Tuesday, March 06, 2012

In praise of Eugene McCabe

When I saw that the Slugger O'Toole blog contained a tribute to Eugene McCabe I assumed that the octogenerian Irish author must have died.

Happily this appears not to be the case and whatever has triggered it Andy Pollak's article draws welcome attention to McCabe's work.

Eugene McCabe is not as well-known on this side of the Irish Sea as he ought to be, perhaps because he is hardly prolific, perhaps because he apparently lives a quiet life on his Monaghan farm and is not part of any literary media circuit.

Nonetheless he is one of the most powerful and insightful writers about Ulster's divided community. His one novel, 1992's Death and nightingales, which portrays the troubled relationship between a Protestant stepfather and his Catholic stepdaughter, is a masterpiece that works both as a story in itself and as political allegory.

Likewise the short stories collected in the volume Heaven lies about us highlight the complexities of a situation where members of both communities live side by side with historical hatreds never far from the surface.

Anyone looking for the great literature of the Northern Ireland troubles (as opposed to the self-serving literary productions of its politicians) should check out McCabe's work.

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