November 20, 2013 by danny
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.
11th 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.
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.Print This Post
October 30, 2013 by danny
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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October 28, 2013 by danny
Last Saturday, as chair of Féile an Phobail, I hosted the book launch of Lethal Allies by Anne Cadwallader of the Pat Finucane Centre. A very large crowd attended the event in St Mary’s University College to hear harrowing accounts of state collusion with death squads who murdered Catholics in the Armagh and Mid-Ulster area.
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October 22, 2013 by danny
BBC’s flagship documentary programme Spotlight is, incredibly, forty years old this week! I remember watching it back in October 1973 in Cage 2, Long Kesh, along with seventy other internees on a small black and white television mounted on the back wall of the Nissen Hut, little realising that the Troubles were infinite and that years later I would be interviewed for the programme dozens of times. (Picture, above: revisiting the Cages about ten years ago with Martin Ferris TD, Gerry Adams MP and my friend Jim Gibney)
Some of Spotlight’s cub reporters – Jeremy Paxman, Gavin Essler, Alex Thompson – would go on to become totems of British television news and documentaries with their idiosyncratic styles of journalism and interviewing techniques. In the mid-Seventies another to work on Spotlight was Bernard Cornwell (who went on to write the Sharpe historical novels as Bernard Wiggins).
Anyway, the anniversary programme is being broadcast tonight on BBC1 at 22: 35pm and includes an interview with me.
16th October. Returned from my week-long trip to the UBUD Writers & Readers Festival in Bali. Finished The Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan which I first read in 1969. On my Kindle I have the rest of the Richard Hannay series to read. The writing is so ‘old-fashioned’ with archaisms, and the dialogue is laced with anti-Semitic, racist and sexist comments, and plotted with preposterous coincidences, yet it has a certain charm or nostalgic charm. Buchan, who was also a unionist MP in Scotland was virulently anti-Catholic and anti-Irish.
14th October. At the UBUD festival I took part in a lively panel discussion, The Press Club, which was set, appropriately enough in a cocktail bar! Earlier, I debated the subject of ‘Dangerous Ideas’ with several other writers in a session chaired by the consummate moderator, Michael Vatikiotis (who once worked for BBC Northern Ireland). On the platform was Solahudin, a leading expert on the jihadi movement in Indonesia and author of The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia; Lydia Cacho, a Mexican journalist who suffered torture and imprisonment for exposing politicians involved in international child sex-trafficking; and Mona Prince, an Egyptian novelist and activist who is being encouraged to run as President of Egypt. Mona and I had a run-in during the discussion because of her support for the military coup against Morsi.
13th October. Read from my novel, Rudi, along with other authors reading from their works at the Long Table Lunch event at the UBUD Writers and Readers festival in Bali.
12th October. Finished A Writer at War by Vasily Grossman, a great account of the German defeat at Stalingrad and the Russians advancing on Berlin.
8th October. Interviewed by veteran BBC World Affairs editor John Simpson for a forthcoming documentary called The Editors.
7th October. Met with a delegation from civil society in Bahrain at Stormont meeting organised by Jeffrey Donaldson DUP MP.
2nd October. Did radio interview with Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan about the feature I wrote on the Assembly. Did television interview with Mark Devenport on same feature.Print This Post
October 3, 2013 by danny
Finished Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. And I am left scratching my head and asking myself what was it all about. It wasn’t so much the talking cats that I had a problem with or that the eponymous 15-year-old character had sex with his mother and sister (though I suppose I should have found that disquieting). Or that a cat killer who might be Kafka’s father plans to make a flute out of cats’ souls (though I don’t know what that means at all). It’s just that I got the impression that the author set out with a preposterous plot and post-modernist intentions, tossed in a lot of symbolism, and refused to compromise. I’m wondering did he ever experience major doubts along the way?
Of course, how I read it is not how many critics and readers found the novel, however. The late John Updike described it as a “real page turner”. (Using a Kindle Reader for only the second time I could say in post-modernist jest, that it certainly was not “a real page tapper”.)
2nd October. The feature I wrote yesterday on Eamonn Mallie’s website and my own, warning that the northern assembly might collapse and that unionists should not take the situation for granted, received a lot of media attention. I was interviewed by Mark Devenport for BBC television and by Stephen Nolan for Radio Ulster.
28th September. Spoke at the Engage Arts Festival in Bandon on the subject of ‘Art as a Bridge through Conflict’. Also on the panel were the artist Sean Hillen (whose website is well worth looking at ); Ulster Unionist Councillor Chris McGimpsey (who can be very funny) and a representative of the Progressive Unionist Party, Jonathan Hodge from Larne. In fact, some of the exchanges about the North and claims of a campaign of attacks on Orange culture prompted me to write the piece I submitted to Eamonn Mallie’s website.
29th September. Did a late night reading from Rudi at a nice little intimate venue – the upstairs of Mary Rose’s Wine Bar, Bandon. Part of the Engage Arts Festival.
24th September. Interviewed by BBC’s Spotlight, which next week celebrates its fortieth anniversary. I remember watching the first Spotlight programmes in Cage 2, Long Kesh, 1973, on a black & white television along with dozens of other internees.
18th – 20th September. In Malta at the invitation of a London-based organization, ENGI, a ‘social enterprise that focuses on the effective and non-violent management of conflict, nationally and internationally.’ We were there to talk to Turkish and Greek Cypriot groups from civic society about peace-building models and engagement. Other speakers included Jeffrey Donaldson DUP MP and Rolf Meyer from South Africa and two representatives from Bosnia Herzegovina.
14th September. Finished Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Sushi, sex & suicide. But liked it!Print This Post
September 9, 2013 by danny
Finished Women by Charles Bukowski, a hilarious romp about women, sex, drugs and alcohol, written in the first person by Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical character, Henry Chinaski.
On ego & ‘greatness’ Chinaski reflects: “There is a problem with writers. If what a writer wrote was published and sold many, many copies, the writer thought he was great. If what a writer wrote was published and sold a medium number of copies, the writer thought he was great. If what a writer wrote was published and sold very few copies, the writer thought he was great. If what the writer wrote never was published and he didn’t have the money to publish it himself, then he thought he was truly great. The truth, however, was that there was very little greatness. It was almost nonexistent, invisible. But you could be sure that the worst writers had the most confidence, the least self-doubt. Anyway, writers were to be avoided, and I tried to avoid them, but it was almost impossible. They hoped for some sort of brotherhood, some kind of togetherness. None of it had anything to do with writing, none of it helped at the typewriter.”
Chinaski on the subject of alcohol: “That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”
To a woman he explains his work:
“I write fiction.”
“Fiction is an improvement on life.”
“You mean you lie?” asked Gertrude.
“A little. Not too much.”
2nd September. Was interviewed by TV3 which is making a two-part documentary on the history of Sinn Féin. Attended the funeral in Bellaghy of Seamus Heaney.
1st September. Speaking at a commemoration in Loughmacrory on the 25th anniversary of the SAS killings of IRA Volunteers Gerard and Martin Harte and Brian Mullin.
30th August. Learnt of the sad death of Seamus Heaney.
29th August. Interviewed by Connal Parr, a PhD student who is on the board of the Et Cetera theatre group. Talked about creative writing Vs polemical writing.Print This Post
August 23, 2013 by danny
Finished Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and I was transported back to Glen Road CBS in the mid-sixties, innocence, reading, and being off in other worlds. The film of the book I always associate with Robert Newton in the role of Long John Silver. And, of course, the dialogue and songs still ring in my memory fifty years later.
“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest -
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest -
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!” – The song the pirates sing.
“But one man of her crew alive.
What put to sea with seventy-five.” – One of the sailors’ songs
“Pieces of eight! pieces of eight! pieces of eight!” – Long John Silver’s parrot, Cap’n Flint.
22nd August. Wrote feature & review about Operation Massacre by Rodolfo Walsh.
19th August. Finished After Midnight by Irmgard Keun and was very disappointed. I shall not be reading any more of her novels. I cannot understand the praise it has received. Those sections dealing with the Nazis are interesting but otherwise the story, told from 19-year-old Sanna’s perspective in Cologne and Frankfurt [pic, right] have little or no drawing power for me. Whilst reading up on Keun I came across a very interesting feature by Ruth Franklin (‘Should Novels and Politics mix) on the “question of how to write a political novel—or whether politics and the novel ought to have anything to do with each other at all” which can be read here.
At a committee room in Stormont Jeffrey Donaldson MP and I gave presentations, followed by a Q & A, before a small delegation representing civic society in troubled Bahrain. Included on the delegation were supporters of Ibrahim Sharif al-Sayed, a prisoner of conscience who was tortured and sentenced for campaigning for democracy and reform and speaking out against the regime.
16th August. Finished No-No Boy by John Okada.Print This Post
August 13, 2013 by danny
Finished Child of All Nations by Irmgard Keun (pic, left), which was first published in Germany in 1938 before being banned, and which is told from eight-year-old Kully’s point of view, the daughter of exiled/wandering emigré parents whose father is a writer, a gambler, a womaniser and a drinker. I found the story initially unengaging but it eventually draws you in by its charm and has you smiling. Keun was the lover/partner of Joseph Roth who died in Paris in 1939.
Kully observes in order to learn but often hears contradictory things. One woman says: ‘Where there’s singing, join the throng – only bad people have no songs.’
But her father retorts that ‘that was exactly the throng you shouldn’t join, because where there was singing there was the greatest danger. People singing together was halfway to murder; there wasn’t a war that didn’t start with singing.’
11th August. Féile is over for another year and I am exhausted having been involved in the organization of almost forty talks and readings, most of which were brilliant. Really enjoyed the talk given by libel law expert Paul Tweed [pic, right] who was extremely entertaining. It was the biggest festival yet and did much to lift the mood of the people of West Belfast and beyond.
5th August. Interviewed by Maggie Taggart for local BBC television re 25th anniversary of Féile.
31st July. Interviewed by Seamus McKee on Radio Ulster re 25th anniversary of Féile. My interview with RTE’s Tommie Gorman re 25th anniversary of Féile was broadcast tonight on RTE 1.
30th July. Interviewed by Radio Ulster’s Blas re 25th anniversary of Féile.
27th July. My interview with Gerry Moriarity, Irish Times, re 25th anniversary of Féile was published today.
26th July. Finished Operation Massacre by Rodolfo Walsh, the story of a civilian massacre by the Argentinian police in June 1956. Brilliantly written.
25th July. Interviewed by Daire Brennan, a UCD student doing an MA in the history of the ‘Southern print media reaction to the 1981 hunger strike’.
19th July. Brian Campbell, features writer at Irish News, interviewed me about my novel Rudi.
6th July. Finished Pedro and the Captain by the late Mario Benedetti (translated by Adrianne Aron), a play written in 1979. Benedetti was a Uruguayan novelist, playwright and journalist. This short play is set in an interrogation centre, nominally in Latin America, but is universally applicable, and relevant, particularly in light of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
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July 4, 2013 by danny
Faithless [pic] playing this August at Féile 25. The programme was launched last Monday. Speakers included Caral Ni Chuilin [Minister for Arts and Culture], Mairtin O Muilleoir [Mayor of Belfast] and festival founder Gerry Adams TD. Good crowd at Conway Mill and great music from Joby Fox who will be performing in support of Damian Dempsey in August. Interviewed by Marie-Louise Muir for BBC’s Arts Extra.
28th June. Interviewed by Tommy Gorman from RTE who is making a feature about the 25th anniversary of Féile an Phobail, due to be broadcast on Nationwide on 31st June.
27th June. Interviewed on BBC Radio Foyle about my book, Rudi. Finished editing and designing this year’s Féile programme – 108 pages! Hundreds of great events.
22nd June. Interviewed by Robert Savage, who teaches History at Boston College, and who is writing a book about television and the Troubles, specifically how the BBC covered/coped with the conflict.
20th June. Interviewed by Patrick Fitzgerald, a postgraduate student in History at the National University of Ireland, Galway, whose thesis is on the Republican Movement and the development of Sinn Féin as a political entity, 1976-1986.
19th June. Finished Imagining Argentina by Lawrence Thornton which had been sent to me by John Norby from the US. Told in the first person, the novel is set during the time of the Generals in the late ’70s when thousands of people disappeared. At times it is breathtaking and moving, but at other times it goes flat. Nevertheless a worthwhile read. First published in 1976, it was followed by two further related novels.
12th June. Finished The Light of Amsterdam by David Park whom I admire as a writer and love his use of imagery. An adolescent boy wakes up – “a tuft of his hair sticking up from his head like an aerial from a roof”; two lurching drunks, arms around each other’s shoulders looked “as if they were in a ragged three-legged race”. The novel is about the lives of three separate Belfast people, strangers to each other, who happen to be going to Amsterdam for a weekend with friend and relatives; how their lives loosely cross; and how the friends and relatives, none, are able to properly communicate, or else miscommunicate or else misunderstand each other. That lack of communication I found frustrating and just wished for more breakthroughs. Nevertheless, good writing.
11th June. Interviewed by Henry Jarrett, a postgraduate researcher at the University of Exeter who is exploring ‘party political election campaigns in the north of Ireland’.
6th June. At Queens University I spoke to visiting law students from Duquesne University, USA, about the background to the conflict and the current political situation. They also took a dozen copies of Then The Walls Came Down.
25th May. Interviewed by Eva Wall from Dublin who is writing for her Leaving Certificate about the background and personality of Bobby Sands and the drive behind his actions, “comparing the hunger strikers to the martyrs of 1916.”
22nd May. Interviewed by Martin Harkin who is doing his Masters in Irish History at Queens, his dissertation examining Free Derry in August 1969 and what was happening in Belfast at that time.
14th May. Was interviewed by Ivan Little for the Belfast Telegraph about my novel Rudi and my life before and after I became a writer. Finished reading Staring At Lakes by Michael Harding. A lovely, quixotic, idiosyncratic, honest, searing work of art.
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June 11, 2013 by danny
Mike Philpott, the writer, commentator and presenter, has written a review of Rudi – In The Shadow of Knulp which has been published on Eamonn Mallie’s popular website and can be seen here.
This is the text of Mike’s review:
Sentences in novels don’t come more arresting than “Once Rudi had kissed her it was the beginning and the end of his life.” It’s also the sentence around which the plot of this book revolves.
Danny Morrison’s fourth novel is a retelling of Hermann Hesse’s 1915 love story, Knulp, hence the second part of its title. Although updated in time and place, Rudi is a similar central character to Hesse’s original – a vagabond who seems unable to settle in any one place. He starts off as a student, a poet and a pacifist reflecting on the Second World War, but as the novel progresses his life falls apart and he becomes a drinker who is willing to sell anything to pay for alcohol.
The cause of this disintegration is love. Or rather, his rejection by Isabel, the woman he loves. His redemption comes as he tells the story of his life to a young friend, Rebecca.
Like many of the characters in Carson McCullers’ classic novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Rudi may be surrounded by people but he is essentially a loner. And like most of us as he progresses through the years, he’s trying to make sense of his own existence and the existence of those around him.
While the Second World War casts a shadow over the earlier part of the book, readers may be surprised – given Danny Morrison’s history – that our own more recent conflict doesn’t play a more major role in the latter sections of the story. I suspect this is because politics would have contaminated the central plank of the plot – namely that love is pretty much all we have, in all its triumphs and cruelties.
Rudi is an Everyman whose story reflects the experience of all of us. Life is hard, he seems to be telling us, but the effort is worth it.
Towards the end of the novel, he has a conversation that raises the central question asked by his historical forebear, Knulp – namely why he has not done anything of consequence in his life. The answer, of course, is that – like all of us – he has, in however small a way.
Rudi is a sad and quite emotional novel, but the moments of darkness are balanced by rays of light. Just like life itself, in fact.
The illustration above is a copy of the cover on the first version of Knulp I read over twenty years ago.