Val Mulkerns features in new anthology from The Stinging Fly
Val Mulkerns features in a new anthology launched 1st February 2023 from Ireland’s premiere literary magazine and publishing house, The Stinging Fly.
The Writer’s Torch has taken eighteen short stories from the pages of Dublin’s iconic literary magazine The Bell (1940-1954) and asked eighteen of Ireland’s contemporary Irish writers to write responses to them.
The Bell, founded in 1940 by Sean O’Faolain, was a ground-breaking literary review that published short stories, poetry, criticism, opinion pieces, reviews and more. It sought to represent a new Ireland, or, as O’Faolain stated in an editorial, the ‘truth’ of Irish life in the nascent republic during and after the second world war. It was fiercely against censorship, consersatism, clericalism and the idealised, romantic approach of the Irish literary revival.
Authors published by The Bell include Flann O’Brien, Elizabeth Bowen, Patrick Kavanagh, Mary Lavin, David Marcus, Val Mulkerns, James Plunkett, Kate O’Brien, George Bernard Shaw and most of what are considered to be the best of the Irish literary canon.
Val Mulkerns also worked as associate editor of the review in the years when Peadar O’Donnell was editor-in-chief (1950-54). This fact was given special mention by Dr Paul Delaney of Trinity College, Dublin in his opening address to the audience at the book’s launch in MOLI on 1st February, 2023.
The launch included a lively panel discussion of the texts in The Writer’s Torch by authors Evelyn Conlon, Philip O’Ceallaigh, Eilis Ní Dhuibhne and Mia Gallagher – who had responded to the short stories of Kate O’Brien, Frank O’Connor, Margaret Barrington and Val Mulkerns respectively.
Gallagher said she felt she had “lucked out” in being assigned Girls, the story by Val Mulkerns. Set in a flat near Dublin’s Grand Canal, it focuses on three young women preparing for a party. Although the tale was written in 1947, when Mulkerns was just twenty-two years old, Mia described how the tale is timeless, and one of the most modern of the texts in the collection. In her written response, she observes: “The story is a mistresswork of elusive non-epiphany. Blink, and you might miss it.”
The book is available now from The Stinging Fly and from all good bookshops and bookshop websites.
Memory and Desire is published in translation
This year sees a tremendous and welcome project for the work of Val Mulkerns – the translation of her volume of collected short stories in in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Memory and Desire has been translated and published by the University of Banja Luka and is now part of the English Department’s curriculum.
The book’s translation is the brainchild of Professor Petar Penda, of the English Literature Department in Banja Luka, who is a broadly published academic in the area of English Literature, but who has tak
en a particular interest in work by Irish authors. With a view to including more Irish authors on the English Literature curriculum, he edited a previous volume of collected short stories by Irish writers, Irske kratke priče. It includes work from William Trevor, Val Mulkerns, Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín. This title was launched in November, 2021.
Following on from this first project, Professor Penda wanted to explore further translation possibilities of work by an individual Irish author, and approached the estate of Val Mulkerns with a view to taking on Memory and Desire. The project received the full cooperation of the Irish Embassy in Banja Luka.
The proud new title of the book, launched at the end of 2021, is Sjećanje I Požuda
Since the publication of the book, two more stories by Val have been translated and will be published by a literary journal in Montenegro, thereby fulfilling some of the original hopes of Professor Penda – to make the work of Irish writers more available in the region.
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Great New Review of “Friends With The Enemy” on Writing.ie
A fabulous evening to launch Val’s new memoir:
It was a wonderful evening on 14 December last, when “Friends With The Enemy – a Memoir” was launched at the Gutter Bookshop in Dalkey.
Memory and Desire a Carlo Gébler “2016 Favourite Book”
In the annual Irish Times feature where Irish writers nominate their “Favourite Books of 2016“, Irish author Carlo Gébler described the work as “scrupulous, quiet, unpretentious. In this mad world we need more literature in this register.”
Anne Enright reviews “Memory and Desire”
In this splendid review, Anne Enright discusses the historic context of Memory and Desire: “It is remarkable how these stories, published between 1978 and 1988, consistently point to things we pretended, in those days, not to know.” For the live link, click here. Scroll down for full text.
Val Mulkerns was a presence on the bookshelves of my childhood home. Her short stories in particular were read with the odd interest we bring to the work of someone close to us.
Memory and Desire In Irish Times
Launch of Memory and Desire at The Irish Writers’ Centre
Hard to believe that Val Mulkerns published her first novel in 1951 and that this is her tenth title, sixty-five years later. In between came two more novels, three short story collections, two children’s books and many thousands of words of journalistic work, as she became a columnist for a national newspaper in the seventies.
Standing at the podium in The Irish Writers’ Centre on Thursday night, she read an extract from the first story in the collection, “Special Category”, inspired by her father, Jimmy Mulkerns, who had been imprisoned in Frongoch prison camp (via Knutsford Jail) in 1916 following his participation in the Battle of the Four Courts.
As the kick-start to Memory and Desire” it certainly pulls the reader in. Stories then follow in chronological fashion, actually drawing a rough line through most of Ireland in the twentieth century – from the birth of the nation through its massive changes in the sixties and seventies and then into the late eighties: an Ireland struggling between the disillusion of recession and emergence into a post-colonial identity.
Among the guests at the launch of “Memory and Desire” were authors Sebastian Barry, June Considine, Seán O’Reilly, Mia Gallagher and Susan Lanigan. Others from the literary, publishing and press circles included Jonathan Williams, Vincent Browne, Micheal O’Brien and Svetlana Peronko.
The evening was a splendid success, with Professor Ronan Conroy of RCSI delivering the best of introductions: smart, witty and full of warmth.
Memory and Desire, the new title from Val Mulkerns, is to be launched on Thursday, 12 May 2016 at 6:30pm in the Irish Writers’ Centre, in Dublin.
The stories, edited chronologically, start in 1916 with a tale based on the author’s own father, imprisoned following his participation in the battle of the Four Courts. Other stories take us through hard times in Dublin of the nineteen-thirties and forties and into the changing Ireland of the sixties and seventies. The final, title story, ‘Memory and Desire’, is a quintessential eighties tale that author Colm Tóibín has described as: “one of the finest short stories that has been published in Ireland for many years”.
The author is available for readings and media opportunities, and any inquiry can be directed to Cormac Kinsella, at on 01-634-9924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More can also be seen at: www.451Editions.com
No stranger to the long-standing RTE programme, “Sunday Miscellany“, having read many times down the years on the popular Sunday morning show, Val Mulkerns read a new piece related to the 1916-2016 commemorations on the show for the Easter 2016 weekend.
The author is the daughter of JJ Mulkerns, a man who fought with the Easter rebels in the GPO, but who was also a railwayman, a strolling player and the writer of satirical songs. A tall, copper-haired man with a striking voice, he was arrested during the Rising and eventually interned in the notorious Frongoch prison camp, a former whiskey factory in Northern Wales.
For the Sunday Miscellany broadcast on Easter Monday, Val Mulkerns joined other writers and musicians who read and performed songs of the period. Artists included the RTE Contempo Quartet, tenor Morgan Crowley and Iarla O’Lionáird.
JJ, also known as Jimmy Mulkerns, was nicknamed “The Rajah of Frongoch” by fellow-prisoners because of his flamboyant role as MC at the camp’s music-hall style presentations each Friday evening, when the men would sing, present dramas and play traditional music.
For more on this, see the article about the author’s visit to Frongoch last December, 2015, written by Maev Kennedy in the Guardian.
To hear the actual broadcast of the essay, read by Val Mulkerns live at the Wexford Opera House, please click this link.