14 February 1925 – 10 March 2018
Val Mulkerns was born in Dublin in 1925. Growing up in an artistic family, her father was J.J. Mulkerns, a Dublin actor and writer of satirical verse. After a stint in the Irish Civil Service, she moved to England, where she worked as a teacher. During the fifties, after moving back to Ireland, she began to write, and worked as an associate editor, contributor and theatre critic of The Bell, a famed Irish literary review founded by Sean O’Faolain.
Her two early novels were A Time Outworn (1951), and A Peacock Cry (1954). While raising a family in the decade that followed, she became a regular columnist with The Evening Press, wrote a number of short stories – for which she has received particular renown – and penned two children’s books, translated to German and published by Benziger of Zurich.
In 1978 she wrote Antiquities (André Deutsch), the first of three acclaimed collections of short stories. The others were An Idle Woman (Poolbeg, 1980), and A Friend of Don Juan (John Murray, 1988). Two novels followed, The Summerhouse (John Murray, 1984) and Very Like A Whale (John Murray 1986).
She was joint winner of the AIB Prize for Literature in 1984, and became the Mayo County Library’s first writer-in-residence in 1987-1988. During this time, she edited an anthology entitled New Writings from the West. She is included in several key Irish literature anthologies, including The Field Day Anthology (Edited by Seamus Deane), and The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction (edited by Colm Tóibín), and The Granta Book of The Irish Short Story edited by Anne Enright. More recently she was the most senior Irish writer included in Reading the Future: New Writing from Ireland Celebrating 250 Years of Hodges Figgis, edited by Alan Hayes. Her latest appearence in print features Spring 2023, in The Writer’s Torch, a new anthology of stories from The Bell, published by Ireland’s premiere literary review and publishing house, The Stinging Fly.
Married to the late writer Maurice Kennedy, they had a daughter and two sons. She edited a posthumous collection of Kennedy’s work, The Way to Vladivostok, in 2000, a second edition of which is now available, titled Vladivostok. Through the ninties until her death in 2018, she lived by the sea in Dalkey, just south of Dublin. There she was an active member of Aosdána, the Affiliation of Creative Artists in Ireland, and continued to broadcast frequently on Sunday Miscellany, a programme of writers’ original reflections on RTE.
In 2013, a Third Edition of Val’s equisite 1984 novel The Summerhouse was published by Tara Press, and a volume of her collected short stories, Memory and Desire, was published in May 2016 by 451 Editions. It features twelve of the author’s short stories from the collections, An Idle Woman, Antiquities and A Friend of Don Juan.
The elegant memoir Friends With The Enemy (2017) was her final book. It recounts a Bohemian Dublin childhood, travels in post-war Europe and her life-long love affair with Southern France. She reflects on her time working as an Editor at the The Bell alongside Editor in Chief Peadar O’Donnell and goes on to cover almost 70 years of life in literary Ireland.
Relating to this period, in 2023 the Irish literary magazine The Stinging Fly includes Val in a fine tome of writing selected from The Bell, with response to stories from contemporary authors, entitled The Writer’s Torch.
While older books may be difficult to find in print, new editions are planned for 2025.
In the meantime, readers can find her more recent titles by special order through Gardners from any bookshop,
and from online bookshops internationally at the links below:
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