A graduate of Trinity College Dublin – where I started a literary magazine, prudently called Icarus but still going strong – I did postgraduate work at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris and spent six years in Paris researching and teaching. I then taught modern French literature and ideas at Exeter and then at Sussex, where I also did a stint as Dean of the School of European Studies. I am married with three children and now live, a little to my surprise, in the bourgeois arty pseudo-village of Hampstead.
My academic publications, discounting articles and chapters in collective works, include a a book on the novelist, art critic and De Gaulle’s Minister for Culture André Malraux, a book on the Nobel prizewinning Catholic novelist and commentator François Mauriac, and a more recent Brief History of France.
My imaginative writings include an early crime novel called Message from Sirius (winner of an Observer ‘crime novel for dons’ competition and separately published in US, Germany and Holland), two stage plays: Our Own Red Blood, done here and Off-off, and Waiting for Beckett for a Beckett festival, and two Radio Three plays: Citizen Sade and The Singular Case of Sherlock H and Sigmund F, also done France, Germany and Switzerland.
SYNOPSES (two most recent books)
A Brief History of France (2011). An overview of French history from the cave paintings to the present, with the central aim of defining ‘Frenchness’ as a historical construct determined by its position on the European continent, its fraught relationship with the Vatican as the ‘eldest daughter of the Church’, its imperial rivalry with Britain, the conflict since the Revolution between the Catholic conservative tradition and the secular republican tradition, its vulnerability in relation to Germany, and the defining feature of present-day France. I pay close attention to the cultural expression of this ‘Frenchness’ throughout.
(favourable reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc)
Dora Versus Picasso (2014, newly published)
Said to be the only woman who ever stood up to the dominant Picasso, Dora Maar is a glamorous and successful young Surrealist artist when they meet and start striking sparks off each other in 1936. She is seen as a ‘tough cookie’ – as she needs to be in a society where women have no vote and a Parisian art world where female artists can survive only as the nude model/mistress or ‘Muse’ of a male painter. And she is initially wary of the advances of the older Picasso, who not only has a wife and son, but a young mistress that he has kept hidden for many years, and who is also reputed to be hard on women. However, as she comes to understand the trauma and inner loneliness underlying his painting and his macho bravado, and as she works with him on the famous mural Guernica about an atrocity during the Spanish Civil War, she comes to love Picasso. Yet while he admires and needs her, she has to stand up to his self-destructive need to test her. With the onset of war and the looming German Occupation – which will threaten both of them – their lives come under increasing strain. Can she emerge from this challenging relationship intact? (favourable reviews Amazon, Goodreads, etc)
A practised speaker, I have given a very successful Power Point presentation at Waterstones Hampstead, the U3A and the West Hampstead Library on themes arising from my novel Dora Versus Picasso. The emphasis here is on the gender conflict in the relationship and its expression in such key paintings as Dora and the MInotaur, Guernica, and the Weeping Woman. I also deal with the English connection in the form of the Surrealist painter Roland Penrose and Anthony Blunt.
Re publishers, I have some expectation of international interest in this novel.
CONTACT DETAILS: [JenkinsCecilC]@Gmail.com (remove square brackets if emailing)