Jack Harte


Life
1944- ; b. Killeenduff, near Easkey, Co Sligo; ed. Killeenduff, Dromore West (Sligo); moved with family to Lanesboro, Longford, where his father took work on the Bord na Mona project, 1953; ed. at Lanesboro, and afterwards sec. schools at Ballyleague, Co. Roscommon and Roscommon town; settled in Dublin, 1962, at first working on the docks; and afterwards in various jobs incl. bus conductor, courier, lab. technician; attended night-classes at UCD and grad. BA and H. Dip. Ed. worked in civil service and afterwards taught, ultimately as school principal; issued story collections Murphy in the Underworld (1986); Birds and Other Tails (1996) and, with Carmel Gunning, Lament for the Birds: Sligo Stories and Songs (Scotus Press), with Carmel Gunning fnd. Irish Writers’ Union and Irish Writers’ Centre;
 
invited by Katha [org.] to participate in Indo-European Literary Festival on the Story and travelled to New Delhi, Jan. 2004; issued From Under Gogol’s Nose (2004) with a preface on the short story taking issue with Frank O’Connor; participated in the International Writers’ Festival in Sofia, 2005; read at Dublin Writers’ Festival, 2005; issued In the Wake of the Bagger (2006), a novel dealing with changing midland life in circumstances like those of his own childhood - a work commissioned by the Per Cent for Art scheme of the Irish govt.; his story “Requiem for Johnny Murtagh” has been made into a film;
 
commenced publishing with Matrix Press at 130 S. Circular Rd, Dublin 8; his novel In the Wake of the Bagger (2006) was commissioned by Sligo County Council and funded by Dept. of Envir., Heritage and Local Govt. “Per Cent for Art” scheme ; his second novel, Reflections in a Tar-Barrel (2008), dealing with a handicapped-young man at war with God, was hugely successful in Bulgaria; appt. Chairman of the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin, in 2009; his play, Language of the Mute (2016), in which ex-students invade a teacher’s classroom to confront his abuse of power in the past, was directed by under Liam Halligan with Ciarán McGlynn, Marc MacCabe, and others (prod. by Melissa Nolan).

Jack Harte by Melissa Nolan
Jack Harte, Dublin 2016
(photo by Melissa Nolan)

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Works
Short fiction
  • Murphy in the Underworld (Dublin: Glendale 1986), 144pp.;
  • Birds and Other Tails (Dublin: Dedalus Press 1996), 161pp.;
  • From Under Gogol’s Nose (Scotus Press 2004), 208pp. [Omnibus collection containing “Murphy in the Underworld”, “Birds and Other Tails”, et al. ].
Novels
  • Homage (Dublin: Dedalus Press 1992), 93pp.;
  • In the Wake of the Bagger (Scotus Press 2006), 190pp. [commissioned by Sligo County Council; funded by Dept. of Envir., Heritage and Local Govt.];
  • Reflections in a Tar-Barrel (Scotus Press 2008), 240pp.
Poetry
  • Poems of Alienation (Dublin: Matrix Press 1969), [20]pp.
Drama
  • Language of the Mute (dir. Liam Halligan, performed at var. venues, May 2016).
Miscellaneous
  • sel. and foreword to Padraig J. Daly, Poems: Selected and New [Choice Series, 1] (Dublin: Dedalus Press 1988);
  • Achill Island / Scoil Acla: writings from the workshop on Achill Island, Summer 1990, conducted by Jack Harte & John F. Deane (P. Lineen 1991), 64pp.
  • Birds, Sligo Stories and Songs (Scotus Press 2001) [with CD Lament for the Birds: Sligo Stories and Songs, commissioned by Sligo Co. Council with Carmel Gunning performing]. Also, ranslation of Lyubomir Levchev, And Here I Am (2003.)

Jack Harte, Language of the Mute, dir. Liam Halligan (2016)

Ex-pupils invade a Dublin classroom to confront their former teacher, whose actions have had a profound effect on them. Now he must be called to account so that the past can be confronted and futures faced. This highly relevant, compelling play is a powerful exploration of how charisma can be used for unscrupulous purposes and how the inability to find the language to challenge it can shatter lives. ...

Touring schedule ...
Saturday, 7 May 2016 -  Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge
Monday 9th & Tuesday 10th, May 2016 -  Civic Theatre, Tallaght
Wednesday 11th May, 2016 -  Hawk’s Well Theatre, Sligo 
Thursday 12th May, 2016 -  Backstage Theatre, Longford
Friday 13th May, 2016 -  Roscommon Arts Centre, Roscommon
Saturday 14th May, 2016 - An Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, Galway
Source: Facebook, 1 May 2016.

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Criticism
Cormac Deane, review of Birds and Other Tails, in Irish Times (18 Jan. 1997); Derek Hand, ‘Keeping prose in proportion’, The Irish Times (13 Nov. 2004 [infra]; J. Ardle McArdle, review of In the Wake of the Bagger, in Books Ireland (Oct. 2007), pp.215-16.

See also the comprehensive entry on Harte under “British and Irish Short-Fiction Writers 1945 - 2000” in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, p.319.

There is a Jack Harte website.

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Commentary
Derek Hand, ‘Keeping prose in proportion’, The Irish Times (13 Nov. 2004 [Weekend]: The gist of Harte’s thesis is that the short story is a disappearing form [...] Harte wants the short story to be itself, not a “nearly” novel but a form that can be appraised and enjoyed on its own terms. Of course, one of the real dangers for any writer constructing an argument as Harte does is that it sets up a standard, however notional, by which his own efforts will be judged. / Certainly, Harte distrusts realism, be it O’Connor’s Cork version or any other variety. His stories operate at the level of allegory, with the general thrust in many of them warning the reader against the evils attaching to the drudgery of conventional life. Reality is far away in stories that move from Hades and the underworld to a “Retirement colony” and Dublin’s Leeson Street. Some are hardly stories at all and are content instead to generate a mood and an atmosphere. The veneer of the mythological is what is hoped for, but the heavy didactic tone at times places a strain on the technique, which can become obvious and laboured. The best of the stories - for instance “Murphy in the Underworld”, “Requiem for Johnny Murtagh” and “Bike” - avoid such problems, allowing a space for the reader to enter into the equation. [...; &c.].’ Hand issues a call ‘to get beyond an oppositional framework that starkly divides the prose world into either the short story or the novel’ and speaks of novelists who did.

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J. Ardle McArdle, review of In the Wake of the Bagger, in Books Ireland (Oct. 2007): ‘[...] This is the story of a blacksmith frm Killeenduff in County Sligo who foresees the collapse of his trade and moves to the Midlands to work on the bogs, to leave the sea-cliffs and rocky shores, the mountains and rivers for the flat bogland and Bord na Mona’s promise of jobs with wages at the end of the ween [...] It’s a story of modernistation, of the transfer frm the horse and plough [...] The Midlands are not ARcadia [...] workers are exploited until the Union finally takes action [...] The jewel in the crown of this book is Jack Harte’s craftsmanship. This is a beautifully written book [...]’ pp.215-16.

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Notes
Jeremy Addis (Books Ireland) hailed Harte’s ‘opening material on the state of the short story in prospect and retrospect …. Wonderful stuff.’ (See Harte’s website online.)

John F. Deane speaks of Harte as ‘a genuine master’ and praises especially his stories ‘Murphy in the Underworld’, ‘Queen B’, and ‘A Message to Sparta’, as well as others such as ‘Turfman’ and ‘Birds’ - - ‘stories whose lyrical pitch and rhythm approach the condition of song’. (See Harte’s online.)

Namesake?: Jack Harte (1920- ), author of To the Limits of Endurance: One Irishman's War (Dublin: Liberties Press 2007) - WWII prisoner of war in Germany.

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