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December 01 , 2008

A Night in the Catacombs

Fictional Portraits of Ireland's Literati


In this collection of ten stories, David M. Kiely merges history with fiction to illuminate mysteries that have baffled scholars for generations. What was the precise nature of Dean Swift's dementia? What odd adventures befell Goldsmith on his European excursion? How did George Moore react to his extraordinary portrait by Manet? Was Joyce's secret visit to Dublin nurturing an incipient Work in Progress? Was Wolfe Tone's brother a source for Maria Edgeworth's novels? It is a measure of the skill of Kiely's writing - grounded in historical detail, brilliantly observed, stylistically various and exact - that these questions seem not implausible. His findings are often wry, occasionally irreverent, morbid and even brutal, but the reader is left in no doubt that the writers in this work have earned Ireland a special place in the literature of English-speaking peoples. Among the stories we find Brendan Behan, master of ceremonies, carrying out a grotesque experiment in a Fitzwilliam Street drinking den in 1947; the nine-year old Sean O'Casey encountering Maud Gonne and her menagerie; a post-coital Wilfrid Blunt and Lady Gregory discussing the rights of small nations; the madness of Dean Swift explored in a vision in St. Patrick's bell-tower. A Night in the Catacombs is an extraordinary début collection oF fictions. 'A stimulating and original read ... an ingenious, inventive and innovative fictional voyage with some of the major Irish writers.' - Tom Glennon, The Irish Times ' ... deeply and wittily original and carried off with great skill in a most accomplished of debuts' - Dermot Bolger, Sunday Tribune
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