Before the Wax Hardened

By: Adrian Kenny

(1 customer review)


On his first trip abroad, Adrian Kenny observes that the signs are in one language only. There is no need for translation: there is nothing behind. Not so in his suburban childhood and adolescence, where Mayo is behind Dublin, poor fields behind bourgeois drawing rooms, wildness behind authority. Attached to both, the attempts of Adrian Kenny to reconcile them take him from close certainty to total collapse in the year of change – America 1968.

“What was it all for?” his father asks.

“It’s like the end of the Aeneid,” whispers his friend.

“You came at the end of that world,” Father Wilmot says. The end of Latin Mass, maids, floggings and charcoal suits.

First published in 1991, Lilliput is proud to reissue this portrayal of a generation, to which the author’s keen eye and clear style lend the truth and elegance of a classic.

“He brings maturity to bear on the past, without making a parable of it. Most of all he makes the past seem as it really is, swimming about inside us. This is a great book altogether.” The Irish Times


Adrian Kenny was born in Dublin in 1945, and educated at Gonzaga College and University College Dublin. He has worked as an English teacher in Ireland and abroad, and as a freelance journalist. He is the author of The Feast of Michaelmas (novel, 1978), Arcady (stories, 1983), Before the Wax Hardened (autobiography, 1991), Istanbul Diary (1994), The Family Business (1999) and Portobello Notebook (2012). He has also published an edition of the journals of Arland Ussher, and a translation of the 18th century Gaelic poet An Caisideach Ban. He is a member of Aosdàna.




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1 review for Before the Wax Hardened

  1. Lilliput Press

    Adrian Kenny deserves to be better known. Married to Ruth Webster, longtime doyenne of the wonderful Books Upstairs, Kenny has produced some beauties – The Family Business, Istanbul Diary, Portobello Notebook, all with the Lilliput Press. First published in 1991, Before the Wax Hardened straddles dualities – the home place in Mayo against bourgeois Dublin 6; the earthy sexuality of the family’s “maid”, her room smelling of sweat and talcum powder, against his Mama, she praying the memoir project would fail, desperately fearing revelation; the intensity of being part of a big family against the terror of going out into the world. A phenomenal capacity to render dialogue from the long ago on a par with uber master Aidan Higgins, Kenny’s figures spring to life via their own words. His description of the nervous collapse – extreme sensitivity against the necessity to stand alone – is wonderfully told; his brain-fevered rush home produces giant phalluses, a terror that he is “queer”. Deadly. – Rosita Sweetman

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Weight 0.300 kg
Dimensions 136 × 215 mm

Paperback: 244pp

Publication Date

12 May 2017