Geoffrey Squires

At the time of writing, James Hogan’s latest publication is a short but lively account of local rugby passions in the particular corner of south-west France where he has lived now for several decades, beautifully translated into French and published in the venerable and prestigious magazine Europe. But the first volume of his massive study of Rilke is also due out shortly. The existence of these two utterly different publications points to both the achievement and the problem of Hogan/Young as a writer. It is difficult to think of any Irish (or other) writer with as varied an output. And the variety is compounded in further ways: two largely autobiographical novels, Light Years and Heavy Years, about his working and social life in London after he moved there from Cork, exploring the media world and the health service respectively; his own poetry; verse translations of the medieval Irish Dánta Grádha, and of a number of Brecht’s poems, made at a time when the latter’s poetry took very much second place to the then-fashionable plays. And I almost forgot to mention a highly individual travelogue in the north-east of Brazil which weaves together personal, socio-political and topographical elements in a unique way.

Too diverse for his own good?  The sheer variety of Hogan’s work has meant that his reputation is probably less focussed than it would have been had he concentrated his fire. I have found myself reacting in different ways at different times to his work, sometimes feeling that ideas had a fatal attraction for him, at others thinking that he had yet to exploit fully the social comedies of his adopted terroir. But most of the time I am happy to let be. We are lucky to have had such a productive and inventive spirit, if not quite among us, at least accessible to us. And a generous one too: when we were both living in London we read An Béal Bocht together, which not only revived my Irish but was immense fun. There is a long tradition of Irish writers who do not quite fit moving abroad and continuing their travails, at a distance. In a country where presence matters that can affect their reception. However, over time, they usually come to be valued as they should. I expect that will be the case too with Hogan/Young.

young hogan port vendres

Young Hogan wearing the tee-shirt of an unknown cycling club apparently called Fammes [sic] Fatales, photographed in the mountains above his home in Port Vendres by Alannah Hopkin

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The Duras Press

The Duras Press