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Novelist Bernard MacLaverty in fine form in familiar surroundings

BY Michael Conaghan

Like all great Irish novelists, Bernard MacLaverty has ploughed an equally successful furrow as a short story writer.

To celebrate the imminent publication of his collected edition works, he chose the salubrious surroundings of the Great Hall in Queen's – "a place where I used to eat" – for an enlightening conversation with BBC Radio Ulster's Marie Louise Muir.

First, he read the story Clinic from his 2007 collection, Matters of Life and Death. He described it as a "hats off to Chekhov" story, whom the protagonist peruses to while away the tedium (and the worry) of a test for diabetes.

It contained all the elements that make MacLaverty special, mixing keen observation and dark humour with a poetic feeling that sprang from what he explained was a Catholic tradition of language, where things were said "until they became abstract".

Like most Irish writers there has been a tradition of strong women MacLaverty's his life.

There was his ferociously Catholic Auntie Betty and a mother whose greatest wish was for him not to write anything dirty.

Recently, he has worked both in film and opera, for which he showed an engaging enthusiasm. When Marie Louise asked him delicately what he was currently doing, he replied cryptically that he was "working on a thing" – a suitably enigmatic way to end an enjoyable evening.

 

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