"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


A blog for readers and writers

A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Why Irish Novelists live in the past...

The Irish novelist Julian Gough recently had a rant about fellow Irish writers...
If there is a movement in Ireland, it is backwards. Novel after novel set in the nineteen seventies, sixties, fifties. Reading award-winning Irish literary  fiction, you wouldn’t know television had been invented. Indeed, they seem apologetic about acknowledging electricity (or “the new Mechanikal Galvinism” as they like to call it.)
As it happens I do mention television in A Good Confession - once. I also mention galoshes (one of my all time favourite words), National Assistance, Adam Faith and sending turkeys through the post for your family far away in heathen England. All of which are appropriate period details for the end of the 1950s....and all of which suggests that I have fallen into the time warp trap that Gough is complaining about.
There's a lot of reasons why I set my story in the past. However, I acknowledge that my central characters would face exactly the same conflict if they fell in love today, but when I saw Father Jerry and Cathleen it was in the streets and fields of my childhood in London and Ireland. 
My defence is that the 1950s lasted longer in Ireland than anywhere else. When my parents returned in the early 80s they were, by and large, going back to the Ireland they had left 30 years earlier. They were there long enough to see the country leap into the 21st century but when a decade lasts so long it is perhap not surprising that it has such a lingering after taste...

After thought
According to wikipedia I can't be an Irish novelist because I was neither born in Ireland or live there
That must mean Gough isn't an Irish novelist either because he was born in London, raised in Tipparary, educated in Galway and now resides in Berlin.
I'm reminded of the Dublin born Duke of Wellington's comment when he was called an Irishman. 'Sir, if a gentleman was born in a stable that would not make him a horse.'
After after thought
Just looked it up and the Duke of Wellington didn't say that. It was the great Daniel O'Connell speaking about the Iron Duke on October 16th 1843 (it must be true if it has a date). "No, he is not an Irishman. He was born in Ireland; but being born in a stable does not make a man a horse."
My point exactly...

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