What the Curlew Said: Nostos Continued

By: John Moriarty



‘This is a mighty book in every sense of that mighty word mighty. This book is almost seven hundred pages, but that is a straw compared with the scale of its contents – its stories, its poems, its memories, its prayers, its laughter, its tears, its songs, its passions, its dinnseanchas, its thought, its insight, its fun, its madness, its celebrations, its terrible suffering, its amazing physical presence, its amazing spirituality. I am indulging in no idle hyperbole when I say that this is one of the most remarkable autobiographies I have ever read in my entire life. Every household in Ireland should have a copy of this magical book.’ – Paul Durcan

‘The Classical, Eastern and Amer-Indian legends that have informed Moriarty’s life are recreated or re-enacted in this deeply personal document, which is rich in encounters with the physical world and tender episodes of love and loss.’ – Tim Robinson

‘Quitting the myth of rationality for the deeper rationality of ancestral myths, with an enlightenment as searching as the double quest – Creation and Fall – of the Bible and the Buddha, John Moriarty’s masterwork Nostos tells the story of his own life and the life of all those stories which our species has been sharing since the first annals of the primal savannah. It is a great book this, the greatest Irish book since Ulysses, and its subject is the same august and Augustinian one – the City of Man and the City of God.’ – Aidan Carl Mathews

‘Moriarty is a Kerryman who has walked the earth listening like a water diviner for rumblings underneath. And everywhere he goes he finds the same thing. That human beings in our grey modern clothes are cut off from the earth. Cut off from our deepest psychic energy. And this sense of loss is something he addresses with a wide variety of texts, from every corner of the globe, and almost every period of history. In one sense his achievement is to offer an insight into modern Western loneliness. That is the philosopher in him. But there is the poet as well. And the eclectic collection of stories from all over the globe and every part of history, rendered to us in the author’s very original voice, is itself an act of poetry. In Nostos Moriarty has surpassed all his previous achievements. Because it is in the recording of his life, that his passionate imagination finally makes sense – and here he has recorded his life expansively and clearly and movingly. It is written in exquisite Irish-English, it’s a unique voice, and it sings through in every page of a beautifully made book.’ – Michael Harding, Sunday Tribune

‘Moriarty’s erudition is immense … his words are shamanic, brushed with sparks of mystic fire … Nostos is a remarkable, paradoxical book, biblical in scope and shape.’ -Gerry McCarthy, Sunday Times

‘Now again I live in a river-mirrored house, the house a cottage, and the river that mirrors it broadening out twice a day into an estuary lake fished by otters and herons and, when the salmon are running, by a sole old seal. One of the herons I know. Screeching and croaking an angelus that announces only himself, he comes in flying low over the water and, the rhetoric of his wingfolding perfect, he stands there, outstandingly, poised for the kill. Young though he is in this lifetime, he is old in incarnations. Night not in them even when he closes them, his eyes are for opening outwards only. Outwards always. Even in sleep. Him especially. Him looking so priestly, so poised for death-dealing in his chasuble of fine feathers. Him, if I could, I would talk to.’

This autobiography, a sequel to Nostos, concludes the story of John Moriarty’s life in Connemara during the 1980s and subsequent return to his native Kerry. He writes with compelling detail about his time at Roundstone and environs, restoring gardens at Leitirdyfe House and Lisnabrucka, and building his own house at Toombeola. He reflects on his Kerry childhood and the death of his father; he describes his adopted family, a sortie to Dublin for Christmas, the writer Tim Robinson, and his neighbourhood and community; he celebrates the returned pine martens and the fauna and flora of a historic landscape; he undertakes a lecture tour in Canada organized by his former students; and throughout he engages with the immensities of the natural and spiritual worlds that form his habitat.

In this posthumously published work, completed just weeks before his death, John Moriarty calls to account the literatures and legacies of European thought made manifest in the western extremities of Ireland. They bore witness to his own inner and outer journey, now documented in this compelling, writerly masterwork.

JOHN MORIARTY was born in Kerry on 2 February 1938 and died there on 1 June 2007. He was educated at St Michael’s College, Listowel, and University College Dublin. He taught English literature at the University of Manitoba in Canada for six years, before returning to Ireland in 1971. His books include Dreamtime (1994); the trilogy Turtle Was Gone a Long Time: Crossing the Kedron (1996), Horsehead Nebula Neighing (1997) and Anaconda Canoe (1998); Nostos, An Autobiography (2001); Invoking Ireland (2005); Night Journey to Buddh Gaia (2006); Serious Sounds (2007); and One Evening in Eden (2007), a boxed CD collection of his talks, stories and poetry.

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Weight 1 kg

September 2007


240 x 160mm, 376pp