Bernard Mac Laverty

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Bernard Mac Laverty 1942–

Irish novelist, short story writer, and scriptwriter.

Mac Laverty has gained considerable attention as an important new author. His novels and short stories deal perceptively with a wide range of human conflicts, from the difficulties of growing up to the ordeals of growing old. His most successful work, the novel Cal (1983), has been particularly recognized for its insightful depiction of the effects on individuals of the hostilities between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

Mac Laverty made his literary debut with Secrets and Other Stories (1977), a collection in which the process of growing up is a prominent theme. While critics enjoyed Mac Laverty's wryly comic tone, they also noted the underlying seriousness of stories that portray young protagonists who confront the reality of death for the first time or undergo other emotional trauma. Mac Laverty's first novel, Lamb (1980), was widely praised as a compelling and tragic story of pure love in an impure world. A Time to Dance (1982), Mac Laverty's second collection of short stories, expands his range to include examinations of growing old along with stories of young people coming of age.

Cal is Mac Laverty's first work to concentrate fully on war-torn Northern Ireland. Nineteen-year-old Cal and his father are the only Catholic family in a Protestant neighborhood, a highly volatile situation. Yielding to various pressures, Cal becomes involved with the Irish Republican Army and drives the getaway car in the assassination of a Protestant police officer. This is Cal's first and last exercise as an accomplice to terrorism. Later, he meets and falls in love with the murdered man's widow, and through their relationship he attempts to overcome his sense of guilt and find redemption. Critics admired Mac Laverty's depiction of the violence of Ulster life, which is conveyed forcefully without sensationalism. However, the novel has also been faulted for not developing the larger social and political issues it introduces and for ultimately remaining a conventional love story. Despite these criticisms, reaction to Cal has been generally favorable, and it is primarily this work which has established Mac Laverty's present importance among contemporary Irish fiction writers.

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Patricia Craig