His campaign sees him combine the roles of hawker in religious goods and keeper of a mobile brothel. Because of his eccentric manner, people consider him a half-wit. And his school experiences persuade him that this estimate is true. Yet, in a tragi-comic way, his untutored mind grapples with the gigantic themes, the nature of God and creation, death and reincarnation, Einsteinian time, and he arrives at his own world-view, his own mystical insights.
Set in the mid-seventies, this novel explores the world through the eyes of this eccentric young man, from the West of Ireland to Paris and Lourdes. The relationship he strikes up with a prostitute on the streets of Paris leads back to the woman-starved West of Ireland and into a sequence of events which hurtle towards disaster.
From the reviews of Reflections in a Tar Barrel:
Jack Harte makes no compromises to sell books. He is perhaps one of the very few present-day Irish writers who has his own things to say and (a rare corollary) the ability to say them.
- Books Ireland
From the Bulgarian reviews of Reflections in a Tar Barrel:
This new book by Jack Harte rearranges the world as we know it. The petty trader of religious objects, Tommy Loftus, has his own idea of what forgiveness, charity, and redemption are, and what is wrong with the ‘perfect’ model that God used to create the world. The Irishman Jack Harte has already won the reputation of a fascinating story-teller on the Bulgarian book market. This title is the pilot for Altera’s new “World Novels” series.
- Dnevnik Daily
Book of the Week. The story of Tommy Loftus starts somewhere in the end – in the end of Tommy’s life, the edge of the precipice, the end of faith – in order to reach the catharsis of a new beginning. The metaphor of the tar barrel is one of the strengths of this brutal, alternative, and hellishly provocative theological interpretation of the Christian dogma.
In his war on God Tommy Loftus becomes a holy man. For his fellow people in the Irish countryside he manages to do a lot more than the local priests, giving them the wonder of hope and the illusion of bliss, because “hell is nothing more than paradise without the glow”.
Without any doubt Jack Harte is in the tradition of Joyce, Becket, Shaw…because of his ability to sharpen the language and to position it between irony, nostalgia, and absurdity; because of the hypnosis of death and pain; because of the obsession with belief; because of the articulation of the scorching pain, the instinct for suicide, the feeling of being lost and deserted. It is this mixture of darkness and enlightenment, sadness and hope, which is the essence of ‘Reflections in a Tar Barrel’.
About the author
Jack Harte was born in Killeenduff, Co Sligo, grew up in Lanesboro, Co Longford, and now lives in Dublin. Harte’s short stories have long been acclaimed and his collection, ‘From Under Gogol’s Nose’, has been translated into Hindi, Bulgarian, and Russian. His novel, ‘In the wake of the Bagger’ was the first literary work to be commissioned under the Irish Government’s Per Cent for Art scheme. Such has been his popularity in Bulgaria that his second novel, ‘Reflections in a Tar-Barrel’ was published in Bulgarian translation a year before it appeared in English. His many jobs include bog labourer, dock worker, bus conductor, civil servant, teacher, and school principal. He founded the Irish Writers’ Union and the Irish Writers’ Centre - of which he is currently Chairman.