Canticle

This is a very exciting time because my first novel, “Canticle” was launched in the Irish Writers Centre on May 15th . The eminent novelist Anthony Glavin generously agreed to launch the book, which seemed fitting, as he was one of the judges of the IWC/Greenbean Novel Fair 2016 who nominated “Canticle”  a winner that year.  Anthony gave a really thoughtful and generous introduction and many friends helped me to celebrate on the night – including two who came all the way from Scotland!  Some fellow-writers from the Troika and the Brook’s writing groups came along, too. It was a great reunion and thanks to all who made it so special. 

If you would like to buy “Canticle” check out www.turaspress.ie, where you can find out independent bookstores where you can buy it. If you are not close to any of then, you can buy the book on the Turas Press website. And if you would like to review the book, don’t forget Goodreads! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40275383-canticle

“Canticle” is an historical novel set in Renaissance Spain, inspired by the poetry and the life of the sublime mystic poet, St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz, 1542 – 1591). His writing is as well-known in Spain as Shakespeare is in the English-speaking world and in fact, he was a near-contemporary of Shakespeare.

I developed a fascination with San Juan’s life and work when I read him as a student of French and Hispanic Studies at Glasgow University, way back in the mists of time…so researching and writing this novel really was a labour of love. I hope people who read “Canticle” will become as intrigued by this strange and wonderful person, and his poetry, as I am myself.

“Canticle” is also a detective story.  It follows the trials of a cynical Dominican friar who gets the job of investigating some of the mysteries of San Juan’s life – he lived in turbulent times, when religious orders were as enmeshed in politics as our political parties are today.  The investigator, Fray Martín, is ordered to search for the lost manuscripts of San Juan’s poems, especially his “Cántico Espiritual” – the Canticle – hence, the title of the book

I spent many happy hours in the Sala Cervantes of the Biblioteca Nacional de España, researching the times,  poring over 400-year-old manuscripts (not San Juan’s originals, sadly, which really are lost).   

I’ve included in “Canticle” my own translations of a couple of San Juan’s most famous poems: “Noche Oscura del Alma”/ “Dark Night of the Soul” and “Aunque es de Noche”/“Even though it’s Night.” Here is a link to my translation of “Aunque es de Noche.

Here is a little taster of the book (uncorrected proofs, so excuse any rogue commas) –  just a few pages from the beginning, to whet your appetite…Canticle E McSkeane Ch 1