Celebration of the centenary of novelist Brian Moore, the literary genius of Belfast

LIKE Northern Ireland itself, Brian Moore was born in 1921 on August 25 in the family home on Clifton Street in North Belfast because – according to family legend – the sound of gunfire could be heard .

The centenary of Northern Ireland’s greatest novelist is an opportunity to celebrate the origins of these novels in Moore’s youth in Belfast and to assess the enduring understanding of the north that Moore left.

Brian Moore immigrated to Canada in 1948, but Northern Ireland remained in the center of his imagination until his death in 1999. He once wrote: “Belfast and my childhood made me suspicious of beliefs, allegiances, certainties. These suspicions made him one of the great writers of the twentieth century.

Brian Moore comes from a prominent Belfast family. His father, James, was a surgeon at Mater Hospital while his uncle was Eoin MacNeill, a founder of the Gaelic League who, as chief of staff of the Irish Volunteers, attempted to quash the 1916 Uprising .

They were a devout Catholic family, a faith he questioned as a teenager and would question in many novels. Brian unfortunately attended St Malachy’s College, but failed his final exams, dashing his father’s hopes of pursuing medical studies at Queen’s University.

In 1940, when he was 19, Moore joined the Belfast Air Raid Precautionary Unit and after his father’s death in 1942 Brian took the opportunity to leave Northern Ireland.

He joined the British War Transport Department and served in France, Italy and North Africa. Towards the end of World War II, Moore visited Auschwitz upon its liberation and returned to Poland after the war with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

In 1948 he emigrated to Canada and rarely returned to Belfast thereafter.

Moore’s early writings revolved around his own experiences of growing up, particularly his rejection of Catholicism and the resulting conflict with his father.

One of the first short stories, A Vocation, recently published in The Dear Departed, depicts a young schoolboy in religious retreat: large pond in the aqueduct. All of these things were in Belfast and Belfast was in Ireland. “

Her first novel, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, The Story of an Unhappy Bachelor from Belfast, was published in 1955 and 19 more acclaimed novels followed.

Brian Moore has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times and had a major influence on Seamus Heaney and Brian Friel, and he continues to influence writers today, such as Lucy Caldwell and Jan Carson.

They are reacting to Moore’s greatest achievement, to quote critic John Self: “The rare appearance of my hometown of Belfast in true literary works.

Moore’s imagination was formed in Belfast and his early novels, along with many of his short stories, are vivid descriptions of the city, while capturing its atmosphere of austere repression and the perpetual frustrations of its people.

Carlo Gebler said of Judith Hearne: “It’s fiction, but Moore didn’t make it up.”

Two of Moore’s Belfast novels, The Emperor of Ice-Cream and The Feast of Lupercal, are now being released in new editions for a new generation of readers who may not be familiar with them.

Over the past 20 years, it can sometimes seem like Moore has been forgotten in his hometown.

Vittoria Cafolla, of the Paradosso Theater, which has organized an exciting program of events commemorating Moore, points out that “there isn’t even a blue plaque”.

It may not be necessary to have a plate. Moore’s early work is anchored in the streets of Belfast, and many centenary celebrations link Moore’s work to the pubs of Belfast and these streets.

The Lonely Passions: Brian Moore’s Centenary Festival included a walking tour from north to south Belfast, led by Hugh Odling-Smee, exploring locations from Moore’s novels and his life, and tonight there will be readings from the novels by Moore in The American Bar.

There were also screenings of rarely seen films based on Moore’s novels, while a read of the stage adaptation of Moore’s novel The Ice Emperor, which was last played by the Abbey Theater in 1977 took place last night at St Joseph’s Church in Sailortown.

Placing Moore’s work in Belfast 2021 may be the best way to fully understand his genius.

Turnpike Books (turnpikebooks.co.uk) publishes a new edition of The Emperor of Ice-Cream. It is Moore’s most autobiographical novel, where the young hero, Gavin, joins the Air Raid Precautions Unit in Belfast.

When Gavin is dressed in his uniform, his aunt describes him as “dressed like a black and tan” and Gavin’s father cannot forget his hatred of England, even in his opposition to Hitler.

At the end of the novel, as Belfast is destroyed by German bombs, Gavin has hopes that a new world would be built.

This is accompanied by a new edition of The Feast of Lupercal, which focuses on the stifling religious atmosphere that Moore grew up with and rejected.

In this novel, Diarmuid Devine is a teacher, a bachelor destined for a life of loneliness, until he meets Una and a possible future emerges. However, their relationship is dominated by their sexual innocence and misunderstanding until fear of scandal forces Devine to choose between Una and conformity.

There is also a new edition of Moore’s lesser-known novel, The Revolution Script, which shows how much Northern Ireland and its politics have remained in Moore’s thoughts at a pivotal moment in the history of the United States. North Ireland.

The Revolution Script is a documentary novel describing the real events of October 1970 in Montreal. A political group called the Front de Liberation du Québec kidnapped the British trade commissioner and killed the deputy premier of Quebec.

Moore recreates these events and asks: who are these young revolutionaries? He notes that the separatists in Quebec link him to his own past: “I found them young, ex-Catholics, nationalists … a mixture that I had known in Ireland.

Brian Moore’s celebration will continue throughout 2021 and, fittingly, culminates at the museum dedicated to his old friend, the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, in November.

There will be a screening of the film from Moore’s most famous novel, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, which stars Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins, and on November 27 there will be a broad discussion of life and work. de Moore with, among others, Sinéad Moynihan, who played a leading role in the organization of the centenary celebrations, and Gerald Dawe.

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