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The Truth Commissioner

February 26, 2009 by  

25th February. Finished my review of ‘The Truth Commissioner’ by David Park which is to be published in 16th March in the online scholarly journal of AEDEI, the Spanish Association for Irish Studies – which can be found HERE.

23rd February. Finished reading my friend Tim O’Grady’s wonderful travel book about the USA, ‘Divine Magnetic Lands’, which I shall elaborate on soon.

19th February. Plans fell through and couldn’t get to the book launch in Chelsea of my friend Shane Connaughton’s new novel, ‘Big Parts’, by Muswell Press.

18th February. Asked to launch book, ‘Diego – The True Story of a Colombian Guerilla Fighter’ by Diego Fernando López Jaramillo, who is serving forty years in La Modelo Prison. Launch is at the former Green Cross Art Shop, 52/53 Falls Road on Friday, 6th March, at 11am.

11th February. Received an invitation to speak at St Andrew’s University, Scotland, date to be arranged but probably in autumn.

7th February. Introduced Sean McMahon at Studio 1, BBC, who gave a lecture on Sam Hanna Bell [who was born 100 years ago this October]. Introduced three speakers at literary event in Bank Square Marquee – Maggie Cronin, Dan Gordon and Dan Eggs. All events were part of Féile an Phobail’s Féile an Earraigh [spring] festival.

6th February. Introduced tribute to Padraic Fiacc event at Colaiste Feirste.

5th February. Interviewed on phone by a student from Kerry on the effects on Sinn Fein of being banned under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act. Introduced event at Falls Library – Mayor Tom Hartley being interviewed by Joe Austin.

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The Quigley Brothers

February 26, 2009 by  

‘The Quigley Brothers’, a chapter from my book All The Dead Voices, has just been published on the Shared Troubles website .

In it I write about the death of my best friend Jimmy Quigley [pictured left, at a wedding in 1971], an IRA Volunteer, who died in a gun battle with the British army in Albert Street, Belfast, on 29th September, 1972.

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Pádraic Fiacc

February 7, 2009 by  

Pádraic Fiacc Fiacc saw through me right away and said to me very quietly but purposefully, “I am not sure if you are a baddie.” We then joked but although he is old and infirm he is no fool and can see through or rather can glimpse through you. I was introducing him for an event in his honour on Friday past [February 6th] as part of Féile an Earraigh, the ‘Spring’ festival of Féile an Phobail. The festival finishes later today, Sunday, with two concerts, but one of the highlights was certainly Joe Austin’s fascinating interview with Mayor Tom Hartley who was interesting and honest and very forthcoming. And the venue – the Falls Library – was excellent.







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‘The novelist is not a valet to historians’

February 6, 2009 by  

Just finished reading Milan Kundera’s ‘The Curtain – An Essay in Seven Parts’. At the behest of my French friend Joelle, back in 1988, I read his novel ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ and was almost immediately put off by some interpolation he made around page 40 that none of the book was true, he made it all up, and now we’ll go back to the story. For me it fractured the suspension of disbelief. Nevertheless, I read some more of him: ‘The Book of Laughter and Forgetting’ in 1990; ‘Immortality’ and ‘The Art of the Novel in 1992. One shouldn’t judge a man by his cover but he has an impish face which unjustifiably suggests smugness or smart-assness. Having said all that, I enjoyed this book and the range of international literature and authors he covers.

He writes about Dostoyevsky’s novel ‘The Idiot’ [a book I loved]:

‘Until then such a concentration of events within so compressed a time and space could only be found in the theatre. Behind an extreme dramatization of actions (Ganya slaps Mishkin, Varya spits in Gany’s face, Rogozhin and Mishkin declare their love to the same woman as the same moment), every aspect of ordinary life vanishes. This is the poetics of the novel in Scott, in Balzac, in Dostoyevsky: the novelist wants to tell everything by scenes, but describing a scene takes too much space; the need to maintain suspense requires an extreme density of action, and hence the paradox: the novelist wants to hold on to all the plausibility of life’s prose, but the scene becomes so thick with event, so overflowing with coincidence, that it loses both its prosaic nature and its plausibility.’

In relation to surrealist writing [and I suppose he includes magical realism] he says: ‘When Balzac or Flaubert or Proust wants to describe someone’s behaviour within a specific social milieu, any violation of plausibility is out of place, aesthetically inconsistent; but when the novelist focuses his lens on a problematic that is existential, the obligation to give the reader a plausible world no longer comes into play as rule or necessity. The author can be far more casual about that apparatus of data, descriptions, motivations meant to give his story the appearance of reality. And, in some borderline cases, he can even find it worthwhile to put his characters in a world that is frankly implausible.’

In a section, ‘What Is a Novelist?’ he quotes from Proust: ‘Every reader, as he reads is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth.’

He also refers to a Romanian, E. M. Cioran, who moved to France in 1937 at the age of 26 but prior to that was a cheerleader for the fascists. Cioran died in 1995 at the age of 84 but most of the obituaries, complains Kundera, himself a victim of totalitarianism, concentrated on Cioran’s early politics and not on his sixty years of work as a writer. It reminded me, I suppose, of the raging debate that occurred on the death of Francis Stuart about his role as a Nazi propagandist in the early 1940s and which split Aosdana. In 1949 Cioran wrote: ‘I could not even imagine my past; and when I think of it now, it seems to be showing me the life of some other person. And that other person is what I repudiate; my whole ‘self’ is someplace else, a thousand leagues away from the person he was.’

Interestingly, while most of us laud and encourage young people and exalt youth, Cioran is particularly angry and says: ‘Evil is the doing of young people. They are the ones who advocate doctrines of intolerance and put them into practice; they’re the ones who have need of blood, shouting, turbulence, and barbarism. At the time when I was young, all of Europe had faith in youth, all of Europe urged the young into politics, into affairs of state.’

Kundera refers to some authors I must now explore: Witold Gombrowicz, Danilo Kiš and Ernesto Sabato.

There is a memorable quote in the book: ‘The novelist is not a valet to historians.’


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Ibsen & Kundera, 2009

February 5, 2009 by  


31st January. Picked up from Falls Library the book I ordered: ‘The Curtain – an Essay in Seven Parts’ by Milan Kundera.

27th January. Did an interview with the World Service of the BBC on the future of the site of Long Kesh/H-Blocks and the Eames/Bradley report. My interview re my court case and appeal was broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme.

25th January. Took part in panel discussion on Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence in relation to the leaked report from Eames/Bradley on ‘Dealing with the Past’.

24th January. Bought a book in the Oxfam Shop, Castle Street, ‘Ghosts and other Plays’ by Ibsen for 50p, including the wonderfully-titled play, ‘When We Dead Wake’. Took part in panel discussion in the Waterfront Hall after a matinee performance of ‘The Chronicles of Long Kesh’. Theme ‘Experiences in Political Conflict’.

19th January. Participated in discussion on BBC Arts Extra of review of ‘The Chronicles of Long Kesh’.

17th January. Picked up from Falls Library the book I had ordered: ‘Stepping Stones – Interviews with Seamus Heaney’ by Dennis O’Driscoll.

15th January. Attended the play, ‘The Chronicles of Long Kesh’ by Martin Lynch, with Mayor Tom Hartley in the Waterfront Hall. Interviewed afterwards by Ivan Little from UTV.

13th January. Feature I wrote on my court case published in ‘The Guardian’ G2 magazine, titled ‘Dirty War’. Interviewed by Bonnie Weir, USA on ‘how leaders within a movement convince those at the more grassroots level to accept and actively work for significant changes in strategies – and especially how leaders can get a sense of the amount of risk of organizational fractures that there is over time.’

10th January. Took part in RTE radio discussion on the ‘just war’ theory in relation to the Israeli assault on Gaza.

9th January. Met with Mark Adair, BBC, to discuss Féile an Phobail holding a talk on Sam Hanna Bell in Studio 1 [this year being the centenary of the writer’s birth].

7th January. Took part in discussion, ‘The Literature of Long Kesh’ which was broadcast on BBC Arts Extra on 8th January.

2nd January. Met Michael McKernon from Multimedia Heritage to plan an interview with poet Padraic Fiacc during the Féile an Earraigh festival in early February.