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Human Rights in Ireland >>
John Arden, acclaimed playwright and novelist, publishes new collection of stories
anti-war / imperialism |
Wednesday August 12, 2009 20:31 by Fred Johnston margaretta at iol dot ie 10, St. Bridget's Place Lr., Galway, Ireland Phone: 00.353 (0) 91 565430
November sees significant book-launch
Acclaimed playwright and novelist brings out a new collection of short stories
Playwright Margaretta D'Arcy and John Arden, in Galway
Hailed as Britain's Brecht, John Arden, now entering his 80th year, produces in his new collection of stories, Gallows, a mixture of melodrama and black comedy, probing the underside of Irish and English history over some four hundred years. The book, which is accompanied by a DVD of a short documentary of Arden talking about his influences and his illustrations of episodes in Gallows, will be launched by Fintan O'Toole (critic and cultural commentator) in Galway this November.
Arden was born and reared in Yorkshire. He has lived in Galway for over four decades, and has lost none of his vigour or curious imagination since his notable plays, e.g. Serjeant Musgraves Dance (1959) and The Non-Stop Connolly Show (co-written and co-produced with Margaretta DArcy in 1975). His first novel, Silence Among The Weapons, was short-listed for the Booker Prize. He won the PEN Short Story Prize for his collection, Cogs Tyrannic, and the V.S.Pritchett Memorial Prize for the tale Breach Of Trust, which he included in his 2003 volume, The Stealing Steps.
The title-piece is a ghost story set in contemporary Galway: a nightmare of ghastly slaughter resurfacing from Penal Law times. Other tales contain sideways reminiscences of the Irish visits of US Presidents Reagan and Bush; xenophobia on a Bus Éireann express; the savagery that envelops a young Galway woman who exposes clerical sex-abuse a decade or so too soon; the murderous breakdown of a British soldier after Belfast and Iraq. The playwright Ben Jonson is trapped into acting as a government spy against the Gunpowder Plot; a distressed London clergyman becomes involved with Fenian dynamitards in the 1880s; successive generations of a Yorkshire family steer their way through corrupt provincial politics between the epoch of the 1798 Irish Rebellion and the beginnings of 20th-century mass-tourism.
All these tales testify to Ardens consistent preoccupation with the contradictions, treacheries and unaccountable attachments of private life and public affairs.
Books of Bale:
Historically cranky, gutsy, opinionated, and as singularly refreshing as anything by Robert Graves.
- The Observer
The Stealing Steps
tales and settings are controlled by a third-person voice narrating in a sympathetically knowing, tragic-comic tone
theatrical mood and picaresque sprightliness
Arden himself is far from word or world weary.
- The Irish Times - John Kenny
A continuing communication between the real world and the mythological
Ardens greatest gift with such swiftly moving content is in the apparently easy tone of his calm prose
a work of great richness and beauty.
- The TLS - Simon Conway
It is almost impossible to escape the energy of these stories. It catches you from the very first line and leaves you breathless for the next, until
you reach the end of the narration and say Wow!
- Galway Advertiser - Des Kenny
This unruly collection of confessions, reckonings and betrayals flails at Irelands precarious relations with Britain and itself, at frightened states policing their own people.
- The Guardian - David Jays