Academy by Mick Rooney – June 2008

I began writing Academy around 1992, at a time when we had witnessed the collapse of the Berlin wall, and the map of Europe was steadily changing. New political tyrants and despots emerged in the final decade of the twentieth century who very quickly reminded of us of previous troubled scars. My intention was never to make Academy a political novel; I even hazard to describe it as a novel of sorts.

The thread of the story (and that is what it was, a thread), concerned an Academy clerk, called Leonardo, and his life under the watchful eye of the Academy. The story is like a constant moving fluid throughout the book and no attempt is made to define where the truth and lies begin and end. The only certainty is uncertainty itself.

Academy, like much of my writing, is highly descriptive, almost cinematic, and I often write while also researching linked themes to the book. I wrote the first draft of Academy between 1992 and 1995. In that time, I was reading about the life and work of Leanardo daVinci, a book about the history and development of airships, books about the Third Reich and the Holocaust, Claude Lanzmann’s magnificent and poignant, ‘Shoa’ documentary, books on The Great Siberian Explosion of 1908, and several novels from South America in the magic realism genre. G. W. Pabst’s ‘Pandora’s Box’, a silent film from 1928 also features, as does the themes of photography and the cinema. Somehow in the writing of Academy, all this merged together. I undertook a second re-write in late 1997, and I put the novel aside until a year ago. On and off, I have gone back to it, considered another re-write, but I decided that I had done as much as I could do with it.

What strikes me as stark is the difference in style and approach when I compare it to my latest completed novel, ‘Trees’. It’s strange, books are like children. You give birth to them, nurture, develop them, and one day, suddenly, they are adults. You think back as a parent how your could have done something differently, made it all better, but, the fact is, the books become adults when published; and like adults, you cannot unlearn, forget the memories and the experience; once borne, once a child, you step forward, and you can never go back.

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