A richly amusing debut novel of loners and eccentrics, a kooky, deranged love story with its heart in just the right place
In New Hampshire Rachel’s world falls apart when her boyfriend dies on their last day of school. Gouging her skin with blades no longer gives relief but the arrival of a stranger - claiming to be a long-lost aunt – changes her life forever. Together they travel to and a tale of chance and despair turns into a weirdly compelling love story. Rachel couldn’t have known her quasi-aunt was going to end up stealing and ship-wrecking a yacht in her attempts at channelling dolphin consciousness; nor could she have guessed that the oddness of the coast-guard who’d rescue them would only be surpassed by his brother’s. Suddenly, we are in the company of some true eccentrics in a remote Irish coastal village - a deluded coke-snorting witch, a burnt-out fisherman who dances for tourists and a boy who is fixated on freeing electricity from sockets. All are nursing past hurts and only together do they have any chance of healing.
A series of outrageous adventures amidst the ring forts and tourist traps of Ireland ends with one of them plunging from the cliff-edge into the Atlantic and two more falling deeply, if unconventionally, in love.
REVIEWS OF ODDBALLS
‘Magan's writing is fluent and engaging, and his descriptions of the west of Ireland in particular are lovingly drawn.’
Catherine Taylor, The Guardian, Oct 2010
‘This is a pacy read: not deep, not overly-challenging, but a good amusing piece of diversion that has the bonus of coming from the pen of a very talented writer.’
Westmeath Examiner, Dec 2010
‘Some superb prose, surreal twists and strong characterization . .. There is much to be enjoyed in this novel and as anyone who has read any of Magan’s three travel books will know he is a superb descriptive writer with unusual but pertinent insights into the human psyche.’ Tony Ballie, Ecopunks, January 2011
‘Parts were funny, and some of the dialogue is well rendered . . . kooky people, kooky situations, kooky scenes and kooky conversations – the literary equivalent of eating too much refined sugar. ‘
Irish Independent,Sept 2010
This is a remarkable novel from travel author and playwright, Manchán Magan. A beautifully written story of loners, kooky aunts and self harming nieces, the perfect mix for a wonderful read.
TRUCK FEVER - a journey through Africa (Brandon 2008)
Manchán travels overland from London to Nairobi in a truck with a group of squabbling, treacherous cast-offs of Thatcher's Britain, including privately educated schoolgirls, a predetary market gardener, a former torturer from the British Army, a locksmith claiming to be a UFO abductee, three conniving nurses and a prim quantity surveyor. A rollercoaster of adventure, anecdote and fresh observations about the nature of Africa and what it means to travel through.
REVIEWS OF TRUCK FEVER
‘More extreme travel from the author of Angels And Rabies, in which Magan goes by truck from London to Nairobi with a group of, well, 'eccentrics' is the kind word. As you'd expect it's comic and gruesome in equal measure.’
‘Riding in the back of a truck from London to Nairobi, sharing your journey with 18 strangers … sounds like hell on wheels. If you've read any of Manchán Magan's travel adventures before, though, you'll appreciate it's the kind of situation his writing thrives on. A little like Jon Ronson, but without the faux naivety and tendency to wheedle interminably.’
‘Magan is undeniably an excellent writer, and has a wonderful talent for transporting the reader into the heart of every experience, from the heavily mint-scented Atlas mountains in Morocco to the worst, intestine-churning suffering of having dysentery in Niger. He is an intelligent observer of people and places, and his writing is sensitive and engaging.’
‘His account of travelling through America, Angel’s and Rabies, was both funny and sensual. His latest book is an account of a truck journey from London to Mombassa with a group of drop-outs. The witch doctors, drug runners and missionaries they meet en route provide plenty of good stories, but by Magan’s own admission, these are little more than a “rapid series of superficial images” compared to the stormy dynamics of the group in the truck. Magan is especially good at conveying the traveller’s feeling of isolation within a crowd.‘
‘The best travel writing only improves with age, making the experience for the armchair adventurer both spatial and temporal. And Truck Fever is travel writing at its hair-raising finest. Apart from wanderlust, Manchan - or Mocha, as his fellow travellers refer to him as - is clearly on a personal, spiritual journey after the death of his father … Magan is a good, pacey writer and his charm and instinct afford the reader that much width when it comes to sharing his own personal travails. You do care about him, and that's a wonderful thing.’
Tom Galvin, Evening Herald
‘To call Truck Fever a travel book is a disservice to what is also a sociological study of a small, Intense and mostly screwed-up bunch of people, a psychological dissection of an extremely troubled young man who feels cast adrift from society and a political commentary on the legacy of colonialism and western exploitation in Africa. It is also a good old-fashioned adventure story where the reader is often left wondering – ‘how the hell is he going to get out of this one?’
‘Most travelers don’t start off in Africa, the dark continent, and certainly not in Congo, the heart of that darkness, and definitely not cooped up on a truck with strangers. Manchán had a baptism of fire but his worst journey has given him his best book.’
Bridget Houricane, The Dubliner
‘This troupe of strangers on a six-month journey of discovery looked less like Stanley's band of explorers and more like performers in an odd replay of Lord of the Flies . . . On the road, they picked up additional extravagant figures like sex-starved Englishwoman Salade and hard-partying shepherd Mustafa. . . . Group dynamics and danger make for an engaging African adventure.’
‘This is a great read. It doesn’t lecture about how poor Africa is; it doesn’t slate the West for what we’ve done there; it doesn’t trot out the clichés. It provide a picture of a country that is not as backward as it might appear from here when we see the newsclips of disasters and famines there… It is a book that will be of as much interest to those fascinated by humans as to those fascinated by Africa. Manchán has two other travel books to his name, each as fascinating as the other. When you’ve read ‘Truck Fever: a journey through Africa,’ go looking for ‘Angels and Rabies,’ an account of his time in South America and Canada, and then ‘Manchán’s Travels: a journey through India.’
Eilis, Ryan, Westmeath Examiner
MANCHÁN'S TRAVELS: A JOURNEY THROUGH INDIA. (Brandon, 2007)
A rollercoaster ride through the mad masala of modern India, a culture pole-vaulting from the middle ages to the future. This entertaining, offbeat travelogue by an Irish tv documentary maker is a true story of deluded maharajahs, murderous environmentalists, sex-obsessed yogis, and bizarre high-society belles. It stretches from women throwing themselves on funeral pyres in the deserts of Rajasthan, to mind-reading children in Himalayan forests and devious missionaries on the shores on the Ganges.
It begins in the Himalayas, where Manchán (aka Mocha) has blissfully dropped out, when suddenly he gets a call from his brother who is coming to India to make a tv travel series and wants him to present it. First, he has to sort out Tara, a patient in the local leper station who is threatened by the community for being gay; he brings him to Delhi, leaving him in the care of a band of hermaphrodite dancers.
Do the brothers succeed? Is Tara forced to make the ultimate sacrifice that the eunuchs demand? And what of the Norwegian man who begs Mocha/Manchán to track down a two thousand year old immortal yogi? It’s a bizarre and truly helter-skelter journey through the subcontinent, ending in triumph on the roof of the world with Manchán and his brother managing to befriend the Nepalese secret service and thereby escape years behind bars.
Author Readings: To see the author giving a book-reading with accompanying dancers,Click here.
REVIEWS OF MANCHÁN'S TRAVELS: a journey through India
"The book's scope embraces the sublime and the ridiculous...What saves this account from absurdity is the writer's respectful handling of his material. While the narrative is often humorous, at times hilarious, Magan never opts for a cheap joke at the expense of the situation he is describing. Moreover, there is no breathless backpacker prose: he has an evocative and elegant turn of phrase...Most intriguing are the sporadic discourses on Irish history and the Gaelic language. While these may seem jarring in a book about India, the two cultures are in fact skilfully interwoven. The ability to bring together such disparate elements with such lucid conviction is key to Magan's skill as a writer."
Hannah Davies, New Statesman
"His fans will not be disappointed...While the local colour is entertaining, it is the writer's personal journey that makes this book so compelling. It's a funny an occasionally sad, but ultimately satisfying read"
"Magan has a keen eye for the hypocrisies of elite urban India and artfully evokes the 'fevered serenity' of the Himalayas"
Hirsh Sawhney, TLS
“A travelogue that soon develops a subtle and steely narrative grip from early on. Each encounter is marked by open-mindedness and honesty. The humour is subtle and pleasantly unforced, and the effect of all of this is like having a close up experience of his TV documentaries with added bite. There is a tremendous sense of being immersed in a culture without being swamped; a sensual panoply which ebbs and flows through a narrative that is vivid without being showy. The effect is of being brought along for the ride, and having your eyes opened without feeling alienated. It's Michael Palin as gaeilge; gently determined, inquiring, and refreshingly free of narcissism."
Padraig Kenny, Sunday Tribune
“A road trip unlike any we've ever seen. It''s down to Magan's off-the-beaten track approach. He's out there, but, somehow, he manages to ground outlandish experiences in reality, making his quest, for example, to find a 2,000-year-old immortal yogi seem quite plausible. Magan's writing is as unique as his TV style; endearing and honest, his personality shining through. He succeeds in bringing the Indian landscape, the country, to life, but his real talent lies in the people. At heart, this is a story about the personalities the brothers encounter and Manchan succeeds in bringing them all, zany as they may be, to life. The title - Manchan's Travels - suggests this is the first in a long series of travelogues. They are most welcome."
Vicky Mayes, Irish Independent
"Often referred to as a global nomad, he possesses that true spirit of adventure which most of us can't come close to due to an innate fear of stepping outside the comfort zone...Clearly not your run-of-the-mill travel book, this is more a highly personal study of Indian society, from those in the upper echelons of the world's largest democracy to those on the fringes... Magan's astute observations of the people and their religious beliefs, and his ability to capture the myriad sights, sounds and smells of this vast cultural Mecca, envelop the reader. His honesty in confessing his innermost thoughts is refreshing and he provides frequent hilarious anecdotes...a relaxed but practical, intelligent and informative approach...Magan is a free thinker whose wit and insight will inspire travellers of every kind to cast off the hamster-wheel experiences provided by guide book bibles and take a step into the unknown. A thoroughly rewarding and entertaining read"
Darragh O'Molloy, Irish Daily Mail
“The best part of this book is not the unique stories told (though they are fascinating and present you with an India you’ll never get in your Lonely Planet), but the way the Westmeath man recounts his experences. Mocha proves to be deeply funny without even trying, and he lays his soul so bare you could die of embarrassment at times. Mocha ‘on the road’ makes for one unforgettable adventure.”
Shelley Marsden, The Irish World.
“The blurb makes it sound like an acid-fuelled journey through the sub-continent, a kind of Fear and Loathing in New Delhi, promising murderous environmentalists, sex-obsessed yogis and mind-reading children. The introduction of the book does little to dispel this impression . . . Magan tells us that he always tries to discover the “national consciousness” of a country he documents. In A Journey Through India he does this, to such an extent that the book is a fascinating introduction to the minds of the people.”
“An irresistible read. From beginning to end, I chortled, chuckled, gasped and held my breath. Well done! Let’s have more of it. What a tale, what a tale. Miss it at your peril.”
Gerry Ryan. RTE Radio 2
ANGELS & RABIES (Brandon, 2006)
Angels & Rabies is an exploration of the culture and sociological makeup of the Americas, from its conquistador pioneers to today’s Disney Channel aficionados. Mocha, an inquiring and slightly unhinged young man, finds himself amidst the marginalised wherever he is: shamans murdering missionaries; Israeli conscripts seeking absolution; tree-huggers in love with loggers; cannabis growers influencing the CIA with mind-meld techniques; women addicted to menstrual blood and enema junkies seeking enlightenment. By burrowing beneath the skin of alternative societies from Ecuador to Seattle, Mocha reveals a radiograph of the bones and nerve-endings that make up the Americas. It’s a poignant and farcical book, wise and deranged; about adventure, love, transcendence and aspiration. The book is the first in a series which followsMocha’s journey through America,India and Africa.
"Magan lays bare his soul in this strange semi-autobiography about a backpacking trip to South America in the 1980s. Hollywood starlets, obsessive commune dwellers and colonic irrigation all feature. Frightening, funny and lovable."
The Sunday Times Travel - August 2006
“[Magan's] writing is unashamedly sensual and he has an engagingly confessional narrative voice; his adventures are as poignant as they are hair-raising. And while exposing the chaotic workings of his own soul, Magan reveals the underbelly of the colourful cultural and sociological jigsaw of these two great continents.” Sunday Telegraph, June 2006 "This travelogue exudes an attitude that is unmistakably rock ‘n’ roll. Fuelled by the same wild abandon as Jack Kerouac, Magan journeys through the Americas with nothing but adventure on his mind.’ Stuart Clarke, Hot Press
“His approach is very much hands-on as he experiences life as lived by those he visits whether a primal screaming commune in Columbia or tree hugging in forests. His world is that of alternative societies and the picture that emerges is both disturbing and fascinating. Yet it is not without its farcical side, such as his falling in love with a Hollywood star whose identity he protects.”
“His writing is intimate and immediate, perceptive and humorous.” Books Ireland
‘Before anyone assumes to publish, they should read The Amazon Journal of Roger Casement, Che Guevara's travelogues and Louis de Berniere's War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, all bursting with madness, adventure and a keen eye for local detail. Some fine writers have been caught in the Latin American trap, with Brian Keenan and John McCarthy (Between Extremes) turning an epic journey into an endurance test for the reader. Manchán Magan breathes fresh life into the Latin American experience, his apparent ignorance of his surroundings giving him a curious protection from danger. The journey starts in Colombia where Magan hooked up with the Screamers. Magan's razor-sharp portrait rang sublime and true, capturing the tyrannical zeal of these self-appointed gurus.
Each chapter is gripping because truly insane things happen around the author: war breaks out in Ecuador; a famous Hollywood actress falls into his arms. Then there are the near death experiences . . . The book kicks into top gear when the protagonist, realising that the Amazon jungle is just around the corner, takes off on a bicycle to surrender himself to its mighty embrace. The ensuing adventure is the highlight of the book. It is a warm, well written and entertaining book which will keep readers happy this summer and maybe even inspire a few to book their passage to Colombia.’Michael McCaughan, Village Magazine
‘A cross between Joseph Conrad and Frank Zappa.’ Gerry Ryan
‘Somewhere between Lost and Heart of Darkness.’ Ryan Tubridy
'I'd tell you that I'm suffering from the worst kind of loneliness - the loneliness of being afraid to allow myself to be understood.' Manchan, or Mocha as he is known, opens the book with a quotation that perfectly encapsulates this fascinating story. This travelogue is not an account of lands travelled, but rather an account of a deeply personal journey [...] From the primal screaming commune in the Columbian Andes to the tree-huggers in Canada, everyone is searching for or trying to escape something. If this sounds a little weird, that's because it is. Mocha is deep-thinking and slightly unhinged. He believes he has a guardian angel, a voice in his head called Rabbit. Although I couldn’t shake off the sinister image of the rabbit from Donnie Darko, the angel is often the vocie of sanity [...] Mocha's vulnerability and naivety make him likeable. The charm of the book is that, no matter how wacky, the story is all about people. Faraway lands can be hard to visualise, even with detailed descriptions, but love and loneliness are things we can all relate to. Very stange, but very enjoyable.' Leslie Ann Horgan, Ireland on Sunday
The lovable Manchán ‘Mocha’ Magan, described on the back cover as a ‘slightly unhinged young man’ here recounts his journeys to the Americas, North and South. Indeed, this is a surprisingly intense narrative. It’s chock-full of frenetic travel experiences with all the usual suspects: cult members, rabid dogs, druggies, indigenous people and Israeli backpackers. Mocha’s good-natured about most of the people he meets, although he has a certain knack of damning with faint praise. The flurry of intense, psychedelic, emotional experiences can be overwhelming. There are more humourous parts, especially his dealings with the local environmentalist activists who consider themselves Sting’s righ-hand men. Then there is Mocha’s forced conscription into the Ecuadorian war effort in its brief border conflict with Peru (1994-95). All in all, this is never dull, and always genuine. Patrick Holden, Irish Homes
Other Books by Manchán Magan
I nGrá (Coiscéim, Samhradh 2008) Úrscéal gonta, corraitheach, nua-aoiseach faoi grá idir cailín óg ó New Hampshire agus buachaill ó Chorca Dhuibhne, inste i stíl mhealltach úr; beagán ar nós an cur i láthair a fheictear i scannán neamhspleách cliste ó Mheiriceá. Scéal greannmhar, beagán ciniciúil atá i gceist le eachtraí neamhchoitianta, aisteacha. (A moving, outlandish tale of a suicidal New Hampshire girl, an eccentric Wicca-obsessed withc and a manic boy from West Kerry.)
Baba-ji agus TnaG, (Coiscéim, 2005)
Winner of OIREACHTAS prize for non-fiction Buy Online
Baba-ji agus T na G:Seachrán san India
Is é an bhliain 1996 é, agus tá iarracht dheireanach á déanamh corpán seanchaite na Gaeilge a tharrtháil ón mbás. Caitear £12 mhilliún ar stáisiún nua teilifíse, le súil gur féidir leis í a athbheochan, a mianach barbartha a athmhúnlú don aois nua.
Ag an am céanna, i mbothán suarach go hard sna Himiléithe, tá Éireannach óg seachmallach ag caitheamh saol an díthreabhaigh, ag ól a chuid múin agus ag éisteacht le cór ainglí laistigh dá cheann. An bhféadfadh gurb é an buachaill mearaithe leochaileach seo todhchaí na Gaeilge? An féidir leis an teanga sheanda phrimitíbheach seo a chur in oiriúint do na smaointe seachránacha ina cheann? Téann a dheartháir mór, atá níos ciallmhaire ná é, amach ar turas le fóirithint air. Tugann sé ceamara agus micreafón ina theannta, agus is mar seo a thosaíonn traidisiún oirirc na gcláracha taistil ar TG4.
An mbeidh na deartháireacha—nár labhair lena chéile le deich mbliana, agus nár dhein clár teilifíse riamh—in ann an chéad sraith taistil i nGaeilge a chruthú, ar ábhar chomh teibí casta le hIndia an lae inniu? An mbeidh suim dá laghad ag an nGaeltacht faire ar a gcuid fánaíochta? An mbeidh aon tóir ar na carachtair imeallacha a mbuaileann siad leo: an hata bán lobhrach is a chairde déghnéasacha, banríon shaol taidhleoireachta Dheilí, an t‑iógaí neamhbhásmhar? Nó an bhfuil siad ag cur pinginí luachmhara an stáisiúin amú, agus tairne deiridh i gcónra na teanga…?
Manchán Magan, Baba-ji agus T na G: Seachrán san India. Foilsithe ag Coiscéim, 212 lch.
REVIEWS of BABA-JI & TNAG
Manchán’s travel programmes are some of the most enjoyable on TnaG. It’s to do with the personality of the presenter/traveller: he is always willing to allow the places and the people he meets take centre stage . . .. This is a marvellous account of how the programmes came to be made; there is honour for the place, the culture and the local people in the telling. A young Irish man trying to find himself in India under the breath of Eastern philosophy and culture.
He has a distinctive easy style and a unique way of using language to express his inner thoughts. Siobhán Ní Fhoghlú, Books Ireland Oct 2005 (translated from Irish)
For anyone who read Pirsing’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance(by Robert Pirsing) or Kerouac’s On the Road, (by Jack Kerouac) room must now be made on the shelf for another classic, Baba-ji & TnaG. It is a jewel worth reading again and again. There is great momentum to the story of the two brothers who get to know each other again after ten years apart while making a travel series for the fledgling Irish channel, TnaG.
I enjoyed so many things about this book, but no one could say that the account of the two brothers being rescued by a group of Hijra, members of India’s third gender,while hiding in a Christian chapel isn’t marvellous in itself. Manchán Magan examines the issues of culture, philosophy and human existence as well as some far more abstract notions.
The book won the 2005 Oireachtas literature prize - in my opinion well and truly deserved.He has already made many travel documentaries which are on a par with those of Michael Palin and Alan Wicker, but with this book he has shown that he is also a first rate author. Jake Mac Siacais, Lá, 26 October 2005(translated from Irish)
Manchán ar Seachrán: ó Bhaile Átha Cliath go Nairobi i seanleoiraí airm (Coiscéim, 1998)
‘This book is a jewel. An account of a journey the author took along with 20 others in an old army truck through a large part of Africa. The author’s warm-hearted personality woven through. An open honesty with regard to his relation with the others on the trip. But it is Africa that emerges as the real hero – its mystery and terror,its beauty and brutality. A gripping fluency to the narrative. A wonderfulread.’
Alan Titley, Books Ireland, February 1999
‘It's a good read: candid without being lurid, sharp without being bitchy. From a linguistic point of view, I was delighted. Magan has a sharp eye. It's a refreshing book. It's not just that there's a keen sensibility in the telling or that it's something a wee bit different in Irish, it's also the fact that there are still 20-year-olds in Ireland who have the courage to tune in and drop out.’
Pól Ó Muirí, The Irish Times, August 1999
Manchán ar Seachrán provides a wonderful insight, not only into an incredible journey through the least-known continent on earth, but also into the mind. It is neither the inaccurate, impersonal prattling of the Lonely Planet nor the arrogant cajolery of Paul Theroux. It would be hard to beat his engaging style and his feel for the subject. I found it difficult to put the book down. Not only was I interested in the insights into the different countries through which he traveled, but I was fascinated by Manchán’s revelations regarding the group dynamics. I was taken aback by the author’s honesty and openness at times and this further heightened my respect for the work.
Manchán ar Seachrán has previously been described as an injection of life into Irish literature. One would not generally think of travel literature as capable of injecting life into any literature, but this book transcends the travel genre, showing elements of Bildungsroman and the coming-of-age-movie genre.
I would not call Manchán ar Seachrán an injection of life so much as an injection of spirit – or a rejuvenation of spirit, at least.The refreshing, questioning outlook is like a cool spring breeze.
Alex Hijmans, Foinse. January 1999
Mór mo Náire!
Bhí formhór na sleachta seo thús as Gaeilge. Braithim fimíneach,suarach, déistineach, fiú, gur aithrigh mé go SacsaBhéarla iad - ag casadh mo dhroim ar an dteanga naofa féin. Mholfainn de aon fhíor-Ghaeilgeoir gan bacaint iad a léamh mar mhodh agóide.