In a Harbour Green: Celebrating Benedict Kiely
by George O’Brien (Irish Academic Press, €19.95)
In the hurry and bustle of modern Irish literature, Ben Kiely belongs seemingly to another world. This may well be because he was one of that generation of writers whose normal route to writing was though journalism and broadcasting.
The broad rich Ulster tones of his voice belonged even further back in time, to the realm of the seanachie. As a broadcaster and journalist he came in immediate contact with his audience by word of mouth.
His last years were marked by the Troubles in the North to which he gave a memorable expression in his deeply felt novel Proxopera. That book showed he was still in touch with his people.
In this collection of essays and appreciations to mark the centenary of his birth, Tom O’Grady writes of those last years. But in pieces by 11 other friends admirers and compatriots nearly every aspect of his life and career are covered.
A plaque now at long last marks his last home in Donnybrook. But Ben was the sort of man who wherever you set him down in Ireland would begin to relate a story, an ancient tale, a poem, or a memory of days now gone, but brought alive by his powers as raconteur.
This was a fast-fading world that provided the depth to his own published stories.
By now it is clear that his reputation will survive when other names have faded completely. It only remains for an Irish publishing industry that neglected him alive, to keep his books in print for another generation to read.