20. Mai 2011

Frank O’Connor – Stories

The old 1963 Penguin book, reprinted in 1974, came to me by pure chance, carefully hand laminated but nevertheless discarded from Düsseldorf univerisity library: “My Œdipus Complex & Other Stories”, ISBN 0 14 00.1956 1. The picture here shows the writer “as a young man”.
Frank O’Connor’s stories are exceptionally dense, with a deeply felt sympathy and humour. One better than the other. I just read The Ugly Duckling and was remined of Proust’s sensitivity and insight (*). O’Connor instead is real, to the point. Not Proust’s mere and endless hovering. An example:

Because of some inadequacy in themselves – poverty or physical weakness in men, poverty or ugliness in women – those with the gift of creation built for themselves a rich interior world; and when the inadequacy disappeared and the real world was spread before them with all its wealth and beauty, they could not give their whole heart to it. Uncertain of their choice, they wavered between goals; were lonely in crowds, dissatisfied amid noise and laughter, unhappy even with those they loved best. The interior world called them back, and for some it was a case of having to return there or die. (p 93)

For more on Frank O’Connor see Wikipedia or directly the Irish site http://frankoconnor.ucc.ie. There he even reads one of his popular short stories, First Confession.

(*) Marcel Proust, Sept. 1892, « La mer fascinera toujours ceux chez qui le dégoût de la vie et l’attrait du mystère ont devancé les premiers chagrins, comme un pressentiment de l’insuffisance de la réalité à les satisfaire. … » – Pleasures and Regrets 1895 XXVIII “The Sea will always fascinate those who have known the disgust of life and the lure of mystery even before their first sorrows, like a presentiment of the inadequacy of reality to satisfy them. …” or “those to whom world-weariness and the lure of mystery have already brought early …” – »Das Meer wird immer diejenigen faszinieren, die sich, bevor sie noch den ersten Kummer erlebten, vom Leben angewidert und vom Mysterium angezogen fühlen, als Vorahnung, dass die Wirklichkeit sie nicht werde befriedigen können.…«

PS. Even learned a new word, umbrage, in Don Juan’s Temptation. (And a fine British phrase site too!)
‘… And the women you are knocking around with? Aren’t they romantic either?’ – ‘Not since they were your age,’ he said mockingly. – ‘You needn’t rub it in about the age,’ she said without taking umbrage. ‘It’ll cure itself soon enough. …’