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).