Gébler, Carlo 1954- (Carlo Ernest Gébler)

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Gébler, Carlo 1954- (Carlo Ernest Gébler)


Born August 21, 1954, in Dublin, Ireland; son of Ernest Gébler (an author) and Edna Josephine O'Brien (an author); married; children: India-Rose, Jack, Finn, Georgia, Euan. Education: University of York, B.A., 1976; National Film and Television School, Beaconsfield, England, diploma, 1979. Politics: Labour. Religion: Roman Catholic.


Home—County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Agent—Antony Harwood, Anthony Harwood Ltd., 103 Walton St., Oxford OX2 6EB, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Film director, teacher, and writer. Trinity College, Dublin, teacher of writing classes, 2004, 2006; Carlow University, mentor, 2006, 2007; Queen's University, Belfast, lecturer, 2007; teacher of creative writing classes throughout Ireland and in England and the United States; judge of writing competitions; gives frequent readings from his works. Director of dozens of television presentations, including Night, London Weekend Television (LWT), 1972; Croagh Patrick, Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE), 1978; The Beneficiary, RTE, 1979; Over Here, RTE, 1980; Rating Notman, 1981; Country and Irish, Channel Four, 1984; Two Lives: A Portrait of Francis Stuart, Channel Four, 1985; What the Hell, Mehitabel, LWT, 1987; George Barker, LWT, 1987; Plain Tales from Northern Ireland (series), DBA Television (Belfast, Northern Ireland), 1993; David Calvert, DBA Television, 1994; Life after Death, DBA Television, 1994; The Joint's Not Jumpin', British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 1995; No Other Purpose, BBC, 1995; Baseball in Irish History, DBA Television, 1996; Put to the Test, BBC, 1998; The Suspecting Glance: Conor Cruise-O'Brien, RTE, 2000; and Student Life, BBC Northern Ireland, 2001; producer of the television documentary Protect Me, Channel Four, 1995; director of the radio presentation December Bride, BBC, 2001. Irish Writers' Centre, board member, 1999-2003, chair, 2007—.


Association of Television and Cinematographic Technicians, Aosdána, An Chomhairle Ealaíon (Arts Council).


Film Award nomination, short film category, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1984, for Rating Notman; Royal Television Society Award, best regional documentary, 1999, for Put to the Test; fellow of British Council, 2004, and Arts Council of Ireland, 2006.



The Eleventh Summer, Dutton (New York, NY), 1985.

August in July, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1986.

Work and Play, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Malachy and His Family, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1990.

Life of a Drum, Abacus (London, England), 1992.

The Cure, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1994.

How to Murder a Man, Abacus (London, England), 1999.

A Good Day for a Dog, Lagan Press (Belfast, Northern Ireland), 2007.


The TV Genie, Hamilton Children's Books (London, England), 1989.

The Witch that Wasn't, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1992.

Frozen Out, 1998.

The Base, 1999.

Caught on a Train, Egmont (London, England), 2001.

August '44, Egmont (London, England), 2003.

The Bull Raid, Egmont (London, England), 2004.


Three Stories from John McGahern (television drama), Radio Telefis Eireann, 1979.

Watts Choice (film), 1981.

August in July (film), 1988.

How to Murder a Man, produced in London, England, at Tricycle Theatre, 1995.

The Widow's Daughter (film), 1997.

Dance of Death (two plays; produced in London, England at Tricycle Theatre, 1998), Lagan Press (Belfast, Northern Ireland), 2000.

10 Rounds: An Adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde (produced in London, England, at Tricycle Theatre), Lagan Press (Belfast, Northern Ireland), 2002.

The Family Tree, Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission, 2003.

Henry & Harriet and Other Plays (includes "Henry & Harriet," produced in England, at Cathedral Arts Festival, 2007; "Elaine's Non-Show"; and "Silhouette," produced in London, England, at Tricycle Theatre, 2006), Lagan Press (Belfast, Northern Ireland), 2007.

Author of a trilogy of plays for television, The Bomb Box, The Lost Hour, and Accidents, RTE, between 1979 and 1981. Librettist for the operas The Trial of Joan of Arc, performed in Cardiff, Wales, 1976; and After Oedipus, based on Antigone, by Sophocles.


Driving through Cuba: An East-West Journey, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1988, published as Driving through Cuba: Rare Encounters in the Land of Sugar Cane and Revolution, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.

The Glass Curtain: Inside an Ulster Community, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1991.

W.9 and Other Lives (short stories), Lagan Press (Belfast, Northern Ireland), 1996, Marion Boyars (New York, NY), 1998.

Father and I (memoir), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.

The Siege of Derry, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2005.

Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including London Tales, edited by Julian Evans, Hamish Hamilton, 1984; Foreign Exchange: New Travel Stories, edited by Julian Evans, Hamish Hamilton, 1985; and The Faber Anthology of Irish Stories, Faber, 2007. Columnist for Jazzwise, 1999-2000, and Fortnight, 1996-2002; television critic for Times (London, England), 1986-87. Contributor of short stories, travel articles, and reviews to periodicals, including Departures, Fortnight, Image, Irish Press, Irish Times, Linenhall Review, Literary Review, Travel, Omnibus, and Prospect.


Carlo Gébler is an Irish author whose works include novels, short stories, screenplays, and nonfiction. The son of writers Ernest Gébler and Edna O'Brien, Gébler purposely avoided reading his parents' novels because, as he told Caroline Moorehead of the London Times, "someone close to you is bound to draw on the same experience. You could plagiarise without being aware." During the late 1970s Gébler attended film school, and much of his early work was focused on writing and directing documentaries and feature films. Beginning with the 1985 publication of The Eleventh Summer, though, Gébler has become increasingly known for his novels that explore in richly detailed prose the problems of everyday life. Reviewing Gébler's second novel, August in July, in the Times Literary Supplement, John Melmoth commented that "Gébler's special subject is proving to be the pain and unease which trickle into the spaces between the events of everyday life. He writes fetchingly about the unglamorous, the emotional underachievers."

Gébler's debut novel, The Eleventh Summer, concerns the "pain and unease" adult narrator Paul Weismann recalls as he thinks back to the summer of his eleventh year. At that time—just after his mother's death, some think through suicide—Paul was sent to live with his grandparents in the country. Instead of enjoying a serene rural vacation, Paul was disturbed to witness the strained relations between his forgiving grandmother and her carousing, drunken husband. Paul experiences further tension after an awkward sexual encounter with his cousin, Philomena; and when his grandfather dies in a fire later that summer, Paul blames himself for starting it. These and other events of the summer mark the end of Paul's innocence and his entrance into adulthood. The Eleventh Summer was generally well received by critics, many of whom praised Gébler's detailed descriptions.

Gébler's other novels also explore the tension and trauma in the lives of relatively ordinary people. In August in July, Polish-born August Slemic decides to inject excitement into his increasingly dreary life as an estate agent, but the sixty-year-old Londoner finds it difficult to permanently escape his problems. Work and Play features young Fergus Maguire, who works at a London television station answering mail. A drug user who avoids attachments, Fergus lives a dreamlike existence until his relationship with Jennifer causes him to act more consciously. Malachy and His Family describes the troubles a New Jersey boy experiences when he moves to England to live with his father, stepmother, half-brother, and half-sister. Some works draw on Irish history. The Cure is based on a nineteenth-century murder case in which a man killed his wife because he thought she was a changeling—an otherwordly being left in her place after fairies had spirited the real woman away. How to Murder a Man turns on plots against an innovative land manager seeking to help impoverished Irish families emigrate to America in the 1850s.

Gébler's fiction has generally fared well with critics, who often credit the author for his authentic characterizations and vivid descriptions that, at one time or another, appeal to each of the five senses. And while all of his novels reflect the strain of daily life, it is not true "that if you've read one Gébler, you've read them all," according to Mark Wormald in the Times Literary Supplement. "In each," Wormald continued, "the fundamentals of the narrative … are themselves so intrinsically absorbing, so beautifully observed, edited and revised, and the resonances connecting them established so deftly, that our recognition of external similarities is subordinated to a fascination for the present as it unfolds." Library Journal contributor Moeller Dianna, reviewing the story collection W.9 and Other Lives, praised Gébler's ability "to take the ordinary and infuse it with the pain and misfortune that permeates everyday life." A Publishers Weekly writer, critiquing How to Murder a Man, pointed out the author's "strong, distinctive voice." Gébler sometimes expresses himself through unusual structures. The Cure, noted Ruth Pravey in New Statesman and Society, has two narrators—one who investigated the murder case, the other a man who as a child heard the story from the investigator. Within this "double frame," Gébler has produced a "spare, haunting novel," she wrote.

Gébler has occasionally ventured into nonfiction. After publishing a novel a year between 1985 and 1987, he traveled with his family on a three-month, self-guided tour of Cuba. The country is a source of fascination to Gébler and many others because of Cuba's leader, Fidel Castro, whose brand of communism has provided citizens with socialized medicine and improved public education. Gébler wrote about his experiences in Driving through Cuba: An East-West Journey, a book that recounts his visits with a variety of Cubans, who generally appreciated Castro and his social programs but disliked his authoritarian government. In an early passage in the book that David Rieff quoted in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Gébler described his approach: "My perspective on what I saw was very limited. I was only one observer and I took my own cultural baggage with me. I saw the country from behind a car windscreen. Traveling with my family, I was a tourist of [Castro's] revolution."

Though several reviews of Driving through Cuba were favorable, some critics found fault with the book. New York Times Book Review contributor Tad Szulc, for example, observed that Gébler's "impressionistic account" had a number of factual inaccuracies. Yet within the context of Gébler's admittedly limited perspective, Szulc found merit, saying, "Gébler has a good novelist's eye and ear, and his observations offer a painfully fair portrait of Cuba." Norman Lewis commended Driving through Cuba with less reservation, affirming in the Times Literary Supplement that Gébler's "narrative sparkles with fresh observations, and reading it one is filled with admiration for the fortitude with which he carried the enterprise through."

Gébler once told CA: "One of the most important memories I have of childhood is being read to. When I write as an adult I am trying to create stories that will generate the same enchantment which I remember from childhood.

"The human being has four faculties (this is not an original idea): thought, intuition, sensation, and feeling. Thought is rational, intuition looks round corners, sensation responds to the physical world, and feeling is our tool of discrimination. Feelings determine what we like and do not like. Our faculty of feeling changes with experience, hopefully maturing. It is my intention that what I write should enrich this area of the reader and help him or her, albeit marginally, to better discriminate. Certainly, that is what my reading of those writers I admire has done for me.

"My influences are many and eclectic. The three most important are Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka, and Albert Camus. The ability common to them all is the ability to arrange words very simply to tell stories which yet deeply affect the feeling faculty of the reader."

Gébler later added: "Why do I write? In the first instance I write because, though I'm an adult with a wife and children of my own, some part of my psyche is still in thrall to my parents, and I do it to please them. I am not ashamed to admit this. Early childhood experiences and relationships shape our lives forever, whether we like it or not.

"I write as well because there is something intrinsically satisfying about the process of organizing language into a complex structure that carries complicated meanings. It is a way of making order in a world that seems increasingly inimical to order. There is also, at least for me, some connection between writing and thinking, a connection that I've never been able to disentangle. If, for example, I sit down to write a review, I do not know much more when I begin than what the book's content or story is. In the process of writing I find out exactly how I feel and why. The same applies to the writing of fiction. I will know I have a story to write because I feel full or sated, and I'll have a vague idea of the characters and the setting, but I only really find out what I'm writing about and who I'm writing about during the process of writing.

"I suspect some may find this lack of certainty before the act of writing rather strange or implausible. How can you not know before you write, they must wonder. All I can say is this: it's true. I don't know before I start, and the one great advantage of that, for me, is that I am never bored. I am always surprised because something always happens, a thought shows up, a character does something unexpected, a story takes off in a previously unimagined direction, that I didn't know was going to happen before I sat down to write. Habit, Samuel Beckett observed in his monograph on Proust, is the great deadener and uncertainty as to precisely what you're going to write in one bulwark against this.

"I also write to support my family and myself, of course. As Lenin said (and it's not often one has the chance to quote him nowadays), the production of art is always, whatever else it is, an economic activity. I also write because I want to participate in the culture. What I read and see and hear affects me, and what I write is a reaction, a response. I would emphasize, however, that I'm wary of any notion of the artist being superior to the nonartist because the artist produces artifacts in response to experience. I am also wary of the idea that art can only be made if one is away from or out of society. I like the rough-and-tumble of life. I like to be mixed up with what's going on around me. That's one of the reasons why I teach, occasionally in universities and (for years) in maximum-security prisons. I meet people in these places, and I have to interact. The collisions and knocks that result from being in the world have a deep effect on the unconscious and contribute to the work (my novel A Good Day for a Dog is about prison), though exactly how this process works I still don't understand. All I know is that it does, and that's good enough for me."



Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 39: Yearbook 1985, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.

Gébler, Carlo, Driving through Cuba: An East-West Journey, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1988, published as Driving through Cuba: Rare Encounters in the Land of Sugar Cane and Revolution, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.

Gébler, Carlo, Father and I, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2000.


Atlantic, April, 1990, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of Driving through Cuba, p. 109.

Booklist, April, 1998, Kevin Grandfield, review of W.9 and Other Lives, p. 1303.

Library Journal, February 15, 1990, Bibi S. Thompson, review of Driving through Cuba, p. 205; May 1, 1998, Moeller Dianna, review of W.9 and Other Lives, p. 142.

Los Angeles Times, May 15, 1988, review of Work and Play, p. 6; April 15, 1990, review of Driving through Cuba, p. 10.

New Statesman and Society, January 6, 1995, Ruth Pravey, review of The Cure, p. 38.

New York Times Book Review, October 6, 1985, Robert O'Meally, review of The Eleventh Summer, pp. 28-29; August 14, 1998, Roger D. Friedman, review of Work and Play, p. 16; March 18, 1990, Tad Szulc, review of Driving through Cuba, p. 5; December 5, 1999, Aoibheann Sweeny, "Body Count."

Publishers Weekly, August 9, 1985, review of The Eleventh Summer, p. 62; January 5, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Driving through Cuba, p. 57; October 25, 1999, review of How to Murder a Man, p. 48.

Times Literary Supplement, February 1, 1985, review of The Eleventh Summer, p. 110; March 28, 1986, review of August in July, p. 342; September 30, 1988, review of Driving through Cuba, p. 1069; February 2, 1990, review of Malachy and His Family, p. 115.