Brian Moore was born in Belfast as the fourth child in a family of nine. His father, James Bernard Moore, had made his way through medical school on scholarships to become a prominent surgeon. He had not married until he was fifty, and he died when Brian was eighteen. Moore recalled his father as an exacting man, impatient with failure, who put great pressure on his children to excel in their schooling. The son’s response was to focus on failed or marginal characters in his fiction; he has said that he regards failure as “a more intense distillation [than success] of that self you are.”
Moore was educated at Newington Elementary School and St. Malachy’s Diocesan College, both in Belfast. He bitterly recalled his formal education as old-fashioned, rigid, and harshly disciplinary, with canings for the slightest infractions. In The Feast of Lupercal (1957), he draws an acrid portrait of St. Malachy’s in his Ardath College, where clerical masters prevent students from developing independent minds. His feelings about his Jesuit education are related to the ambivalence he has about religious belief.
The Moore family had originally been Protestant, but Brian’s paternal grandfather converted late in life to Catholicism. Brian was raised a Catholic, only to be stunned when his mother confessed her unbelief on her deathbed. From his youth, he was an unbeliever, yet all his life he remained fascinated by the role faith plays in...
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