David Marcus (1924-2009)


Life
b. 21 Aug. 1924, in Cork City, grandson of a Jewish refugee from Lithuania; with brs. Louis, Abraham and Elkan; ed. Presentation Brothers, UCC, law, and King’s Inns; abandoned religion in teens; prevented from studying Arts by his father; called to bar, 1945; practiced for some years in Dublin; his trans. “The Yellow Bittern” published in The Irish Times after chance encounter with Frank O’Connor; trans. “The Midnight Court” of Brian Merriman (Dolmen 1953), following banning of O’Connor’s version earlier; in partnership with Terence Smith, sub-ed. Cork Examiner, and with financial backing from the Jewish community, est., with Tristram Smith, Irish Writing, 1946, editing it up to 1954 when succeeded by Sean J. White until its cessation in 1957; first issue contribs. from Frank O’Connor, Sean O’Faolain, James Stephens, Edith Somerville, Bryan MacMahon, Mary Lavin, Liam O’Flaherty, Benedict Kiely and Samuel Beckett;
 
issued To Next Year in Jerusalem (Macmillan 1954); fnd. Poetry Ireland as a supplement to Irish Writing, 1948, ed. with John Jordan until 1954, and then independently to 1955; sold out to Liam Miller and moved to London, working in insurance for 13 years after the rejection of his second novel; recalled to Dublin by his brother Louis in 1967; free-lanced for The Irish Press and Radio Éireann; appt. literary editor of The Irish Press (ed. Tim Pat Coogan), from April 1968, and became fnd. ed. of “New Irish Writing” [page] in the Irish Press; retired from Irish Press in order to concentrate on his own writing, 1986; m. Ita Daly, 1972; involved in setting up Poolbeg Press with Philip McDermott, 1976, publishing Michael McLaverty, Bryan MacMahon, Benedict Kelly, Helen Lucy Burke, Emma Cooke, Gillman Noonan et al.;
 
edited Collected Stories of Michael MacLaverty (1978); issued two successful novels, A Land Not Theirs (1986), and A Land in Flames (1987), both novels reflecting the experience of the community of 400 Cork Jews to which he was born, now dwindled to 14; completed but jettisoned a third novel; issued Who Ever Heard of An Irish Jew?, stories; also an autobiography as Oughtobiography (Sept. 2001) and a fictional sequel, Buried Memories (2004), employing the character and persona of Aaron Cohen, ‘Cork’s last Jew’; edited numerous anthologies of Irish short fiction, incl. Phoenix Irish Short Stories annually from 1996; d. 9 May 2009, at St. James Hospital; bur. Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin, after a service conducted by Rev. Bridget Spain, a Unitarian minister; survived by his wife and dg., Sarah. IF2 DIW DIL/2
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Works
Novels
  • To Next Year in Jerusalem (London: Macmillan/NY: St. Martin’s 1954), 297pp.;
  • A Land Not Theirs (London: Bantam/Corgi 1986), 480pp., and Do. [rep] (Dublin: Poolbeg 1993), 480pp.;
  • A Land in Flames (London: Bantam 1987), 351pp.
 
Short Fiction
  • Who Ever Heard of an Irish Jew? and Other Stories (London: Bantam 1988), 125pp., and Do. [another edn.] (London: Corgi Books 1990) 125pp.
 
Poetry
  • Six Poems (Dublin: Dolmen 1952), [6]pp. [250 copies];
  • trans., Cúirt an mheadhon oidhche / The Midnight Court, by Bryan Merriman; newly translated into English by David Marcus (1953; reps. 1966, 1969, 1975), ill. Michael Biggs [engrav.];
  • Collected Poems (Dublin: New Island Press 2007), q.pp.
 
Autobiography
  • Oughtobiography: Leaves from the Diary of a Hypenated Jew (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 2001), xiv, 281pp.;
  • Buried Memories (Cork: Mercier Press 2004), 192pp. [given as story of ‘Aaron Cohen’].
 
Anthologies
  • Tears of the Shamrock (London: Wolfe Publ. 1972);
  • ed. New Irish Writing 1: An Anthology from the “Irish Press” Series (Dublin: Dolmen Press 1970), ill. Kenneth J. Dolan;
  • ed., Best Irish Short Stories [Vol. 1] (London: Paul Elek 1976);
  • ed. New Irish Writing (London: Quartet Books 1976);
  • ed., Body and Soul (Dublin: Poolbeg Press 1979), 160pp. [infra];
  • ed., The Bodley Head Book of Irish Short Stories [1980] 379pp. [infra];
  • ed., Best Irish Short Stories, Vol. 2 (London: Elek 1977) [infra];
  • ed., The Poolbeg Book of Irish Ghost Stories (1990 1993);
  • ed., State of the Art: An Anthology of Irish Short Stories (Sceptre 1992), 377pp. [36 authors, half of these women];
  • ed., Alternative Loves: Irish Gay and Lesbian Stories (Cork: Mercier 1994), 232pp. [contribs. incl. Edna O’Brien, William Trevor, and Sean O’Faolain];
  • ed., Modern Irish Love Stories (London: Sceptre 1994); ed. Listowel Writers’ Week Award-winning Short Stories, 1973-94 (Dublin: Marino; Chester Springs: Dufour 1995), 320[335]pp.;
  • ed., Irish Christmas Stories (London: Bloomsbury 1995; 1996, 1997, 1998), 248pp.;
  • ed., Irish Sporting Stories (1995);
  • ed., Phoenix Irish Short Stories, 1996 (London: Phoenix 1996, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001);
  • ed., Irish Christmas Stories, 2 (London: Bloomsbury 1997), 246pp.;
  • ed., Irish Christmas Stories 2 (London: Bloomsbury 1997), 246pp.;
  • Mothers and Daughters: Irish Short Stories (London: Bloomsbury 1998), 256pp. [infra];
  • ed., The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories (London: Faber & Faber 2005), 352pp. [infra.]

See Phoenix Irish Short Stories (London: Phoenix 2000) [infra];

Media
  • Na Gaeil Phrotastúnaigh (TG4 18 Jan. 2003, 8.55 p.m.).
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Bibliographical details
Best Irish Short Stories, ed. David Marcus (London: Elek 1977-78), - comprising Best Irish Short Stories, 1 (London: Elek 1976), 180pp., & Best Irish Short Stories, 2 (London: Elek 1977, 1978), 156pp., combined as Best Irish Short Stories, ed. Marcus (London: Elek 1976-77), 2 vols.

Ed., Body and Soul (Dublin: Poolbeg Press 1979), 160pp. [Sean O’Faolain, “The Talking Trees”; G. Noonan, “A Sexual Relationship”; John McGahern, “Sierra Leone”; Helen Lucy Burke, “Trio”; Frank O’Connor, “News for the Church”; T. P. Coogan, “The Compromise”; Edna O’Brien, “Ways”; John Morrow, “Beginnings”; Val Mulkerns, “Humanae vitae: An Evening with John Joe”; William Trevor, “Dempsey”; Kevin Casey, “Priest and People”; Thomas MacIntyre, “An Aspect of the Rising”].

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Ed., The Bodley Head Book of Irish Short Stories, ed. David Marcus (London: 1980), 379pp. & Do. [rep. as Irish Short Stories (London: New English Library), 2 vols. [Vol. I, as infra]; also in 1 vol. [April 1982], and rep. as Irish Short Stories (London: Sceptre 1992).

CONTENTS: George Moore, “A Letter to Rome” [17]; E.OE. Somerville & Ross, “Trinket’s Colt” [32]; Lynn Doyle “St Patrick’s Day in the Morning” [47]; Seamus O’Kelly, “The Rector” [52]; Daniel Corkery, “Joy” [58]; James Stephens, “Desire” [66]; James Joyce, “The Sisters” [75]; Liam O’Flaherty, “The Landing” [84]; Elizabeth Bowen, “A Day in the Dark” [92]; Sean O’Faolain, “The Kitchen” [102]; Frank O’Connor, “Babes in the Wood” [113]; Patrick Boyle, “At Night All Cats are Grey” [129]; Michael McLaverty, “The White Mare” [144]; Bryan MacMahon, “The Ring” [159]; Antony C. West, “Not Isaac” [164]; Mary Lavin, “Happiness” [171]; Benedict Kiely, “The Dogs in the Great Glen”, [190]; James Plunkett, “Ferris Moore and the Earwig” [207]; Val Mulkerns, “You Must be Joking” [216]; William Trevor, “Teresa’s Wedding” [228]; John Montague, “An Occasion of Sin” [256]; Maeve Kelly, “Lovers” [272]; Edna O’Brien, “Love-Child” [281]; Julia O’Faolain, “The Knight” [287]; Tom MacIntyre, “The Dogs of Fionn” [307]; John McGahern, “The Wine Breath” [311]; Gillman Noonan, “A Sexual Relationship” [323]; Maura Treacy, “A Mior Incident” [342]; Kate Cruise O’Brien, “The Glass Wall” []; Desmond Hogan, “Two Waiting Women” [350]; Neil Jordan, “Night in Tunisia” [356]. Biographical Notes [373]. Note, 1992 edn. adds Colum McCann et al.]

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Ed., Irish Short Stories [New English Library] (London: Bodley Head 1982), Vol I [of 2], 159pp. CONTENTS: George Moore, “A Letter to Rome” [15]; E.OE. Somerville & Ross, “Trinket’s Colt” [27]; Lynn Doyle “St Patrick’s Day in the Morning” [40]; Seamus O’Kelly, “The Rector” [44]; Daniel Corkery, “Joy” [49]; James Stephens, “Desire” [55]; James Joyce, “The Sisters” [62]; Liam O’Flaherty, “The Landing” [70]; Elizabeth Bowen, “A Day in the Dark” [76]; Sean O’Faolain, “The Kitchen” [84]; Frank O’Connor, “Babes in the Wood” [93]; Patrick Boyle, “At Night All Cats are Grey” [106]; Michael McLaverty, “The White Mare” [119]; Bryan MacMahon, “The Ring” [131]; Antony C. West, “Not Isaac” [135]; Mary Lavin, “Happiness” [141]. Biographical Notes [156].

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Ed., Mothers and Daughters: Irish Short Stories (London: Bloomsbury 1998), 256pp. [incl. Julia O’Faolain, Michael McLaverty, Clare Boylan, Liam O’Flaherty, Mary Lavin, Mary Leland, Edna O’Brien, et al.]

Ed., Phoenix Irish Short Stories (London: Phoenix 2000) [incls. Cóilín O hAodha, “Her Blood Dripped into the Grass” [winner of Francis MacManus Award, 1998]; Deirdre Shanahan, “Talking to my Father”; Bridget O’Toole, “This Game”; Paul Lenehan, “Great Bus Journeys of Dublin” [17, 33, 44]; also fiction by Harry Clifden; Brendan Glacken, et al.]

Ed., The Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories (London: Faber & Faber 2005), 352pp. [Gerard Donovan, Roddy Doyle, Hugo Hamilton, Sophia Hillan, Claire Keegan, Neil Jordan, Colum McCann, Molly McCloskey, Blánaid McKinney, Bernard MacLaverty, Mary Morrissy, Edna O’Brien, Julia O’Faolain, Colm Toibin, William Wall, Niall Williams, et al.]

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Criticism
Shirley Kelly, ‘A Passionate Affair: David Marcus and the Irish Short Story’, in Books Ireland (Sept. 1994), pp.193-95 [infra]; Shirley Kelly, ‘Midwife to a Generation of Writers’ [interview], in Books Ireland (Oct. 2001), pp.245-46 [biog. as supra]; Hugh Linehan, ‘New documentary by David Marcus goes some way to dispel the misconception that all Irish Protestants view the Irish language with contempt’, in The Irish Times (18 Jan. 2003) [viz., Na Gaeil Phrotastúnaigh]; also [q.a.] review of Buried Memories, in Books Ireland (Nov. 2004).

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Commentary
Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature (London: Pluto Press 1998), notes that Marcus called for ‘another Joyce, but this time a Joyce unblistered by the Irish writer’s “natural egoism”; a plain man’s Joyce.’ (Poetry Ireland, 18, p.49; here p.121.)

Shirley Kelly, ‘A Passionate Affair, David Marcus and the Irish Short Story’, in Books Ireland (Sept. 1994), pp.193-95, narrates that New Irish Writing was set en marche by Sean MacCann, who persuaded Tim Pat Coogan to make a place for it, when Marcus was on his way with the idea to The Irish Times after the fold-up of Irish Writing. [Biog. as in Life, supra.]

Thomas Dillon Redshaw, ‘“The Dolmen Poets”: Liam Miller and Poetry Publishing in Ireland, 1951-1961’, in Irish University Review: A Journal of Irish Studies (March 2012): ‘The Dolmen Poetry Ireland had its origin, of course, in two prior incarnations of the title published first from Cork and then from Rathmines. This Poetry Ireland was edited by the novelist and poet David Marcus, whose first version of Poetry Ireland lasted for nineteen issues from 1948 to 1952. In Poetry Ireland, Marcus presented Irish poets of the post-‘Emergency’ period and the Irish avant-garde of the nineteen forties, as well as American and British poets. The second version of Marcus’s Poetry Ireland appeared as a separately bound, but flimsily printed, supplement to Irish Writing. A substantial journal of international stature, Irish Writing replaced Sean O’Faolain’s The Bell and supplemented the Dublin Magazine for eleven years from 1946 to 1957. Edited first by David Marcus and later by Sean White, Irish Writing proved distinctive editorially and also visually, owing to Liam Miller’s design of Marcus’s last issues and White’s very first ones.’ (Q.p.; available at The Free Library - online; or see copy, in RICORSO Library, “Criticism” - attached].

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Quotations
Irish Short Stories (1980): ‘[…] Many years ago I was standing in a bus queue in Cork. A station-wagon approached, its driver anxiously searching for a place to park. The area of roadway on either side of the the bus-stop had, of course, to be kept clear, but, there seemed to be just about a car’s length free space between one of the white [11] boundary lines of that area and the tow of cars parked beyond it. Into that space the station-wagon fitted itself and out of the vehicle stepped its driver - an ageing, genial, country genetleman type, all tweeds and twinkle - who immediately proceeded to inspect his position and ssure himself that he had in fact found aspace, however circumscribed, which would remove him from the fear of a fine for illegal parking. What he saw made him replace his smile of self-satisfaction with a puzzled frown: certainly hour wheels had cleared the white line, but the back of the station-wagon protruded over it and into thw space allocated to the bus stop. A technical infringement, at the very least? Undecided, he turned to the bus queue, and, addressing no one in particular, asked “Do you think I’d get, away with that?” For a few minutes no one in particular particular hazarded an answer until an ancient, wizened, diminutive type took off his cap, slowly scratched his stubbled cheek, and replied, “Well, sir, ’tis like this: are yeh lucky?” / For me that, answer encapsulates some basic elements of the Irish way of seeing as well as the pith of their way of saying - latter, of course, being in some part a product of the former. It has a touch of fatalism - inculcated into them by centuries of religious rigour and, inclement weather; a large dash of superstition - still rife in general customs and conventions, especially in rural areas; a hint of the accommodations sometimes made necessary with force majeure on the temporal plane - impressed upon them by the weight of their country’s history; and of course the very form of the reply - a question answering a question - is the summation of the whole Irish temperament, the implicit belief that in this world, as in the world of the short story, there just are no answers; inklings and illuminations are the most one can expect.’ (Irish Short Stories, London: New English Library 1980, pp.11-12; for full text, see infra.)

A Land Not Theirs (1986)

‘Miles away, in the countryside around the city of Cork, the same stars that had given Zvi Lipsky no comfort sparkled from every corner of a cloudless sky and the moonlight lay like silver over field, track and tree. Families were abed, animals in their barns or lairs, birds in their nests – nothing could be seen to move except a single horse clip-clopping steadily along a narrow hedge-lined road, pulling a trap that carried a bulky triangular-shaped object from the middle of which the reins dangled loosely. The object was Abie Klugman, completely enveloped in a blanket held tightly under his chin like a nun’s cowl and exposing only his moist eyes, his roly-poly nose and the red balloons of his cheeks. But the tears in his eyes were not caused by the cold air. They were tears of joy, which every now and again he brushed away while his glowing cheeks puffed into smiles of delight and wonder at his good fortune. Abie Klugman was finished with being a viklehnik; he was leaving his weekly country round for the very last time.
 He had made his final calls, as he did every week, in the town of Bandon, and now he was going home. No, not home – that was before, in the past; Bandon to Cork was the last road home then. Not any longer, though. Now Bandon to Cork was the first road home to Eretz. Abie Klugman threw off the blanket, stood up, and with arms raised to the sky drummed his feet in a wild dance on the floor of the cart. The cart bucked and swayed, making the horse toss its head and momentarily lose its rhythm as the shafts jerked against its sides, until Abie collapsed back onto his seat. Chuckling and gurgling to himself like a baby being tickled, he gathered up the blanket and draped it once more over him.
 All the customers on his list had received Abie’s going-away present. He had held every weekly-payment book under its owner’s nose as he slowly wrote the date on a fresh line, followed by a heavy unmistakable tick in blue pencil to show that the payment due had been made. [...].
 As the cart approached the outskirts of the village of Ballinhassig, Abie pulled a fob-watch from a waistcoat pocket. He peered at it closely before striking a match to confirm his reading of the time. Not yet four o’clock. Some hours to go to dawn. Any other week he would have halted at that point to let his horse rest and have some food himself. But this week he wanted to get on, to get back to Cork, to Shabbos, to the beginning of his fortnight’s holiday, to the beginning of his journey to Eretz. He pulled on the reins a little to slow the horse to a walk – he might be in a hurry, but the animal wasn’t going to Eratz and it was entitled to some relief; at down he would feed it. He felt around the floor of the trap and found the apple one of his customers. Mrs McCarthy, had given him for the journey. As he bit into it, recollections of his last farewells warmed his thoughts.
 ‘A real Christian,’ Mrs McCarthy had called him. But he wouldn’t tell anyone about that. If he did, it would be bound to get back to Mickey Aronson’s ears and he would make a big joke of it and laugh at him; and even though Abie had only two more weeks of his fellow-lodger to endure he didn’t want them to be spoilt by any more than the normal aggravation.

(Bantam Press, 1986), p.296-97.

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References
Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction [Pt II] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists To Next Year in Jerusalem (London: Macmillan 1954).

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