Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Leaves on Grey by Desmond Hogan (1980, reissued by Lilliput Press with an author after word 2014)

I have continually expressed my great admiration for the work of Desmond Hogan.  I have previously posted on his first novel,now a classic, The Ikon Maker, his Farewell to Prague, and his collection of travel articles and  thoughts on writers that matter to him, The Edge of the City:  A Scrapbook 1976 to 1991, as well as a number of his marvelous short stories.  

The prose of The Leaves on Grey is simply exquisite.  One could start any where in the novel and encounter transcendent phrases and sentences to be treasured.   Set in the 1940s in Ireland, it is, among many other things the story of the deepening relationship of two young men, Seam and Liam.  They bond through their mutual love and sexual obsession over the same woman.  I am not inclined to summarize the plot of this work for my own reasons.  It is a story about Ireland in the 1940s, of college in Dublin, of love and sex, about the all powerful city of Dublin.  

Here is the publisher's excellent description:

‘To seek the beginning is to go back a long time ago, when the town in which I am writing was a little different and trees hung at the end of the town, trees hung obsessively, many trees, much green at the end of the street come summer, come the arrival of leaves and sun and buttercup blaze.’

It is the late 1940s, and Sean and Liam, middle-class boys in a small West of Ireland town, share a powerful bond of love and rivalry: each long for the same women. At university together in Dublin, Sean and Liam’s burgeoning sexuality leads them to a deeper, almost mystical level of involvement. They befriend Christine, rich, vulnerable and desperate for affection, and Sarah, glamorous, spoiled, intoxicating; her body is a seductive bridge between the pair, which they ultimately cross with painful and profound consequences.

The Leaves on Grey is the story of Ireland, ‘maker of wounds, tormentor of youth, ultimately breaker of all that was sensitive and enriched by sun, rain, wind’. Sean and Liam, and the men and women who become part of their lives, are both the creators and victims of their birthright.

This sensitive, passionate story is Desmond Hogan’s second novel, originally published in 1980. It is reissued here with a new afterword by the author.

‘Lost innocence, the young and the bright and the beautiful shining and dancing before dusk, is the theme ... Hardly new material, but to it Mr Hogan – one of the most talented writers lately to come out of Ireland or anywhere else – brings a light so brilliant that almost every word dazzles.’ – JANICE ELLIOTT, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

‘Desmond Hogan establishes himself among the best novelists with The Leaves on Grey. He has a lot to say, which he does with elegance and maturity ... his language is succinct and utterly fresh. He wishes fiction to be a moral force, and his could be.’ – MYRNA BLUMBERG, THE TIMES

I will for sure read this work at least once more and will attempt another post on it then.  It is a wonderful book and I loved it.  My short post just reflects my own mental state right now.

I urge anyone interested in Irish Literature, Culture, History, or politics to study the webpage of Lilliput Publishers.

Mel u

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