John McGuffin

John McGuffin (1942 – 2002)



Beaten, but unbowed

Our friend and writing colleague John McGuffin is gone from this world.
I sometimes tried to persuade him that he must have come from a long line of Irish writers and his ancestral name was really Sean Mac A' Phinn. Maybe it was, but one thing without doubt is that John could pack into his writing all the tremble-making toughness of any of the political writers Ireland ever knew.
He was one of the people tortured by the government. That put his name into that long list of sufferers which should have forced London to feel ashamed. He wrote against the torture which men endured when London decided that its answer to our cries for justice should be soldeirs, guns, batons, hoods, and experiments in human suffering whose results could be sold to whatever dictator wanted to buy them. That put him into the honourable list of people who have protested against torture and the 70 or more governments which still to this day use it to get information, the London administration being one of them.
What he wrote about it circled the world and at least nobody could say the world was not told. He went to America and worked there in the courts and outside them for freedom of men and women threatened with expulsion, deportation and extradiction. There were few enough at the time willing and able to do it. He was an untiring writer, and the electronic media was, if he would pardon the expression, a godsend.
He was informed like none of us is. He was sharp as he needed to be as he took risks in offending those who considered themselves the most powerful in the land. In other words, he was a good friend in times of trouble.
When one of his novels was published he honoured me by asking if I would launch it. You know how it is on these occasions, you search around for another author with whom you can compare this one. Not easy when McGuffin is the writer in question. Juvenal, maybe. Rabelais, certainly. Dean Swift, of course. Although John would not share all my views of what we are and where we are going, it is good to think that in the company of these writers of the past John is at the moment enjoying the craic, finding the apt word, and telling them the way things really are.
Another friend passed on. Our thanks to him for showing us how to win, even after the torture.

Des Wilson
(Andersonstown News)



Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names. - Proverb

The Late John McGuffin

The obituary cliche that "He didn't suffer fools gladly" was never more apt than for John McGuffin, which occasionally presented him with problems of an inter-personal nature, since McGuffin tended to regard a remarkably wide section of the earth's population as fools. Anybody who voted in an election ("It's wrong to choose your masters!"). All who had ever darkened the door of a church after reaching the age of reason. People opposed to cannabis. And that was just for starters.
One day in the late 1960s, when we thought we'd heard the chimes of freedom flashing, I drove to Dublin with McGuffin and the American anarchist Jerry Rubin. A mile or so out of Newry, McGuffin explained to the fabled member of the Chicago Seven that the town we were approaching was in the grip of revolution. The risen people had turned en masse to anarchism. We'd better barrel on through. If we stopped for a moment the fevered proletariat would surely engulf us...
Down were in the All-Ireland final that weekend. Every house, lamppost and telegraph pole was festooned with red-and-black flags. Rubin was agog, at risk of levitation when we passed under banners strung across the streets, reading, "Up Down!"
"These people really got the revolutionary ethic", enthused the ecstatic Rubin.
"As much as yourself, comrade", allowed the gracious McGuffin.
He turned up on the Burntollet march with an anarchist banner but couldn't persuade anybody to carry the other pole. He marched all the way with the furled standard sloped on his shoulder, managing to convey that this was sure evidence of his singular revolutionary rectitude, the easy-oozy reformism of the rest of us.
McGuffin was interned in August 1971, as far as I know the only Protestant lifted in the initial swoop. He wrote a fine book on internment afterwards, "The Guineapigs". He was later to publish "In Praise of Poteen", "The Hairs of the Dog" and, recently, "Last Orders, Please!". He was a gifted, utterly undisciplined writer, eschewing the pedantries of structure and all strictures of taste. Various newspapers agreed to give him regular space, but it never lasted. Editors physically winced at his ferocious philippics. He said to me of this column a few months back, "If it's any good, why havn't they sacked you?"
For a time, An Phoblacht published his scabrously brilliant "Brigadier" column. Frequently, the Provos wouldn't print it because they thought their readers would find it offensive. They weren't bad judges.
I first became aware of McGuffin within a week of arriving at Queen's as a wide-eyed innocent from the Bogside. He erupted into a debate addressed by Sam Thompson, the former shipyard worker whose play, "Over The Bridge", had convulsed the Unionist establishment with rage. Thompson was the hero of the hour for Northern liberals. But not for McGuffin. The only achievement of "Over The Bridge", he raged, had been to enable a section of the useless middle class to feel good about themselves for having a night out at the theatre. "Meanwhile, Basil Brook is roaming the streets..."
He took off for California in the early '80s, where he practiced as a lawyer for 15 years, advertising his services under the slogan, "Sean McGuffin, Attorney at Law, Irish-friendly - No crime too big, no crime too small". He only did defences and preferred getting people off who he reckoned were guilty because that way it was more fun.
He was my friend for 40 years. The announcement of his end told that he died peacefully on the morning of April 28th after a long illness, and that two days before turning sideways to the sun had married his long-term collaborator, comrade and partner Christiane.
He was laid out in his coffin with a smile of final satisfaction on a face sculpted like a chieftain of old, in a black t-shirt with square red lettering, "Unrepentant Fenian Bastard".
Way to go, McGuffin.

Eamonn McCann
(Belfast Telegraph)



In the democracy of the dead all men at last are equal.
There is neither rank nor station nor prerogative in the republic of the grave.

- John James Ingalls

Death of An Anarchist Writer

The road to Roselawn Crematorium has always struck me as being possessed of an ethereal quality. Sweeping in from the west of the city across the Knock Dual Carriageway, replete with its heavy greyness, the swing right onto the Ballygowan Road quickly brings you to that strange intersection where two worlds meet, like billiard balls, and then bounce off into their own separate orbits. The joints that link them, at the same time forcing them apart. A deep calming green replaces the grey of the city.
The approach to Roselawn is quite unlike any other. The only other thing that I can compare it with was the first parole from the H-Blocks in 1989. I walked out of the Long Kesh colourlessness, got into my friend Tommy's car, drove a few hundred yards and then the green hit us. I noticed it, he did not. I only ever experienced that green once. Each parole after that declining to produce the same effect. But Roselawn never fails. In terms of atmosphere and setting it is as far removed from West Belfast cemeteries as it is geographically. Milltown Cemetery is so situated in the centre of urbanity that attending funerals there always engenders feelings of having just stepped into a wet field, rather than a place reserved. The unruly state of our modern day burial site conjures up images of a human disposal ground rather a cemetery where dignity and serenity have their own exalted place.
Yesterday afternoon we made the surreal trip yet again. Tommy Gorman and myself arrived at Roselawn shortly prior to 3 o'clock for the cremation of John McGuffin, who once described himself as an intellectual hooligan. John was not religious, neither was his ceremony. Joe Quigley explained, while he made a short address, that out of the many categories of fools that John regarded as making up the world, there was a special place for those who believed in religion once having attained the age of reason. Another category was made up of those who vote - it wasn't right, in his view, to choose our masters. The coffin, draped in the anarchist flag, was carried into the building by a number of his friends. As Bernadette McAliskey remarked during her address it was good to see John McGuffin holding up both ends of the flag himself as he had at Burntollet all those years ago.
Due to the difficulty encountered by some Derry mourners in negotiating the Belfast roads to Roselawn, not everyone arrived on time. This upset the flow of the proceedings somewhat as included among those who had yet to arrive was the main speaker, Joe Quigley. Des Wilson, who first met John McGuffin in America, was asked if he could open up with a few words. The first captured the essence of the man about to be cremated and set the tone for the remainder of the ceremony. 'John would have been quite pleased to see that everything did not go right'. Des went on to compare him with some of the great historical figures of resistance writing. Bernadette McAliskey in her tribute said of the man whom we had gathered to honour that he was a cross between Marx, Machiavelli and Monty Python.
John McGuffin who died on Saturday night in Altnegevin Hospital after a period of illness was a prolific writer. Amongst his publications ranked Internment; Guineapigs; In Praise of Poteen; and The Hares of the Dog - A Celtic Conspiracy. Upon hearing of his death I felt downhearted and dejected. I never grew to know him very well, only having met him for the first time a number of years ago while he stood on Gravaghy Road, still opposing injustice as he did throughout his entire adult life. And those occasions when I met him after that were by chance, typical for his anarchistic nature, at a protest somewhere, perhaps in a pub or on a street in Belfast or Derry when he would invariably be accompanied by his partner Christiana. And occasionally we kept in touch over the internet. Like so many others who recoiled at the official version of events I regularly received his 'Dipatches'. But, know him well or not, his character was, in that clichified way, larger than life. He was a beacon in the North West where there are so few others. A star that stood out in a galactic darkness, always a source of reassurance and comfort when the oppressive forces of conformity bayed for obedience. And now he was gone. A void took his place, a vacuum that was not going to be filled easily. Few deaths, outside of family, have that impact.
And so it was a major relief to attend his cremation and listen to those who spoke, Des Wilson, Bernadette McAliskey, Eamonn McCann and Joe Quigley. It was totally uplifting. To see so many there - whom one speaker described as 'no gooders and misfits, the type John loved' - who, like John McGuffin, needed no one else to think for them, made me feel that had Pastor Niemoller lived here rather than Germany there would always have been somebody left who would speak out. The Fuhrer would never quite succeed in murdering us all.
It is not the done thing to burst out laughing at funerals but many did and the rest didn't mind in the slightest when Eamonn McCann relayed a conversation he once had with John McGuffin about books. The anarchist was a voracious reader and he told Eamonn that he was doing his best to get through so many books that he felt should be read but 'there's still bastards writing more'. I laugh now even as I write.
In many ways John McGuffin's independence had more than the usual amount of obstacles to cross. He was of a Protestant background and his uncle had been a Labour Unionist MP. John attended Campbell College, the home of Rugby and all that. But never a team player - there would always be some captain eager to have everybody play only his way because he thought he knew more and better than the rest of us - he ran with the ball himself. And in an age when it has become fashionable to kick for touch and deny ever having had the ball, John McGuffin never let his drop. Holding it came with a price and he ended up being interned. But he managed to turn that dark era into one of victory by writing The Guineapigs, exposing the torture underwent by the 'hooded men', and embarrassing the British Government in the course of doing so.
In the worldview of John McGuffin there only was one world; this one of darkness. His presence here ensured that light would shine into the dark corners where the dirty work of the establishment churned out repression. As we left for the drive back to West Belfast, my dejection had gone. The vibrancy of John McGuffin had shoved it off stage. And to end our day Tommy Gorman reminded me of what quite easily could have been a 'McGuffinism': what is the point in voting? - sure the government always gets in.
Oiche Mhaith, John.

Anthony McIntyre
(The Blanket)



Up against the wall

John McGuffin, author, revolutionary and 'Unrepentant Fenian Bastard' died on the 28th of April 2002 in his adopted Derry - two days shy of his 60th Birthday.
Often irascible and definitely recalcitrant, McGuffin was a constant thorn in the side of the establishment and a vociferous advocate of free speech, Anarchism and Irish republicanism. This intellectual hooligan came from unlikely beginnings. Born into an upper-middle class protestant family in Belfast in 1942 he attended the privately funded Campbell College until the age of eighteen and then went on to study history and psychology at Queens.
However, in the tradition of Bakunin and Malatesta he was a born anarchist who rejected his upbringing and a possible career in academia in favour of becoming a revolutionary.
Perhaps the defining moment in a long and chequered career as an International revolutionary was his internment in August 1971. He became the first protestant to be detained under the act while a founding member of the People's Democracy and lecturer at Belfast Tech.
It was the six weeks he spent in Crumlin Road that made him, and many others, set aside their pacifist beliefs and become fully-fledged members of the Republican movement. McGuffin was to write two books on the subject after his release: Internment and the Guineapigs. The latter was published by Penguin and sold 20,000 copies in its first week before being banned. He was to make friendships with his fellow internees that would last a lifetime.
Never far from the forefront of left-wing radical politics, McGuffin sat on the international committee investigating the deaths in prison of members of the Red Army Faction in Germany in the 1970's as well as numerous International Human Rights bodies in Europe and the US.
His globetrotting escapades saw him roam through Europe, (particularly Germany where he has conducted extensive speaking and reading tours) as well as North Africa, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Borneo and the Americas.
McGuffin settled in San Francisco in 1981, passing the California State Bar exam and setting up as a criminal defence and human rights lawyer to represent the 'ordinary decent criminals.'
Deciding he had been in involuntary exile too long, he returned with his partner Christiane to Ireland in 1998, not to his native Belfast but to Derry. He remained here until his death last month.
He will be remembered primarily for his writings, and this is both proper and fitting. Writing was his greatest passion and most effective weapon. Several of his nine books were printed solely in German as in the UK they were deemed unsuitable for publication. Few writers have been able to achieve such diversity in their work, ranging from serious political texts to outrageous bad taste fiction. McGuffin also penned several screen and stage plays and regularly produced the highly satirical and acerbic internet newsletters, 'Dispatches.'
As recently as last year he became embroiled in the issue of censorship once more, his eponymous website being shut down due to the publication of allegedly libellous material. Undaunted by the imposed ban the site relocated several times to keep ahead of the censors. He remained defiant to the end, railing against the injustices of society as and when he saw them.
Tales of the McGuffin's exploits have not as a rule been exaggerated and almost anyone who met him has a story to tell, or hide. Most are not for public consumption, at least not until the statute of limitations expires. Many a political figure with a past may sleep easier now that he is no longer casting a critical eye over proceedings.
For my part 'the Uncle' will always be one of the most important influences in my life and one of the biggest losses. At times he drove me to distraction, like the time I introduced him to a young lady of my acquaintance only for him to chastise me for abandoning the football scores for a 'floozy.'
Or my first encounter with him at SFX airport in San Francisco as a callow youth of 20. Jet-lagged after my first long haul flight I had nothing but an old photograph as means of identification. I approached the robust individual in the ludicrous hat (for it could have been no other) and proffered a nervous introduction.
"Are you supposed to be my *!!?!!! Nephew?" he sneered reducing me to a neurotic wreck before flashing a grin and slapping me playfully round the head, "what kept you kid?"
The rest as they say, is history.
John Niall McGuffin was cremated at Roselawn Crematorium, Belfast on 1 May 2002 with no religious trappings. We will never see his like again and he will be sorely missed.


Padraig McGuffin
(Derry News)



McGuffin laid to rest

The funeral took place yesterday of John McGuffin, lawyer, anarchist, banned author and former Derry News columnist.
Mr McGuffin, who had settled in Derry's Craft Village after a peripatetic career - which took in everywhere from San Francisco to Borneo to Saudi Arabia to Berlin - died in hospital on Sunday night following a long illness - two days before his 60th birthday.
Despite being extremely sick, his friends and relatives "broke him out" of Altnagelvin only last Thursday for a few hours to get married to his long-term partner Christiane Kuhn.
A political activist all his life, Mr McGuffin was the first Protestant, and indeed East Belfast man, to be detained as a suspected republican in the 1970s.
Those suspicions might have been confirmed to anyone who witnessed his laying-in-state earlier this week, where he was adorned in a t-shirt, which read 'UNREPENTANT FENIAN BASTARD'.
Mr McGuffin was to write a number of books on his experiences as a prisoner including 'Internment' (1973, Anvil Books) and Guinea Pigs (1974, Penguin), which sold 20,000 copies and was banned after a week by British minister, Reginald Maudling.
An accomplished writer, he published a host of other books including 'In Praise of Poteen', 'Last Orders, Please' and 'The Hares of the Dog'.
After emigrating to the United States in the early 1980s, Mr McGuffin qualified as lawyer, specializing in human rights cases, before returning to Ireland, and Derry.
In 1999, he and a group of friends began the internet column 'Dispatches', which he described as "unashamedly Republican, Socialist, Anarchist, Guevarist and iconoclastic".
The column was hugely popular and utterly uncompromising, so it came as no surprise when the internet police shut it down.
Thus column number two 'Dispatches on the Run' was posted on a new site - the last entry on April 1, offering a very subversive take on the demise of the Queen Mother.
Mr McGuffin for a few months also published a column in the Derry News, 'the Derry Eagle', which was right at the cutting edge.
Colm McCarroll, the man responsible for introducing the McGuffin column to the Derry News, commented: " 'Lily-livered' and 'yellow-bellied' are but two of the descriptions the 'Eagle' used when we gave him a weekly reminder that libel laws existed.
"But he managed to keep us on our toes. He was a witty man with a brilliant mind."

Garbhan Downey
(Derry News)



John McGuffin

The death occurred recently of John McGuffin, journalist, author, lawyer, political activist and wit. McGuffin will be fondly remembered by An Phoblacht readers for The Brigadier, his viciously satirical column which seemed aimed at proving that the pen is mightier than the sword.
He also wrote two important books, The Guinea Pigs, about 14 Irish political prisoners on whom the British Army experimented with sensory deprivation torture in 1971, and Internment, a history of that particular form of repression in Ireland. Both books are available for download, as are other examples of McGuffin's caustically entertaining prose, at his Dispatches website ( Always fond of a quote, McGuffin described Dispatches as such: "Dispatches is unashamedly Republican, Socialist, Anarchist, Guevarist and iconoclastic. We take our philosophy from the 'Father of All Historians' the great Herodotus. In the 5th century BC he succinctly laid down the historian's function: 'Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all; the conscientious historian will correct these defects.'
And, it must be said - 'amnesia is the handmaiden of hypocrisy' - which is basically what George Santayana meant when he wrote: 'Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to fulfil it.'"

An Phoblacht's CORMAC below pays tribute to his longtime friend and comrade.
The timing at least was perfect. May Day! It was a most appropriate date to pay our last respects to John McGuffin. We carried the coffin, draped with the anarchist flag of red and black, into Roselawn crematorium. The weather was changeable and unpredictable and even that seemed appropriate. The room was filled with family, friends and old comrades. And stories were told about McGuffin. It was recalled how he turned up at the Burntollet march with an anarchist banner but no one was willing to carry the other side. To McGuffin this proved the correctness of his position. He always knew when he was right and the rest of the world was wrong.
Irascible. That was one of the words used by Joe Quigley to describe him, for no one here was about to pretend that we were talking about a perfect human being. Yet no one who listened as Joe, Fr. Des Wilson, Bernadette McAliskey, and Eamon McCann spoke could doubt for a second the respect that they had and the affection they felt for him.
When this, the comparatively respectable section of the obsequies, had been completed a large number of us headed
for a pub. And it was there that we entered the real McGuffinesque world. A few drinks accompanied by rebel songs, ballads about social injustice, and stories in dubious taste. For one phrase that is seldom used in the same sentence as "McGuffin" is "good taste". The hilariously tasteless pieces that he wrote for this paper under the name "The Brigadier" are a testament to this. For although some of us will remember him most as a valued friend and drinking companion, many more will remember him for his writings, which ranged from his exposure of the systematic torture of internees (The Guinea Pigs) to ribald tales from the pubs and clubs of Belfast and Derry.
So yet another friend and comrade is lost to us and the world has become a poorer place, a less colourful place,
and a lot less fun.

An Phoblacht/Republican News / Thursday 9 May 2002



As some of you may know John McGuffin of Belfast and Derry (and other parts) has died and is being cremated today (May Day, 2002) at Roselawn in Belfast around 3.00pm.

John, or Seán as he was sometimes known, was a very independent anarchist who is perhaps most well known for providing the single anarchist element within the People's Democracy group of the sixties and carrying an anarchist banner (himself), on the Burntollet civil rights march. He was interned in 1971 and later wrote an excellent and valuable book on the history of internment in Ireland, as well as another book, 'The Guineapigs', about the selection and torture of a group of internees, which caused much embarassment to the state.
John came from a Protestant background - his uncle had been a Labour Unionist MP at (and first speaker in) Stormont (Sam McGuffin) and a Freemason, and John was sent to Campbell College in Belfast and then he went to Queen's. He never met a Catholic, by his own admission until he was 18 years old, and he always regarded himself as a 'Lundy'. He had many contacts with libertarians from Germany over the years in particular but was never active in mainstream anarchism, as far as I know, here in Derry or in Ireland generally.
I attended his 'wake' last night in William Street in Derry along with a small and very varied political crowd. His coffin was draped in the anarchist red and black flag, and after a speech and a song from friends who knew him, we all retired to the pub, as John would have appreciated to get well and truly pissed, or as near as we could get to that. John was a cantankerous and grumpy character who had a serious dose of cynicism, but through his 'Dispatches', e-mailed to many people across the north, he kept up some form of political and anarchist-inspired activism. He will be missed by many, especially by his partner Christiana, and will always be remembered as an anarchist.

Mairtin O'Cathain, ASF Derry.



Slán, comrade Sean

Für Sean McGuffin, gestorben in Derry, Sonntag, 28. April 2002

Tübingen steht noch, Sean. Mitte der 1970er Jahre hattest du geschworen, solltest du je Verteidigungsminister der sozialistischen irischen Republik werden, deren Luftwaffe gegen die dortigen studentischen peace wankers einzusetzen, die dich zwingen wollten, auf dem Höhepunkt der Guerillakampagne der IRA gegen die pox Britannica den Frieden zu predigen. Dabei ging es doch darum, dass die Murrays, zwei irische Anarchisten, nicht am Galgen enden. Auf der Rundreise durch deutsche Lande zwecks der Veranstaltungen gegen die Todesstrafe in Irland sind wir Freunde geworden. Als Ulrike Meinhof in ihrer Zelle erhängt aufgefunden wurde, war es für dich eine Selbstverständlichkeit, Mitglied der internationalen Untersuchungskommission zu werden. Mit deinen BüchernInternment und Guineapigs warst du zur Autorität in Sachen Knast und Folterexperimenten an Gefangenen in der Isolation geworden. Wir wissen, dass sich die politische Klasse bei der Errichtung der modernen Zitadellen der Macht in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland der Ergebnisse der britischen Folterforschung, die du angeprangert hast, bedient hat. Heute versieht eine tageszeitung das Wort Isolationshaft mit Gänsefüßchen. Du hingegen wurdest nie müde, die Freilassung der Gefangenen aus der Roten Armee Fraktion zu fordern. Und noch als du schon erkrankt warst, kamst du nach Berlin, um als Beobachter am RZ-Prozeß teilzunehmen.
Als wir im März 1980 zusammen von der Royal Ulster Constabulary in das berüchtigte Verhörzentrum Castlereagh verbracht wurden, wo uns allerlei haltlose Vorhaltungen gemacht wurden, wußten wir voneinander, dass des anderen Mantra »Whatever you say, say nothing« sein würde, wenn die Herren (die jetzt unter einem neuen Namen operieren) auch drohten, sie könnten uns auch einer loyalistischen Todesschwadron übergeben und eliminieren lassen.
Kurz vor unserer Festnahme in Belfast hattest du Manuskripte unter deiner klapprigen Schreibmaschine verschwinden lassen. Es waren deine ersten Kurzgeschichten, die später unter dem Titel Bomben, Bullen, Bars bei Edition Nautilus erschienen. Bullen durftest du in deinem Leben zur Genüge kennen lernen, in Bars waren wir oft genug zusammen, und von Bomben wolltest du auch in deinen Memoiren eines intellektuellen Hooligans berichten. Das Kapitel sollte die Überschrift tragen: »Little boxes/timers. Bombenbau in Belfast.« Vor ein paar Tagen haben wir darüber noch gesprochen. Und auch über die anderen Gefallen, die du hin und wieder der Provisional IRA getan hast. Darüber etwa, wie gerne du ihr 'Brigadier' warst. [Für diejenigen, die es nicht wissen (dir war ja bewußt, wie es um das historische Wissen der 'Hunnen'steht): Unter dem Pseudonym 'The Brigadier'schrieb McGuffin von 1974 bis 1981 eine wöchentliche Kolumne für An Phoblacht/Republican News, die Wochenzeitung der Provos.]
Zuletzt warst du zutiefst enttäuscht über deine Ex-Genossen, weil dir bewußt war, dass die Friedenspolitik der Provos nicht auf eine sozialistische Republik Irland gerichtet ist, nicht auf Befreiung abzielt. Deren autoritäres Gehabe war dir, dem alten Anarchisten, der schon während der Bürgerrechtsbewegung die schwarz-rote Fahne schleppte, ein Gräuel. Sie haben dir nicht mal den Gefallen getan, deinen Roman Der Hund zu veröffentlichen. Dabei wird es nie wieder ein Buch geben, dass ihren Kampf so meisterlich und solidarisch würdigt. »The I** wins«, hattest du mir einst aus den USA geschrieben, als ich wissen wollte, worum es in dem Buch geht. Mit der political correctness ihres sich ankündigenden Friedensprozesses war der Inhalt deines Buches aber offenbar dennoch nicht kompatibel. Dein opus magnum, Der fette Bastard, sagte ihnen ebenso wenig zu wie deine im letzten Jahr in Derry veröffentlichten Kurzgeschichten. Last orders, please! war ihnen nicht mal eine Besprechung in ihrer Hauspostille wert. Divil a bit of thanks.
Vor zwei Wochen konnten wir zusammen noch einen Sonntag lang an deinem Buch über den aus Derry stammenden Abenteurer Charles 'Nomad' McGuinness arbeiten, dessen Fertigstellung du ungeduldig entgegen fiebertest. Es wird gedruckt werden, Sean, dafür wird Christiane sorgen, dessen kannst du dir absolut sicher sein, das weißt du. Und auch eine deutsche Übersetzung wird es geben. Versprochen. Dabei wird mir allerdings die Korrespondenz über Übersetzungsprobleme sehr fehlen. Deine freundschaftlichen Bemerkungen à la "Kid, little do ya know..."
Und wer bitte wird jetzt die Dispatches schreiben, die du übers Netz verbreitet hast? Die, wie Anne dir nach dem Bild-Text-Dispatch über die Festnahme, Fesselung, Entkleidung und Hinrichtung des 23jährigen Palästinensers Mohammed Saleh durch Soldaten Scharons schrieb, der Freiheit des Wortes wegen so notwendig waren.
Für morgen hattest du einen Flug nach Berlin gebucht. Ich wollte dich am Flughafen abholen und dir verraten, dass wir für Dienstagabend im Kaffee Burger eine Party zu deinem 60. Geburtstag organisiert haben, samt Lesung und Musik. Wir werden lesen und Musik spielen, auch Songs deiner Freunde von The People of No Property, klar doch. Und auf dich anstoßen, O/C. Ein wenig vom kleinen Kraut werden die Krauts wohl auch auftreiben können. Don't worry, Lumberjacks will always rule okay!

Go to sleep, my weary friend, let the times go drifting by, can't you hear the bazookas humming, sure it's yer man's lullaby (he in the derelict house)...

Slán, yer old chum
28.April 2002



Der fette Bastard ist tot

Ich verdanke ihm den Spitznamen, unter dem man mich in Belfast kennt. Nachdem ich John McGuffin 1976 in der nordirischen Hauptstadt kennengelernt hatte, besiegte ich ihn mehrmals im Scrabble, wobei es dreifache Punkte für schmutzige Worte gab. Fortan nannte er mich "The Clever Hun", der kluge Hunne. Später vergeigte ich den Titel, als ich drei Polizisten versehentlich den gestreckten Mittelfinger zeigte, weil sie uns auf dem Weg ins Wirtshaus durch ihre langsame Fahrweise aufhielten, während die Zapfhähne zu versiegen drohten. Einer der Beamten sagte zu mir: "Hast du ein Glück, dass wir unsere Uniformen anhaben, sonst würden wir dich jetzt verprügeln." Ich wollte gerade einwenden, dass sie sich dadurch doch noch nie davon abhalten ließen, als ich McGuffins Blick sah: Sag es nicht, drückte er aus, sonst können wir den Pub vergessen.
Die Mittwochabende im "Cobweb Castle", seinem Haus in Belfast, waren legendär. Es war der Treffpunkt für die Lumberjacks, einer "schattenhaften Widerstandsgruppe", wie McGuffin in seinem Buch "Last Orders" weismachen will. In Wirklichkeit war es eine Vereinigung von Suffpatrioten. McGuffin arbeitete damals als Dozent an einem Belfaster College, doch im Alter von 35 Jahren wurde er aufgrund einer mysteriösen Krankheit zum Frührentner erklärt. Anfang der achtziger Jahre wanderte er, wie so viele Iren, in die USA aus, wo er 19 Jahre lang in einem Haus mit Blick auf "Frisco Bay" lebte und eine Anwaltskanzlei betrieb.
Danach kehrte er nach Derry im Nordwesten Nordirlands zurück und widmete sich wieder voll der Schriftstellerei. Schon 1973 hatte er, nachdem er von der britischen Armee interniert worden war, ein Buch über die Internierungspolitik ("Internment", 1973) geschrieben, ein Jahr später folgte ein Werk über die Foltermethoden der britischen Armee ("The Guineapigs", 1974). Vier Jahre später wurde bei seinem dritten Buch klar, in welche Richtung sein wahres Interesse ging: Das Buch handelt von schwarzgebranntem irischem Whiskey ("In Praise of Poteen", 1978).
Freilich ließ er es nicht bei der Theorie bewenden. In den siebziger Jahren kam ich einmal in den zweifelhaften Genuss seines hausgemachten Brennesselweins. Er war ungenießbar. Um ihn nicht in den Ausguss kippen zu müssen, destillierte McGuffin die trübe Brühe und verwandelte sie in Brennesselschnaps. Das Ergebnis war verheerend. Der potente Tropfen verursachte bei allen Versuchskaninchen Magenkrämpfe und Durchfall. McGuffin lagerte die Flaschen in einer Abstellkammer, wo sie blieben, bis die Drogenfahndung mal wieder im "Cobweb Castle" vorbeischaute. Zwar fanden die Beamten das Marihuana nicht, das unter dem Sattel des töchterlichen Schaukelpferdes versteckt war, aber sie stießen auf die Flaschen in der Abstellkammer. "Bedienen Sie sich, meine Herren", ermunterte McGuffin die Drogenfahnder großzügig. Es war die kürzeste Hausdurchsuchung, die "Cobweb Castle" je erlebt hatte.
In jenen Jahren schrieb McGuffin eine Reihe von Kurzgeschichten, die in der Übersetzung von Jürgen Schneider in zwei Sammelbänden in der Edition Nautilus auf deutsch erschienen sind. Darin ging es unter anderem um den trickreichen Kampf des "Spiderman" um eine erneute Krankschreibung, um zwei misslungene Banküberfälle, um einen bekifften Hochzeitsgast und um einen zu allem entschlossenen IRA-Kämpfer. Außerdem verrät McGuffin, was geschieht, wenn ein largactylisches Raumschiff auf der Suche nach frischem Stickstoff im Moor der Grafschaft Fermanagh landet.
Seine Erzählungen, man hält es kaum für möglich, haben alle einen wahren Kern, wenn der Autor auch bei der Dramaturgie des öfteren nachgeholfen hat. Viele seiner Freunde und Bekannten finden sich in den Stories wieder. Aus den USA schickte er zwei Buchmanuskripte an seinen deutschen Verlag. "Der Hund" ist ein turbulentes Werk, in dem es von Kamikaze-Aktionen, Meucheleien, perfiden britischen Agenten und aufrechten Revolutionären nur so wimmelt. "Der fette Bastard" ist eine Art Autobiographie, in der allerdings McGuffins vier gespaltene Persönlichkeiten zu Wort kommen, was ziemlich vergnüglich zu lesen ist, wenn man zuvor Drogen eingenommen hat. Kein englischsprachiger Verlag wollte die Bücher drucken, was den Chefredakteur einer deutschen Wochenzeitung zu der Vermutung veranlasste, dass McGuffin eine Fiktion war. Schließlich hatte Alfred Hitchcock den Begriff "McGuffin" für etwas verwendet, das es eigentlich gar nicht gibt.
Aber es gab ihn sehr wohl, mein Belfaster Apotheker, der mich stets mit Tabletten gegen den "Hangover" versorgte, ist mein Zeuge. Aber ich habe an McGuffin bewundert, dass er nach einer durchzechten Nacht frühmorgens immer in seinem Büro saß und mehrere intelligente Texte schrieb. McGuffin bezeichnete sich selbst als "Republikaner, Anarchist, intellektueller Hooligan und Schriftsteller" - und eben als "fetter Bastard". Er war bei jeder Runde dabei, die auf die IRA ausgegeben wurde, was ihm eine beträchtliche Leibesfülle einbrachte.
Die Bürgerrechtlerin Bernadette Devlin McAliskey hatte in ihren Anfang der siebziger Jahre erschienenen Memoiren berichtet, wie McGuffin zum legendären Bürgerrechtsmarsch von Belfast nach Derry 1969 mit einer gigantischen Anarchisten-Fahne anrückte: "Die anarchistische Fahne war lustig - ein riesengroßes Banner in Rot und Schwarz. Allerdings war nur ein einziger Anarchist unter uns: der dicke, fette John McGuffin, der fast so breit war wie das Banner, das er unbedingt tragen wollte." Nach ein paar hundert Metern machte er jedoch schlapp, stieg in den Lautsprecherwagen und ging als einziger Revolutionär in die Geschichte ein, der einen Langen Marsch nahezu komplett im Sitzen zurückgelegt hatte.
McGuffin war vier Mal verheiratet, das letzte Mal nur wenige Tage. Vorige Woche hat er seine langjährige Freundin Christiane Kühn geheiratet. Vorgestern ist er gestorben. Heute wäre er 60 Jahre alt geworden. Im Kaffe Burger in Berlin findet heute abend eine Veranstaltung statt, auf der sein Leben gefeiert wird.

Ralf Sotscheck



Irischer Autor McGuffin kurz vor seinem 60.Geburtstag gestorben

Berlin/Hamburg (APA/dpa) - Der irische Schriftsteller Sean McGuffin ist am Sonntag zwei Tage vor seinem 60. Geburtstag in Derry gestorben. Das teilten sein Hamburger Verlag Edition Nautilus und die Berliner Zeitschrift "telegraph" am Montag mit.

Für Dienstag wäre McGuffin zu einer Geburtstagsfeier in Berlin eingeladen gewesen, die nun als "Feier auf sein Leben" mit zahlreichen Freunden und Kollegen stattfinden soll, wie die Edition Nautilus betonte.

Der in Belfast geborene McGuffin bezeichnete sich selbst als "Republikaner, Anarchist, intellektueller Rowdy und Schriftsteller". Als Ulrike Meinhof 1976 in ihrer Haftzelle erhängt aufgefunden wurde, wurde er Mitglied der internationalen Untersuchungskommission. McGuffin war Mitglied der Peoples Democracy, einer studentischen Bürgerrechtsorganisation und begann zu schreiben, als er 1971 von der britischen Armee interniert wurde. In seinen ersten beiden Büchern "Internment" (1973) und "Guineapigs" (1974) stellt er die Geschichte dieser Internierung dar.

Sein 1990 bei Nautilus erschienenes Buch "Der Hund" wurde bisher von keinem britischen Verlag veröffentlicht, betonte Nautilus. Anfang der 80er Jahre emigrierte McGuffin für einige Jahre in die USA. Über diese Zeit veröffentlichte er den Roman "Der fette Bastard" (1997 bei Nautilus). "Last Orders. Neue Geschichten" erschien im Herbst 2001. McGuffins Roman über den aus Derry stammenden Abenteurer Charles Nomad McGuinness werde postum herauskommen, kündigte die Edition Nautilus an.

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