Berkeley’s Telephone and Other Fictions

By: Harry Clifton

Publication Date: September 2000

(1 customer review)


Berkeley’s Telephone and Other Fictions by Harry Clifton

‘I am a philosopher. But let me qualify that at once. I qualified in philosophy, a long time ago, in the city of Dublin, among spoiled priests, a diplomat’s daughter in jodhpurs, two would-be businessmen and the son of a drunken commissioner of oaths. And, of course, the gorgeous Anna. For three years we listened, an ever-diminishing audience, to the history of ideas. Little enough rubbed off on the others, for they have all been roaring successes. As for Anna and myself, having jettisoned all but our precious Berkeley in a second-hand store on the quays, we set off to piece together the conceptual map of Europe. Where haven’t we pitched our tent, over the past ten years, attempting, at the back of our minds, to unite the ideal with the real? I am the ideal, Anna is clearly the real – which is why, unfortunately, we have parted.’

Berkeley’s Telephone, the first book of fiction by the poet Harry Clifton, is a darkly dazzling story-cycle concerned with arrivals and departures, identity and exile, sex and family and betrayal. Some of these stories are set in Africa, Asia or continental Europe, others in Ireland; they treat with equal conviction savannah villages and civil-service offices, businessmen and night-watchmen. They are all about human yearning and wandering. Together they have the cohesiveness and drama of a novel. The title story has been selected for Phoenix Irish Short Stories edited by David Marcus (July 2000).


Harry Clifton was born in Dublin and has travelled widely in Africa and Asia, and latterly in Europe. He is the author of several volumes of poetry – The Walls of Carthage(1977), Office of the Salt Merchant (1979), Comparative Lives (1982), The Liberal Cage (1988), Desert Route: Selected Poems, 1973-1988 (1992), and Night Train through the Brenner (1994). On the Spine of Italy, his chronicle of a year in a mountain village, was published in 1999. He divides his time between Ireland and France.


1 review for Berkeley’s Telephone and Other Fictions

  1. Lilliput Press

    “This seems to be Clifton’s only fiction work. He usually writes poetry, which can be terrific for a prose writer’s style, or else give it too much flavouring so it is overdone. In this case the transition works. The stories are preoccupied with the loneliness behind ordinary lives, both in Ireland and abroad. They are happen in a very male world. As a female reader, I did feel at times a bit out of it, but also at times, enjoyably, like an eavesdropper. There is one long, almost novella-length, story which really shook me and which made me rush to lend the book to a friend (who is still reading it as I write) so I can ask her what hse thinks. It is told from the point of view of one of those sort-of-successful male civil servant types who are affable enough, have a sensible, well-provided life, but who are a mystery to people like me because I can’t work out what on earth their interior monologue might be like. They go to the rugby and seem faithful to their wives but they don’t seem to expect to feel real in themselves. They somehow lack authenticity and are surprised to meet it in other people – they experience any kind of genuine joie de vivre as naivety. The narrator is fascinated and almost repelled by a colleague who lives his life by different rules. I loved this story particularly.” MARGARET CARROLL

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 136 × 215 mm
Publication Date

September 2000


Hardback, 224pp