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Tuesday, January 12, 1999 Published at 14:11 GMT


Brian Moore: Forever influenced by loss of faith

Brian Moore: Described himself as "ineluctably Irish"

The Irish American author Brian Moore has died at his home in California at the age of 77.

Described by Graham Greene as "my favourite living author", Brian Moore's dark musings were among the first novels to closely examine the postwar Irish experience.

Born in Belfast in 1921, Brian Moore was one of nine children. Rebelling against his anti-British surgeon father, he served as a civilian worker in the British Army in North Africa, Italy and France.

Following a stint working for the United Nations in Poland, he emigrated to Canada in 1948. Starting as a proof reader on a Montreal newspaper, he became a reporter and feature writer.

[ image: The young Brian Moore]
The young Brian Moore
In 1952 Brian Moore left journalism to concentrate on novel writing. His first book, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne was rejected by 12 American publishers before being accepted.

The story of an alcoholic Catholic spinster living in the religious divide of Belfast, it won the Authors' Club First Novel award and was eventually filmed in 1989 with Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins.

Looking back, he said, "I was very lonely, I had almost no friends, I'd given up my beliefs, was earning no money and I didn't see much of a future. So I could identify with a dipsomaniac, isolated spinster."

His second novel, The Feast of Lupercal, brought him a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation and he moved to New York to write The Luck of Ginger Coffey, about the adventures of an Irish immigrant in Canada.

In 1966, Brian Moore moved to California, where he would spend the rest of his life, and wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain, an exercise which he later described as "awful, like washing floors".

[ image: He rejected Catholicism at an early age]
He rejected Catholicism at an early age
Brian Moore's youthful rejection of Catholicism coloured all of his novels, some of which were banned by the Church. He once described Ireland as "a nation of masturbators under priestly instruction."

His essentially pessimistic view of life, no doubt influenced by having witnessed the horrors of Auschwitz, brought with it a lifelong fascination with the religion which he had himself rejected.

For instance, Catholics, published in 1972, deals with the impact of the Second Vatican Council's doctrinal liberalisation on a remote Catholic community.

Confusion over belief and isolation, both physical and spiritual, are the very essence of Moore's work. But, just as he rejected religion, he had no time for the crudities of modern life, living quietly himself.

His 1983 novel, Black Robe tells the story of a 17th century Jesuit missionary in a harrowing tale of rape, murder, cannibalism and the forced conversion of Canada's Algonquin Indians.

The author of twenty novels, the last of which The Magician's Wife was published two years ago, Brian Moore's influence far outstripped his fame, though he was shortlisted for the Booker Prize on three occasions.

The man who once described himself as "ineluctably Irish" but who rejected his homeland and his faith, gave his readers a unique insight not only into the life of that country but also into the universal questions of faith and doubt.

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An Interview with Brian Moore

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