Carlo Gébler

1954- [bapt. Karl; err. Gebler]; b. 21 Aug., Dublin, son of Edna O’Brien [q.v.] and Ernest Gébler [q.v.]; moved to London with his mother, 1958; ed. York University, studied English Lit.; went on to National Film and Televison School, Beaconsfield; Eleventh Summer (1985), with Hamish Hamilton, a first novel dealing with a child’s experience of death with his N. Ireland grandparents; issued August in July (1987), followed by Work and Play, about drugs, Driving Through Cuba (1988), travel; novels Malachy and His Family (1991) and Life of a Drum (1991), in which a woman marries an emigrant so he can stay;
stayed in Dalkey before moving to Enniskillen with his wife Tiger and 5 children and there wrote The Glass Curtain (1992), a documentary of the troubles after the bombing of war memorial service by the IRA; issued The Cure (1994), dealing with the notorious burning of Bridget Cleary in Ballyvadlea, nr. Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, in the belief that she is a changeling, March 1895; issued W9 and Other Lives (1996), stories; issued How to Murder a Man (1998), dealing in 19th-century landlordism in Co. Monaghan; issued Father and I (Sept. 2000), dealing with his troubled relationship with his father, and featured in the Times Literary Supplement; issued children’s stories incl. Frozen Out (1998), set in N. Ireland;
issued Caught on a Train (2001), a series of framed fairy tales set in the West of Ireland involving merrows, moons and magic islands; August ’44 (2003), about two Polish Jewish boys on the run from Nazis; issued The Siege of Derry (2005), on the historical events of 1689-90, and The Bull Raid (2005), a ‘free version’ of Táin Bo Cuailgne; a play, Henry & Harriet, concerning an emigrant couple with a ticket for the Titanic; produced by Kaboosh and performed in four locations [workshops], Belfast, May 2007; other plays, Elaine’s Non-Show and Silhouette, deal with paramilitaries and Dafur (Sudan) respectively;
served as ghost-writer for Patrick Maguire’s My Father’s Watch (2008) by a son of one of the wrongfully-imprisoned Guilford Five; issued The Dead Eight (2011), based on the wrongful hanging of Harry Gleeson for the shooting of Moll McCarthy at New Inn, Co. Tipperary, 1940; issued The Projectionist: The Story of Ernest Gebler (2019); Carlo he has taught in Maghaberry Prison and Queen’s University, Belfast [QUB].

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Carlo Gébler is listed in the Contemporary Writers archive of the British Council - online.
  • The Eleventh Summer (London: Hamish Hamilton; Penguin; NY: Dutton 1985), 161pp., and Do. [reiss.] (Belfast: Lagan Press 2002), 194pp.
  • August in July (London: Hamish Hamilton; Penguin 1986, new edn. 1987), 188pp.
  • Work and Play (London: Hamish Hamilton; Penguin; NY: Fireside 1987), 151pp. [also in Holland].
  • Malachy and His Family (London: Hamish Hamilton/Abacus 1990), 197pp.
  • Life of a Drum (London: Hamish Hamilton 1991; Abacus 1992), 216pp.
  • The Cure (London: Hamish Hamilton; NY: Little, Brown & Co. 1994), and Do. (London: Abacus 1995), 305pp.
  • W.9. & Other Lives (Belfast: Lagan Press 1996; London & NY: Marion Boyars Ltd. 1998), 250pp. [stories].
  • How To Murder a Man (London: Little, Brown & Co. 1998), and Do. [rep. edn.] (London: Abacus 1999), 384pp., and Do. (NY: Marion Boyars Ltd. 1999).
  • The Dead Eight (Dublin: New Island Books 2011), 404pp.
For children
  • The Witch that Wasn ‘t (London: Puffin 1993), 86pp., [by Valerie Littlewood].
  • Frozen Out (London: Mammoth 1998), 128pp.
  • The Base [Yellow Bananas Ser.] (London: Mammoth 1999), 48pp., ill. [by Dan Williams].
  • Caught on a Train (London: Mammoth 2001), 215pp.
  • August ’44 (London: Egmont 2003), 384pp.
  • with Gavin Weston, Aesop’s Tales and the Cruelty of the Gods (Interlink Books [Simon & Schuster] 2019), q.pp.
  • Father and I: A Memoir (London: Little, Brown 2000; London: Abacus 2001), 405pp.
  • The Eleventh Summer (Belfast: Lagan Press 2003), 206pp.
  • August ’44 (London: Egmont 2003), 384pp.
  • A Cold Eye: Notes from a Shared Island 1898-2024 (Dublin: New Island 2024), 304pp. [selected year-by-year excerpts from his journals; ill. with photos by David Barker].
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  • Dance of Death [after Strindberg’s Dödsdansen] (Belfast: Lagan Press 2000), 166pp.
  • Henry & Harriet and Other Plays (Belfast: Lagan Press 2007), 110pp. [title-play; Elaine’s Non-Show, 1-act; Silhouette, 1-act Tricycle’s Dafur Aid season.]
  • 10 Rounds: An Adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s La ronde (Belfast: Lagan Press 2002), 81pp.
  • Driving Through Cuba (London: Hamish Hamilton 1988; Abacus 1990), 294pp., ill. [8pp. of pls., maps.; Do. (NY: Fireside 1988).
  • The Glass Curtain: Inside an Ulster Community (London: Hamish Hamilton/Abacus 1991).
  • The Siege of Derry (London: Little, Brown 2005), 384pp.
  • with Patrick Maguire [as ghost-writer], My Father’s Watch: The Story of a Child Prisoner (London: Fourth Estate 2008), 442pp.
  • The Projectionist: The Story of Ernest Gebler (Dublin: New Island 2019), 424pp. [see details under Ernest Gabler - supra].
Children’s Books
  • The T.V. Genie (London: Hamish Hamilton Children’s Books 1989).
  • The Witch That Wasn ‘t (London: Hamish Hamilton Children’s Books/Puffin 1992).
  • Frozen Out (London: Reed Children’s Books 1998).
  • The Base (London: Egmont Children’s Books 1999).
  • The Bull Raid (Egmont 2005), 413pp. [version of the Táin Bó Cuailgne]
Note: Most of the above listing sought from and kindly supplied by the author.
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  • Review of Death and Nightingales in The Spark [q.d; see Eugene McCabe, infra].
  • ‘Archer’s poison arrows’, review of Jeffrey Archer, Stranger than Fiction, in Fortnight 344 (Nov. 1995), pp.34.
  • ‘At the Depot’ [an encounter with a bag-lady], Fortnight Review 343 (Oct. 1995), p.24.
  • ‘The taxi driver’s story’, in Fortnight 344 (Nov. 1995), p.28.
  • ‘The Garageman’, in Fortnight Review (Dec. 1995), p.24.
  • ‘Kat’, in Fortnight (March 1996), pp.28-29.
  • review of Camus: The First Man, ibid., p.34-35 [‘buttoned-up literary persona under which Camus hide all his life ... unashamedly, unabashedly, joyously, an autobiographical novel’].
  • ‘A child of history’, review of Ita Daly, Unholy Ghosts, in Times Literary Supplement (1 March 1996), p.24.
  • [‘Read this book’] review of Hugo Hamilton, The Speckled People, in Times Literary Supplement (14 Feb. 2003), p.9; [see infra].
  • ‘Reading and Sleeping in the Ceauexcu Sex Hotel’, in Fortnight (July/Aug. 2003), pp.18-19 [story].

Bibliographical details
& Harriet and Other Plays
(Belfast: Lagan Press 2007), incls. title-play [about a couple emigrating to America with a ticket for the Titanic]; Elaine’s Non-Show [about a stripogram at the time of the Northern Ireland Assembly election], and Silhouette [involving an Irish nurse and a Darfur displaced person]. (See Books Ireland, Oct. 2007, p.231.)

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  • Rüdiger Imhof, review of The Cure (1994), in Linenhall Review (Spring 1995), [q.p.; see extract].
  • Bernard O’Donoghue, ‘From Connemara to Cuba’, review of How to Murder a Man (Little Brown 1998), and W9 and Other Lives (Boyars), in Times Literary Supplement (29 May 1998), p.25 [see extract].
  • John Boland, review of How To Murder a Man (1998), in The Irish Times (2 April 1998), Weekend [q.p.; see extract].
  • Shirley Kelly, ‘The Poison from the Past’, interview-article concerning Father and I: A Memoir (Little, Brown), in Books Ireland (Sept. 2000), pp.211-12 [see extract].
  • Tony Gould, review of Father and I (Little, Brown), in Times Literary Supplement (8 Sept. 2000), p.27 [see extract].
  • Molly McCloskey, review of Father and I (Little, Brown & Co.), in The Irish Times (2 Sept. 2000) [q.p.]
  • Ian McBride, ‘Behind the Gates’, review of The Siege of Derry, in Times Literary Supplement (29 April 2005), p.2 [see extract].
  • [Shirley Kelly,] ‘The Seige that Shaped our Identities’, interview-article, in Books Ireland (May 2005), pp.109-10 [see extract].
  • [...]
  • John Kenny, ‘Looking Down the Barrel of History’, review of The Dead Eight, by Carlo Gébler, in The Irish Times (18 June 2011), Weekend, p.11 [see extract].

See also Kirkus reviews of Driving Through Cuba [COPAC online; 31.07.08] and Work and Play [COPAC online; 31.07.08].

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Rüdiger Imhof, review of The Cure (1994), in Linenhall Review (Spring 1995), notes that the novel deals with story of Bridget Cleary who thought herself possessed by fairies, who was burned by her husband and her neighbours; sourced in essay of Hubert Butler, ‘The Eggman and the Fairies’ (The sub-prefect [… &c.], Lilliput 1991, pp.102-19); deals with violence of Irish people, for Irish people, against Irish people; narrator is a seanchaí-type who finds in his RIC-man father’s desk a tin with 30 or so diaries in the hand of Mr Egan, acting Sargeant in Drangan, Co. Tipperary, in the 1890s; tells of Bridget’s marriage, and, finding she cannot conceive, she resorts to local woman who takes her to a rath; she catches bronchitis in the wet and her husband takes it into his head that she is possessed; exorcism takes traumatic course; breakdown of reason and morality. (q.p.).

Bernard O’Donoghue, ‘From Connemara to Cuba’, review of How to Murder a Man (Little Brown 1998), and W9 and Other Lives (Boyars), in Times Literary Supplement (29 May 1998), p.25: writes that The Cure suffers by comparison with Butler’s essay, which reflects on the implications of Bridget Cleary’s fate for the writers of the literary revival; considers the first lucidly well done ‘like the good journalist he is’; gives details of plot: Isaac Marron, a loathsome psychopath, is at the centre of the narrative of How to Murder a Man, though Gébler does not take sides in the tenant-landlord disputes of the period; cites an interview in the Irish Post in which Gébler names Liam O’Flaherty his favourite Irish short story writer; notes that the stories in W9 and Other Lives evoke Joyce not only in the title of ‘Dead’ but also in the allusions to a ‘small gate with sharp spears on top’ and to ‘rain - how democratic! - which well on everywhere, on everyone, on every place’; also in ‘Christmas’; regards ‘The Kitten’ as the best story, and a Carveresque minature; a master oc contempoary allusion; ranges from Connemara to Maida vale to Cuba and Mexico.

John Boland, review of How To Murder a Man (1998) in The Irish Times (2 April 1998) [q.p.], calls it plotted and paced as a thriller; absorbing novel; Thomas French, well-educated Irish-born, land agent on Beatonboro’ estate in Co. Monaghan; offers defaulting tenants five times their annual rent (which in most cases will enable them to pay off their existing debts) if they agree to pack up and go to America with passage; local Ribbonmen make repeated botched attempts to assassinate him (based on similar attempts on life of Steuart C. Trench; memoir of self-doubting French used his starting point; his loyal bailiff Micky; troubled young lovers Tim and Kitty; detestable chief Ribbonman Isaac; a society ‘where the people loved nothing better than to hurt their own people’; character muses: ‘But how could this neighbour harm his neighbour? It was a mystery.’ (Supplied to Irish List by Garry Owens, Huron College, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.)

Shirley Kelly, ‘The Poison from the Past’, interview with Carlo Gébler, concerning Father and I (Little, Brown; pub. Sept 2000), Books Ireland (Sept. 2000), pp.211-12; contrib. to My Generation (Lilliput); writer in residence in Maghaberry; sold his father’s house in Dalkey when the latter was revealed to have Alzheimer’s after a fall; found Aladdin’s cave of diaries back to the 1940s; Ernest’s father Adolf, a Hungarian immigrant and clarinetist, had taught John Carroll and stinted his own son; Ernest previously m. to Leatrice Gilbert following his early sucess with The Plymouth Adventure: Voyage of the Mayflower (1950), which was made into a movie; a son, John Karl; met Edna O’Brien while she was studying pharmacy in Dublin; m. 12 July 1954; Carlo b. 21 Aug.; bapt. Karl (later Carlo); moved to London, 1958; lived in Putney with his mother, who secured custody; Ernest settled with new partner, Jane; Ernest d. 1998.

Tony Gould, review of Carlo Gébler, Father and I: A Memoir (Little, Brown), in Times Literary Supplement (8 Sept. 2000) [q.p.]: Carlo left with his father when his mother quit the London family home, but moved with her to Putney as soon as she could set up a home. Quotes from Gébler père’s diary: ‘See lawyer and make sure sneak thief sons Carl and Sash get nothing’. Gould considers it more than worthy of shelf-space with Gosse’s Father and Son and Ackerley’s My Father and Myself. (p.27.)

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Molly McCloskey, review of Father and I (Little, Brown & Co.), in The Irish Times (2 Sept. 2000): G[ébler] quotes Neitszche. ‘Life is lived forwards but understood backwards’. McCloskey details the various evils for which the son was held responsible by the father and quotes from the father’s diary: ‘One must not let personal misfortune colour the whole world for you’, and (a propos a woman who committed suicide after the departure of her lover), ‘I had never been lucky enough to meet a woman of that true nature but still, you see, they occur in the world’. She concludes: ‘Part memoir part attempt at the rehabilitation of a father, this chronicle of an unhappy childhood, and the process of emergence from it, is perhaps inadvertantly telling in its refusal to condemn. Gébler’s struggle to forgive is admirable; it’s also nearly as painful to witness as the lifetime of slights and insults.’

Ian McBride, ‘Behind the Gates’, review of The Siege of Derry, in Times Literary Supplement (29 April 2005), p.27: ‘His history of the siege lacks this sparkle [i.e., of previous works such as Ten Rounds, a play reworked from Schnitzler’s La Ronde with help from the ombudsman’s report on Omagh]. ‘Although Gébler begins with the riots of August 1969 he says surprisingly little about the contemporary resonances of the Siege. [...] Perhaps, in this more relaxed atmosphere, there will be room to explore less familiar aspects of the war. While there have been dozens of histories of the Siege, there has never been a history “from below”, desipite recurrent friction between patricians and plebs within the besieged garrison. [...] The trouble with Ulster Protestants, as Carlo Gébler’s book reminds us, is not that they are still stuck in the seventeenth century, but that they have forgotten so many of its complexities.’

John Kenny, ‘Looking Down the Barrel of History’, review of The Dead Eight, by Carlo Gébler, in The Irish Times (18 June 2011), Weekend, p.11: ‘[...] Carlo Gébler’s historical novels have some fine traits: a commitment to the uncovering of wrongs done within and by history to certain individuals; an emotive investment in the interior lives he creates; a detailed attention to realist observation by way of achieving a sense of historical period. These are all carried through to some degree into his new adventure in fictionalised history with The Dead Eight, based on the controversial case of the hanging of Harry Gleeson for the shooting dead of Moll McCarthy at New Inn in Co Tipperary in 1940. / Though presented in a straight series of sometimes quick-fire chapters, Gébler’s version of the story is split in two in a way that proves problematic. [...] In his afterword, Gébler explains that he has invented everything up to the discovery of the body. This need not necessarily mean anything for the reader just getting on with the story, but the problem is that with the narrative move into the framing of Gleeson by the nicely realised bad cop, Sgt. Daly, the earlier material on Moll’s ancestry quickly begins to seem inconsequential. / And thereby a symptomatic stylistic dilemma is starkly presented. In the part of the story that depends exclusively on invention, there seems insufficient historical actualisation; when the story relies more on the facts of the case, complete with incorporated newspaper clippings, a distinct authorial stylishness seems absent.’ (See full-text copy in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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‘The Seige that Shaped our Identities’ interview-article with Shirley Kelly], in Books Ireland (May 2005), pp.109-10 - on The Siege of Derry (2005): ‘I’ve tried lots of different things [... N]ot just novels, but plays, children’s books, scripts, and the memoir. I thought I’d like ot try something else and the opportunity arose when my publisher asked me to write about the siege. that appealed to me because I think there’s something very engaging about a siege. Traditionally, soldiers go to war but in a siege situation civilians and combatants are very much thrown together and it’s much more visceral. Also, sieges tend to end unhappily. Historcially, the rules of engagement were that if a town refused to surrent and the walls were breached, then everyone inside was fair game, so the stakes were high and the outcome potentially apocalyptic. / I’ve found that writing history is a completely different exercise to anything else I’ve ever done. If you write a novel or whatever, you come up with a story and a voice and off you go. History, of course, has to be assembled from facts and the facts of Irish history are especially slippery. [...] I was commissioned to write a history book but sorely tempted to write a novel [...] I came across such interesting characters and intrigues, it was hard to resist slipping into fiction. I’m working on a contemporary novel at the moment and it’s good to be back in that imaginary world.’

Read this book’ - Review of Hugo Hamilton, The Speckled People (2003), in Times Literary Supplement (14 Feb. 2003), p.9: ‘If Ireland is ever going to become the strong, democratic and tolerant culture that it claim it wishes to become, it needs this sort of book.’ (See further under Hugo Hamilton, infra.)

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Work and Play (1987): Fergus, a university drop-out, alienated from his father, who disinherits him before his death, seeks himself in London, working clerically at the TV station, meeting immigrants a madman, and among

The Cure (1994): The Bridget Cleary affair was first reported in the Cork Examiner (28 March 1895) afterwards examined in [Anon.,] ‘The Witch-burning at Clonmel’, in Folk-lore, Vol. 6 (1895), pp.373-84. It was an embarrassing event for W. B. Yeats whom the Examiner accused of nurturing a return to superstition. See Geneviève Brennan, ‘Yeats, Clodd, Scatalogic Rites and the Clonmel Witch Burning’, in Yeats Annual, 4 (1986), and also Angela Bourke, The Burning of Bridget Cleary (1999), the definitive study of the incident.

How to Murder a Man (1998), set in Ireland in 1851, centres on Thomas French, an Irish-born land-agent, and Isaac Marron, a local Ribbonman and political assassin, somewhat based on experience of Steuart C. Trench.

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Caught on a train (2001) - a series of fairy-tales told in ominous surroundings. The auditor is a boy working in the dining car of the Great Midland West Ireland Railway in the 19th century. He is asked to judge a story-telling contest by the mysterious Mr Cink. Mr Fee tells the Micky Mealiffe, who makes a living from salvage and who meets a Merrow and is shown a room of underwater cages full of the souls of the drowned sailors whom Micky frees. Mr Smyth tells of Jeremiah O’Dwyer who lifts the curse on his bewitched cattle by befriending a wounded hare who leads him to a similarly wounded man. Mr Cink tells of Daniel O’Rourke, a drunken man who dreams he is carried to the moon by an eagle and carried away by geese before being swallowed by a whale - only to awaken when his wife sluices him with a bucket of water. Mr Cink proves uncivil to the confounded boy, who finds the competitors have vanished into thin air when he leaves the compartment and returns.

Henry & Harriet (2007): Henry goes shopping in preparation for his elopement on the Titanic with Harriet, financing his purchases with the embezzled funds of an anti-Home Rule collection. (See Eamon Kelly, review of Henry & Harriet and Other Plays, in Books Ireland, Feb. 2008, p.12.)

Elaine’s Non-Show: a former paramilitary sells strippograms for parties, carrying out mock punishment beatings wielding baseball bats and wearing balaclavas. (See Eamon Kelly, op. cit. 2008, idem.)

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Silhouette: an African woman submites to gang-rape to save her son and is double-crossed by her assailants; A white aid-worker woman ‘helps’ her address her psychological problems without understanding Oprah Winfrey-style without understanding the real situation. (See Eamon Kelly, op. cit. 2008, idem.)

The Dead Eight (2011) - concerns the false sentencing and hanging of Tipperary-man Harry Gleeson for the murder of Moll McCarthy whom he found dead from gunshot wounds to the face and reported to the police. His conviction was secure by the prosecution's withholding evidence relative to alibis and the extraction of false evidence from witness by police brutality. A posthumous pardon was awarded by the Irish State January 2015 as a result of the intervention of the Justice for Harry Gleeson project of Griffith College, Dublin, under the terms of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1993. (See Irish Times, 11 Jan. 2015 - online.)

TLS Roundup: In ‘International Books of the Year’ (Times Literary Supplement, 4 Dec. 1998), Carlo Gébler chooses Graham Rawle’s Dairy of an Amateur Photographer (Picador 1998), John Milne’s A live and Kicking, and Will Self’s Tough Tough Toys for Tough Tough Boys in Times Literary Supplement.

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latest edit: 18.07.2024