de Darragh McKeon
Translated from English (Ireland) by Carine Chichereau
Belfond, 240 pages, €22
A whispered question. Simon Hanlon hears it when his epileptic seizures come on. “What’s your name, son?” » Such crises, Simon had, briefly, during his adolescence in Northern Ireland of the 1980s, torn by the “Troubles” opposing Irish republicans and British forces. They return, violently, at the approach of the fiftieth while this architect lives in New York. The relapse coincided with meeting a childhood friend who revived a memory that had remained outside of her consciousness for thirty years. Simon then tries to retie the threads of his memory.
The first crises took place just after one of the worst attacks of the IRA, on November 8, 1987 in Enniskillen, the town near which Simon grew up. The terrorists had deliberately targeted the population loyal to the British trusteeship, gathered for the “Sunday of Remembrance” parade. Eleven people were killed and 63 injured. With his father, a Catholic peasant, Simon was present out of fidelity to the memory of his mother, a Protestant nurse, who died shortly before of cancer.
The previous summer, during a night bivouac on an island in Lough Erne, Simon had seen illegal immigrants hiding – no doubt – weapons. He himself had been spotted by one of them who had whispered this question to him and then ordered him to go back to bed and be quiet. Simon said nothing. Since then, he has lived with, deep inside himself, this nagging question: does he have a responsibility, through his silence, in the attack of November 8? The appeasement of Simon will come from an astonishing work, that of imagining the life and the destiny of the man crossed on the island.
Darragh McKeon confirms with Remembrance Sunday a very remarkable talent for novelistic construction, already noticed in Everything solid dissolves in air, his first book devoted to the tragedy of Chernobyl. His writing is clear, neither cold nor emphatic. We penetrate as gently into worlds far from us, that of patients with epilepsy, that of this Northern Ireland where people are locked up in murderous identities.
The whole quest of Simon Hanlon, about the man of Lough Erne, basically consists in digging into the double question raised by a quote from Brian Keenan (1): “What is there of him in me, what is there of me in him? »
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