The History of Magpies

By: Desmond Hogan


‘I’ve lived in this place for three years after returning from England. There was an echo in the landscape at night that no one had patience with, a voice trying to tell you something, trying to tell a story.’ (From ‘The ‘Metlar’)

Here are twelve scintillating fresh tales by one of Ireland’s leading writers, who has extended and redefined the tradition of the Irish short story with inimitable verbal force. Embedded in Hogan’s uniquely glancing poetic style, they form capsule character studies and micro-histories of society’s underbelly, variously located in the streets and back alleys of Edinburgh, London, Zagreb, Cork, Dublin, and in the small rural townscape provinces: Kerry to Limerick, Kinsale, Athlone and beyond, each refracted in compressed jewels of painterly prose that explodes in kaleidoscopic bursts of colour and imagery.

These stories are vividly peopled by young homosexuals, Travellers and priests, borstal boys and joyriders, prisoners on remand, hostel dwellers, drinkers and addicts, artisans and the unemployed, and treat their marginalized lives with celebratory dispassion. The story titles alone speak for their milieu: ‘The Big River,’ ‘Café Remember,’ ‘Through the Town,’ “Brimstone Butterfly,’ ’Thornback Ray,’ ‘The Spindle Tree,’ ‘The Metlar,’ ‘Walking Through Truth Land,’ and ‘Famine Rain.’ Here is a writer at the top of his game, documenting an Ireland where few have dared to tread.


Des Hogan was born in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway in 1950. He has been recipient of the Hennessy Award (1971), the Rooney Prize (1977), the Rhys Memorial Prize (1980) and Irish Post Award (1985), and has recently become one of France’s most popular literary writers in translation. His current Lilliput titles include: The Ikon Maker (1976, 2013), The Leaves on Grey (1980, 2014), The Edge of the City: A Scrapbook 1976-91 (1993) and Old Swords and Other Stories (2009).



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