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Swan River Press
Leaves For the Burning Mervyn Wall
Cover image by Niall McCormack
Introduction: Susan Tomaselli
"Beware lest you get in middle-age what you longed for in youth."
Lucian Brewse Burke, a middle-aged public servant, works in a shabby county council sub-office in the bleak Irish midlands, mired in Kafkaesque bureaucracy and petty skirmishes with locals. Upon the arrival of his old university friends on their way to Yeats’s funeral, things turn toward the eccentric. They embark on a days-long, cross-country spree brimming with booze-fueled nostalgia. To the accompaniment of juke boxes blaring a reminder of the steady of Americanisation of Europe, we see public-houses thronged with saints, senators, and sinners; while outside old stone crumbles and thin rain drifts down on an ancient country-side. Despite its melancholy pinings for wasted youth, this mid-century portrait of Ireland is rich in grotesque humor and savage absurdity. Leaves for the Burning won Denmark’s Best European Novel award in 1952.
Mervyn Wall (1908-1997) was born in Dublin. He was educated in both Ireland and Germany, and obtained his B.A. from the National University of Ireland in 1928. After fourteen years in the Civil Service, he joined Radio Éireann as Programme Officer. In 1957 he became Secretary of the Arts Council of Ireland, retiring in 1975. Known during his lifetime as a broadcaster and critic, he is best remembered for his two satirical fantasies set in medieval Ireland, The Unfortunate Fursey (1946) and The Return of Fursey (1948).
Susan Tomaselli is founder and editor of gorse journal. She is former co-editor of 3:AM Magazine and editor at 3:AM Press. She has written for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Irish Times, and has contributed to We’ll Never Have Paris (Repeater Books 2019), In Context 4 – In Our Time (South Dublin County Council’s programme of public art), amongst others. She has participated in numerous literary festivals (West Cork Literary Festival, Cúirt, Listowel, Mountains to Sea, Hillsborough Festival of Literature & Ideas), curated Doolin Writers’ Weekend 2020, and provides consultation to arts organisations (Temple Bar Gallery + Studios Dublin, The Arts Foundation UK) and literary publishers. She is Writer-in-Residence at Maynooth University 2020/21, and is currently working on a novel-in-essays, Traces.