Alf Mac Lochlainn

1926-2018; b. Dublin; ed. University College, Dublin, grad. French and Irish 1947; MA in Irish, 1948; joined the National Library of Ireland 1949, helping compile the manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilisation with R. J. Hayes; appt. Director of the National Library of Ireland, 1976; afterwards Librarian of University College, Galway [UCG/NUI], 1982, retiring in 1991; served as Chairman of the James Joyce Institute of Ireland and trustee of the Chester Beatty Library; took internships at the Library of Congress and Simmons College in Boston; inaugural holder of the Visiting Chair of Irish Studies at Burns Library, Boston College, 1991-1992; contrib. the entry on Thomas Davis to Dictionary of Irish Literature, ed. Robert Hogan (1979);

wrote film scripts for radio, television, and short films and published numerous essays in bibliography, film criticism, and social and intellectual history, as well as satirical verse in limited editions; author of Out of Focus (1977), described as a novella but appearing to be four short reflections of Flann O’Brien’s de Sleby as dictated to Samuel Beckett; also The Corpus of the Library: Stories and Novellas (1996); d. 8 Dec. 2018;  survived by his Fionnuala, and children Colm, Kate, Nuala, Ian, Gile; a son Fred predeceased him; noted for his prose style and command of modernist technique in fiction; there is an appreciation in The Irish Times (21 April 2019) - online. DIL

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Out of Focus (Dublin: O’Brien Press 1977); The Corpus in the Library: Stories and Novellas (Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press 1996), 151pp. [distrib. Turnabout]; Past Habitual: Stories ([Dallas, Texas]: Dalkey Archive Press 2015), 144pp. [see note].

Also, review of Pilib Ó Laoghaire, Déirc an Dóchais: Léamh ar shaothar Phádraic Óig Uí Chonaire [Aistí Léirmheasa 3] Indrebháin Cló Iar-Chonnachta 1995), in Irish Literary Supplement (Spring 1996), p.28.


Frank O’Brien reviews The Corpus of the Library (Dalkey Archive Press: Illinois State Univ. 1996), in Irish Literary Supplement (Fall 1996), p.14; besides title-story, others cited incl. “Present Tense”; “Meruleus Lacrimans” (disappearance of two atomised Dublin ladies through house damp); “Vacancy for a Photo-Finisher”; reviewer refers to epistemological underpinning of the stories but remarks that they are anything but philosophical in tone, and compares the author’s territory to the ‘mental haunts’ of Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman.

Past Habitual (2015): The narrative of Past Habitual roams through experiences both commonplace and formative; childhood play, scarlet fever, a first kiss, befriending a Nazi spy, all under the uneasy canopy of wartime Ireland. Voices move with ease from that of a young child to a German immigrant, IRA member to colloquial chatter, forming a web of interactions that lay out a century’s tensions both thoughtfully and provocatively. Accounts given through newspaper stories, military statements, anecdotes, memories of the dead, and gossip are of questionable factitiousness but nevertheless absorbing. Alf MacLochlainn’s style shifts between traditional prose, poetry, monologue and musical depiction, catching the reader unawares, referencing everything from conkers to anthropometrics, marbles to the IRA, fixing a flat tire to the Holocaust. Both recollection and memoir, fiction and fact, Past Habitual is an engaging and fascinating depiction of Ireland struggling through the effects of both a distant war, and another on her doorstep. (Goodreads - online; accessed 02.11.2023.)

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