to write a piece for the book.

It was called A Cause that will Succeed, and here it is:

Bobby Sands gave his life for the people of Ireland and their right to be free from British domination, which for centuries has cast such a dark shadow over its history.

He joined the struggle that had gone on for so long and which will continue until his dream of Irish unity and freedom, is realised, and in making the final sacrifice he kept faith with those who had gone before and inspired those who followed.

In Britain we are often told that there is an Irish problem but the truth is that there is a British problem in Ireland and every attempt to deal with it has failed. Occupation failed, partition failed, Stormont failed, direct rule failed, strip-searching, plastic bullets and the H-Blocks failed because they were all designed to retain British rule.

Bobby Sands’ election to the House of Commons proved that even when the campaign was waged through the ballot box it was still not accepted by those in power in London.

I am sure that the opportunity that seemed to be opening up with the Belfast Agreement is one that he would have welcomed, but, like many republicans, he would not have been surprised to see it frustrated and undermined by the hostility of the unionists and the weakness of the governments in London and Dublin.

Every excuse for delaying the implementation of what had been promised on Good Friday has been trotted out from the original demand, years before, first for a cease-fire, then that it be permanent, then that the arms be decommissioned, that decommissioning be photographed (in order to humiliate), then because of a bank robbery and the brutal murder of Robert McCartney by individuals, and delayed even after the IRA put all of its weapons beyond use and declared an end to its armed struggle.

But Bobby Sands’ cause has prospered and will succeed because peace and justice is what the people need and want.

Bobby Sands said, before he died, “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children” – a phrase that says all we need to know about him and looks beyond the bloodshed to true peace.

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Volga German

March 6, 2014 by  

Volga GermanFinished a wonderful, first novel, Volga German by Colin Sloan. Ingenious, imaginative and exceptionally well-written, it is the story of Andreas Mensche, one of those ethnic Germans living in the USSR in the River Volga region since the 18th century preserving their German culture and traditions. When Germany invaded Russia Stalin ordered the dispossession of the 440,000 Volga Germans (officially declared ‘enemies of the state’) and their mass transportation to the east, including Siberia, where many died doing forced labour.

Another character is Liam Broy from Dublin and a former soldier in the Irish Defence Forces who served in Lebanon. He is befriended by Andreas and the two reflect upon their lives in war and the cost of conflict and the inescapability from the past. I cannot emphasise enough how impressive this book is!

4th March. Interviewed by Jan Freytag, a PhD student at Ruhr-University-Bochum, Germany, who is researching the prison protests, 1976-1981, and the mediation attempts of the Catholic clergy.

3rd March. Addressed a Bahraini Delegation (including human rights groups) at Stormont with Jeffrey Donaldson MP on the lessons of conflict and the history of the peace process here. Event organised by the Causeway Institute.

28th February. Interviewed on the Nolan Show for the second time this week on the political fall-out from the John Downey case.

27th February. Interviewed by BBC Radio 4′s John Humphrys, and by UTV Live, in relation to the release of John Downey and the political ramifications.

26th February. Interviewed on Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show and on Radio Foyle about the release of John Downey yesterday and the collapse of the case against him in London in relation to his status as an ‘On The Run’ in receipt of a letter stating that he was not wanted for any offence.

25th February. Attended launch in the Department of Justice and Equality in Dublin of Sean McConville’s monumental work (ten years in the writing) Irish Political Prisoners, 1920-1962, Pilgrimage of Desolation. Great to meet at last, Donal Donnelly, who escaped from Crumlin Road Jail in 1960 and who later recounted that story in his book, Prisoner 1082, Escape From Crumlin Road – Europe’s Alcatraz.

21st February. Finished Munich, Alexanderplatz, a short story – 3,500 words – for a German audience.

17th February. Interviewed on Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show about the campaign by Celtic fans to put the song by the Irish Brigade, ‘Roll of Honour’ about the hunger strikers, into the charts in protest against the Offensive Behaviour At Football  Act in Scotland.

12th February. On the 25th anniversary of the British government assassination of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane, I attended a lecture in his memory by Justice Seamus Treacy. The title of the lecture, held in Larmour Lecture Theatre, QUB, was ‘Pat Finucane: Legacy or Continuum?’ The event was jointly hosted by human rights NGO, Committee on the Administration of Justice and Queen’s University Law School.

3rd February. Interviewed by Tim McGarry for BBC television documentary – ‘They Think It’s All Over’ – looking back at the history of discrimination in the North.

6th February. Finished my introduction for Jörg Rademacher’s new German translation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, due out this summer.

27th January. Interviewed by Nicholas Kenney, a PhD student from Boston, one of whose case studies is ‘Northern Ireland 1968-1975′.

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Beware of Pity

January 24, 2014 by  

Back endFinished Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig, the Austrian writer who with his second wife committed suicide in Brazil in 1940. I had previously read The Post Office Girl which I really liked. In 1934 Zweig had been driven into exile by the Nazis and first immigrated to England. This long, psychological novel revolves around an incident at a dance in a wealthy landowner’s house when a young cavalry officer commits a faux pas, not realising that the girl he addresses is ‘a cripple’, having been paralysed in an accident. In a series of events he allows his pity to dictate his reaction and as a result his affections are misinterpreted.

I find it amusing that Chambers Biographical Dictionary, on the basis that Zweig spent a short time in England, describes the Austrian as ‘a British writer’! The same dictionary describes the German writer Alfred Döblin, who spent 1933–1940 and 1953-57 in France as ‘a French novelist’.

22nd January. Interviewed by Peter Geoghan from the Sunday Herald about my views on the Scottish independence campaign and referendum and what repercussions, if any, a yes vote would have on our political situation in the North.

Finished Truth Is A Strange Fruit by David Beresford.

21st January. Interviewed on BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan show along with Denis Murray (journalist) and Seamus Close (former Alliance Party MLA and deputy head of the party) about the second part of Eamonn Mallie’s Paisley interview broadcast last night on BBC 1.

20th January. Did another interview with PhD student Thomas Leahy who is looking at British security and intelligence policies against the Republican Movement from 1969-1998.

14th January. Enjoyed Purblind, a first novel by Mike Philpott, in which the author boldly uses multiple points of view (which unless by a Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, I do not normally like) but which surprisingly he pulls off! Never, ever guessed the ending! Great imagery and dialogue and period evocation from ’63 on.

7th January. Finished Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash, an Appalachian author and poet. Am not usually a short-story reader (apart from Chekhov, Babel and a few others) but enjoyed this book and his style which is reminiscent of a cross between E. Annie Proulx and Cormac McCarthy, though not as robust or descriptive. Particularly liked A Sort Of Miracle when a man who dislikes his two brother-in-laws suddenly comes to depend on them for his life; and the eerie Something Rich and Strange about the drowning of a young girl.

4th January. Interviewed by Andrew Walsh who is writing a book about the events on August 13th-15th 1969. Had previously been in touch with him over another book of his which was published last year – From Hope to Hatred: The Falls Curfew and Catholic Alienation.

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Falsifying History

December 31, 2013 by  

My letter to the Irish Times in regard to the release of State Papers for 1983 appeared in today’s edition. Reading these papers over the years I have realised how, easily, subjective and unreliable statements can become orthodox ‘facts’ just because they have been recorded and preserved and can mislead subsequent generations. This is the letter:

A chara, – Quoting the State Papers 1983 (December 27th) you report Garret FitzGerald telling Mrs Thatcher what the SDLP told him. Namely, that in one polling booth in the North the SDLP agent, a woman, had “turned away 240 people who were attempting personation – out of a total of about 900 who were supposed to vote at the booth. She had been threatened by Sinn Féin and, finally, driven away from the booth in a Saracen armoured car.”

Lest this myth go down as historical fact let me state that the alleged incident never took place. I was Sinn Féin’s national director of publicity at the time. No such complaint was made by the SDLP or appeared in the media or was reported to the electoral office. In fact, the only political party to be “found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices by an election court” was Joe Hendron MP of the SDLP and his election agent, as late as February 1993. And the only person to be driven away in an (RUC) armoured car was a member of Sinn Féin from Howard Primary School polling station in Dungannon on 9th June 1983 when it came under attack from unionist supporters.

Long before Sinn Féin entered electoral politics in the North the unofficial election slogan of unionist and nationalist politicians was “Vote Early and Vote Often”. Personation, which did happen, was a waste of energy as the efforts of one side only cancelled out the efforts of the other.

The real truth is that the two governments’ refusal to recognise the republican electoral mandate prolonged the deadlock.
Today, in the North, under the tightest election regulations in Europe, Sinn Féin in the last Assembly elections won 29 seats to the SDLP’s 14 – and there wasn’t an armoured car, real or imagined, to be seen.

17th December. Interviewed by Rory Tinman who is writing a chapter of a book entitled ‘Do By-Elections Matter’, and in particular the April 1981 by-election in Fermanagh and South Tyrone won by Bobby Sands.

14th December. Went to service in St Anne’s Cathedral to commemorate the life of Nelson Mandela.

13th December. Interviewed on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show about the discussion around whether limited immunity for protagonists in the conflict who reveal the truth about the past would help alleviate the suffering of relatives of victims. I am sceptical.

8th December. Was guest panellist on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence discussing the death on Thursday of Nelson Mandela and the issue of freedom fighter or terrorist. Comparisons with Ireland and the IRA naturally arose – though fellow contributor Ruth Dudley Edwards decried them.

7th December. Finished Villain by Shuichi Yoshida (which was adapted for a film in 2011). Interesting insight into the psyche of young Japanese people. I read books alternately on Kindle and paperback. This was on Kindle.


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November 20, 2013 by  

Finished Liberating Paris by Linda Bloodworth Thomason which is set in smalltown Paris, Arkansas, and is about six childhood friends who have just turned forty, their loves and lives. Not bad.

14th November. Did short tour of St Gallen, Switzerland, hosted by Ruth Freiner, which is named after the Irish saint, St Gaul, before travelling to Gossau where I spoke to fifty students and twenty members of the public at the University of Teacher Education. The students had read my novel, Rudi, as part of their coursework, and there was a lively Q & A.

13th November. Visited the graves of James Joyce and Elias Canetti [home page pic] at Fluntern Cemetery, Zurich.

12th November. Addressed three English Language/Literature classes at Schule Schloß Salem,  Überlingen, almost ninety minutes each, back-to-back, before travelling to Zurich where I read at an event organized by the James Joyce Foundation.

Hesse's Study, Gaienhofen11th November. Travelled to Überlingen, on the German/Swiss border, to address language/literature students at Schule Schloß Salem. In the afternoon travelled to Hermann Hesse’s house in Gaienhofen [pic, above] where myself and some teachers were given a tour of the house, his study and library by Eva Eberwein, curator and author.

9th November. Visited the graves of filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder and author Erich Kastner, in the grounds of the Church of St Georg, Bogenhausen, Munich, both of whom I have previously written about.Fassbinder

8th November. Speaking in Munich, addressing two separate classes of students studying English Literature who have read my novel ‘Rudi’. Later, I was interviewed on a radio station, Radio Lora, about my life as a writer and my books.

5th November. Was on a panel discussion at Stranmillis University College with Colin Keenan (SDLP), Sam White (Director of Charter NI and a former loyalist prisoner) and Emer McGuckian (education project worker), chaired by Dr Eamon Phoenix. The audience was made up of mature students from Kennesaw State University and the subject was ‘The Irish Conflict and the Northern Ireland Peace Process’.

4th November. Interviewed by Julie McCullough, BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback, doing a walkabout in the Iveagh/Broadway area for an outside broadcast on Thursday 14th November, about life in West Belfast before, during and after the Troubles.

29th October. Interviewed by David Coyles, a lecturer and researcher based at the Belfast School of Architecture at the University of Ulster who is working on a project investigating the architecture that was constructed during the Troubles.

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Olga Mamonova Baker

October 30, 2013 by  

Old Shepherd

Last Saturday I met Olga Mamonova Baker an art collector and exhibitor of 20th century Russian paintings who manages the East Hill Gallery in London. She had been going to Armagh later that afternoon for some political events but caught an earlier flight in order to be at the book launch of Lethal Allies  by Anne Cadwallader in Belfast.

Anyway, Olga gave me as a present a copy of her wonderful book, 20th Century Russian Art – An Intimate World of Impressionist Painting, from which I have chosen two that particularly took my fancy (had to say that, rather than two that impressed me!). The one on my Home Page is In the Ballet School by Andrei Miroshnichenko; and the one on this page is Old Shepherd by Vladimir Tokarev, 1950s. The book can be got here.


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