Black List, Section H by Francis Stuart, With a Pref. And Postscript by Harry T. Moore
Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, 1971. First American edition, first printing. No statement of edition, 6 line of text on copyright page. Hardcover. vii, 442 pages ; 23 cm. $10.00 dust jacket. Previous owner name written on front free end paper. Light bow to boards. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
A new and Innovative novel by a distinguished Irish writer—an imaginative work of fiction of the post-World War I era in which all the characters are drawn from real life
The October 1970 issue of Atlantis magazine carried a long extract from Francis Stuart's new novel, Black List, Section H, then tentatively entitled The Legend of H. A reviewer for the Irish Press called the extract an "extraordinarily exciting document," and went on to say, "I can conceive of short sighted Irish or English publishers being afraid of what, on several grounds, may be one of the most captivating and the most searing novels of this decade." One reason why such publishers might hesitate to accept the work could be that many admired—even revered—figures of the Irish literary scene in the earlier part of the century, notably W. B. Yeats, Maud Gonne, and Ezra Pound, are presented by Stuart in a somewhat less than reverent or even flattering manner. Furthermore, Black List, Section H deals considerably, though not exclusively, with the time Stuart spent in Nazi Germany. His leaving Ireland for Berlin at the outbreak of World War II was not an act that endeared him to British or American critics, and his literary reputation has suffered unjustly because of it. His work is largely unknown in this country—only ten of his previous nineteen novels have been published here —although his major works have been translated into French and German and warmly received by critics on the Continent.
Black List, Section H is almost totally autobiographical. Stuart described the novel as "an imaginative fiction in which only real people appear, and under their actual names where possible." Yeats, Maud Gonne, and Pound, all of whom were known intimately by Stuart or his first wife, Iseult Gonne, play important roles in the story, if not in the action itself, then certainly in their influences upon H (Stuart) and Iseult. Stuart's insights into the lives and personalities of such now-famous people help bring them to life in a way no textbook or biography can.
The hero of the novel, H, is only seventeen when he comes to Dublin, meets Maud Gonne, and marries her adopted daughter Iseult in 1919. H is a writer, but he knows that the creative power that is within him cannot be released until he is able to break through to a deeper level of consciousness than is revealed to the ordinary person. He feels strongly that the artist must be rejected and disapproved of by the society in which he lives, and that the suffering experienced through such rejection will open him to that deeper consciousness.
H travels freely throughout Europe, visiting and living in its most fascinating cities, never quite sure what he's looking for or how to find it. His experiences range over those of modern man as he immerses himself at various times in war (the Irish Civil War), religion (the Catholic mystics and the Gospels), sports (horse racing), art (his poetry and novels), alcohol, and love (seeking, for a long time unsuccessfully, to experience the mystique he feels is the essence of the sexual act).
Burdened by marital and financial difficulties, in 1939 he accepts a position as lecturer at Berlin University and goes there, leaving his wife and children in Ireland, even though the Second World War has broken out. Although certainly not pro-Nazi in his sentiments, his suffering in a prison camp during the "troubles" in Ireland hardly left him pro-British. His position as an Irish neutral and his natural detachment from things political enable him to see and communicate with a special vividness the world-shaking events through which he lived. His depiction of wartime Berlin, the Allied bombings, and the endless shuffling between refugee and prison camps after the war is one of the few accounts of these experiences in English.
Black List, Section H is more than a mere record of one man's life. It is an experience deeply lived and set down in fine prose with an intensity that is contagious. It is truly the consummation of a lifetime devoted to writing, and perhaps the keystone through which all his other works must be viewed.
Francis Stuart was born in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, in April 1902. His published works, nineteen of which are novels, include: We Have Kept the Faith; Women and God; Pigeon Irish; The Coloured Dome; Try the Sky; Glory; Things to Live For: Notes for an Autobiography; In Search of Love; The Angel of Pity; The White Hare; Racing for Pleasure and Profit In Ireland and Elsewhere; The Bridge; Julie; The Great Squire; The Pillar of Cloud; Redemption; The Flowering Cross; and Victors and Vanquished. He received the Royal Irish Academy prize for poetry, awarded by W. B. Yeats, and is a founder member of the Irish Academy of Letters. Mr. Stuart presently lives and works in Dunshaughlin, County Meath, Ireland.
Harry T. Moore, general editor of the Crosscurrents/Modern Fiction series, has provided a Preface and a Postscript which gives the background of Stuart's life, his other works, and his relation to his contemporary Irish writers.
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