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The little book of Judas - Brendan Kennelly

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The little book of Judas
Brendan Kennelly
Paperback / softback
Bloodaxe Books
UK Publication Date

The Book of Judas, Brendan Kennelly's 400-page epic poem in twelve parts, was the number one bestselling book in Ireland. The Little Book of Judas is a distillation of that literary monster, purged to its traitorous essence. But Judas never goes away. He continued to worm his way into Kennelly's imagination long after the original book was "finished", and The Little Book of Judas includes some damning new revelations from the eternal scapegoat and outcast. Not merely lost but irredeemable, Kennelly's bitterly articulate Judas speaks, dreams and murmurs - of past and present, history and myth, good and evil, of men, women and children, and of course money - until we realise that the unspeakable perpetrator of the apparently unthinkable, in penetrating the icy reaches of his own world, becomes a sly, many-voiced critic of ours.

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Brendan Kennelly is one of Ireland's most distinguished and best loved poets, as well as a renowned teacher and cultural commentator. Born in 1936 in Ballylongford, Co. Kerry, he was Professor of Modern Literature at Trinity College, Dublin for over 30 years, and retired from teaching in 2005. He now lives in Listowel, Co. Kerry. He has published more than 30 books of poetry, including Familiar Strangers: New & Selected Poems 1960-2004 (2004), which includes the whole of his book-length poem The Man Made of Rain (1998). He is best-known for two controversial poetry books, Cromwell, published in Ireland in 1983 and in Britain by Bloodaxe in 1987, and his epic poem The Book of Judas (1991), which topped the Irish bestsellers list: a shorter version was published by Bloodaxe in 2002 as The Little Book of Judas. His third epic, Poetry My Arse (1995), did much to outdo these in notoriety. All these remain available separately from Bloodaxe, along with his more recent titles: Glimpses (2001), Martial Art (2003), Now (2006), Reservoir Voices (2009), The Essential Brendan Kennelly: Selected Poems, edited by Terence Brown and Michael Longley, with audio CD (2011), and Guff (2013).

The Book of Judas is an epic achievement and as over the top as the subject deserves. This is poetry as base as heavy metal, as high as the Holy Spirit flies, comic and tragic, from litany to rant, roaring at times, soaring at other times. Like David in the Psalms, like Robert Johnson in the blues, the poet scratches out Screwtape letters to a God who may or may not have abandoned him, and of course to anyone else who is listening.
Sunday Independent - Bono

This is our most ambitious work of literature since Beckett's prose trilogy… It is a labyrinthine confessional, clamorous with sin, guilt and malice, with no hint of absolution. The gesture of betrayal reshapes itself in a thousand promiscuous writhings - sexual, political, social economic; the hells of Dante and Hieronymus Bosch rendered in steel-glass corridor, pedestrian arcade, academic cloister, with devils and damned in cashmere, denim, corduroy, polyester... It is the work of moral terrorism, a modern sensibility struggling with medieval demons. You would have to fare far to encounter in literature or life such naked fear - and its attendant self-loathing - so bravely confronted. The Book of Judas is magisterial, a work of supreme technical maturity.
Irish Independent. - Augustine Martin

Keyword Index
Epic poetry, English.
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