Robert McLiam Wilson

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
1964- ; b. 24 Feb., West Belfast, son of worker in bread factor (when he worked), with six siblings of whom one died; ed. locally, and at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge; a novel, Ripley Bogle (1989) won the Hughes Prize, the Rooney Prize, and Betty Trask Award; also the Irish Book Award; m. Melanie Hammond [dg. of David Hammond]; issued Manfred’s Pain (1992), a study of a man who compulsively abuses his concentration-camp survivor wife, set in London; shortlisted for Whitbread Prize;
 
wrote powerfully of the cult of guns in Belfast and other cities in the Irish Review, 1991; issued The Dispossessed (1992), a study of poverty in Thatcherite Britain, with photographer Donovan Wylie; satirised the award of a Nobel Prize to Seamus Heaney, in Fortnight Review (Belfast), 1995; presented BBC TV documentary on the post-Troubles period in N. Ireland for BBC, Spring 1995; issued City of Women (1996);
 
sep. from Hammond; appt.writer-in-Residence at UU (Coleraine), 1991-94; issued Eureka Street (1996), centred on the cynical journalist Chuckie Lurgan and his loyalist counterpart Jake Jackson, and containing a caricatures of Seamus Heaney as a nationalist poet and a female Sinn Féin member, Aoirghe; moved to Paris; included in Granta Best Novelists (2003); said to be working on a novel, The Extremists, and a film adaptation of Manfred’s Pain; his literary agent is Anthony Harwood. OCIL DIL2

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Works
Novels
  • Ripley Bogle: A Novel (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1989), 273pp. [editions];
  • Manfred’s Pain (London: Picador 1992), 197pp. [pbk 1993];
  • City of Women (London: Secker & Warburg 1996; Minerva 1997), pp.384;
  • Eureka Street (London: Secker & Warburg 1996), 395pp., and Do. trans. into French by Brice Matthieussent (Paris: Editions Christian Bourgois [1997]).
 
Miscellaneous
  • with Donovan Wylie, The Dispossessed (London: Picador 1992), 181pp. ill. [80pp. phot. pls.]
 
Journalism
  • ‘Cities at War’, Irish Review [n.s.], No.10 (Spring 1991), pp.95-98;
  • review of Maurice Leitch, Gilchrist, in Fortnight Review (Sept. 1994) [link].
  • ‘The Glittering Prize’ , in Fortnight Review, 344 (Nov. 1995), pp.23-24 [on Seamus Heaney and the Nobel Prize].
 
TV Drama
  • Eureka Street [4 pts.], dir. Adrian Shergold ([London]: BBC2 1999), with Vincent Regan, Mark Benton, Elisabeth Röhm, Dervla Kirwan; script by Donna Franceschild.

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Bibliographical details
Ripley Bogle: A Novel (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1989), 273pp.; Do. (London: André Deutsch), [288]pp., and Do. (London: Pan Books 1990), vii, 227pp.; Do. (London: Minerva), 325pp., and Do. (London: Vintage 1998), 325pp.

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Criticism
  • Tess Hurson, ‘The State We’re In, ‘Patterson & Wilson’, BBC Radio Ulster Broadcast [1992];
  • Liam McIlvanney, ‘A Cityful of Lives’, review of Eureka Street, in Times Literary Supplement (23 Aug. 1996), p.18.
  • Eamonn Hughes, ‘Belfastards and Derriers’, review of Eureka Street [with works of Seamus Deane, Deirdre Madden, and Michael Foley], in The Irish Review, 20 [Ideas of Nationhood] (Winter/Spring 1997), pp.151-57;
  • Gerry Smyth, The Novel and the Nation: Studies in the New Irish Fiction (London: Pluto Press 1997) [on Ripley Bogle], pp.132-34 [extract];
  • Richard Mills, ‘“All Stories are Love Stories”: Interview with Robert McLiam Wilson’, in Irish Studies Review (April 1999), pp.73-77;
  • Sylvie Mikowski, ‘“Irish History is a Brilliant Joke”: An Interview with Robert McLiam Wilson’, in Source, 7, 1 (April 1999) [q.pp.; incl. p.83-86;
  • Ellen-Raïssa Jackson, ‘Gender, Violence and Hybridity: Reading the Postcolonial in Three Irish Novels’, in Irish Studies Review, 7, 2 (August 1999), pp.221-31 [see extract];
  • Laura Pelaschiar, ‘Transforming Belfast: The Evolving Role of the City in Northern Irish Fiction’, in Irish University Review, 30, 1 [“Contemporary Irish Fiction”] (Spring/Summer, 2000), pp.117-31; espec. p.125ff. [accessible at JSTOR online; accessed 22.05.2011];
  • Richard Kirkland, ‘Bourgeois Redemptions: The Fictions of Glenn Patterson and Robert McLiam Wilson’, in Contemporary Irish Fiction: Themes, Tropes, Theories, ed. Liam Harte & Michael Parker (London: Macmillan; NY: St. Martin’s Press 2000), pp.213-31.
  • Danine Farquharson, ‘The Language of Violence in Robert McLiam Wilson’s Eureka Street’, in New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, 9, 4 (Winter 2005) pp.65-78.
  • Caroline Magennis, ‘“The Erotic Highstyle”: Self-Reflexivity and Performativity in Robert McLiam Wilson’s Eureka Street and Ripley Bogle’, in Essays In Irish Literary Criticism: Themes of Gender, Sexuality, and Corporeality, ed. Deirdre Quinn & Sharon Tighe-Mooney (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press 2008), q.pp..
See also Linden Peach, The Contemporary Irish Novel: Critical Readings (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2004), Chap. 2 - Posting the present: modernity and modernization in Glenn Patterson’s Fat Lad (1992) and Robert McLiam Wilson’s Eureka Street (1996) [q.pp.]
 
See also interview with Laurence Carbonneaux at Chez Alice (1998) [online]

Q: For how long have you been writing books?
A: I started writing my first novel the day before I decided to leave university. I had borrowed a typewriter to start a dissertation and typed out a first chapter instead. That would have been 1985. The first novel, Ripley Bogle, was eventually published in Britain in 1989 when I was twenty five years old.
Q: Does any writer (or, why not, musicien, painter or director) inspire your work ?
A: There are many people who inspire and influence my writing. English French and Russian 19th century writers in particular: Dickens, Thackeray, Balzac, Zola, de Maupassant, Hugo, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Gogol. 20th century influences include: Joyce, Robert Graves, Camus, Koestler, Orwell, Bohumil Hrabal, Josef Skvorecky, Samuel Selvon, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut. Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish film director is someone I admire very much and Les Valseuses is my favourite ever film.
 All music inspires me. I write late at night to the accompaniement of loud music. It doesn’t matter what it is. Though the Les Inrockuptibles compilation CDs are very useful at the minute.
Q: Who is your favorite writer?
A: There are many. Joyce is a genius. I love Balzac very much but the best has to be Tolstoy. He’s incomparable, extraordinary, sublime.
Q: What kind of jobs, if any, have you ever performed?
A: I have been a building labourer, a shop assistant, a security guard, a window salesman, a kilt salesman (!), a documentary director and a university teacher. I was a very good kilt salesman indeed.
Q: Are you currently writing something?
A: I am currently writing a novel called Le Citoyen Gonflable. (My two favourite French words - citoyen and gonflable).
Q: Places (London and Belfast in Ripley Bogle, Ireland in you last book) seem to be very important in the “stream“ of your writing. How do you feel it?
A: I love all cities and I feel a mon aise in all cities. City dwellers know all cities because all cities are gloriously the same. The first time I went to Paris I felt entirely at home. It was the same in Berlin, Stockholm, London, Helsinki. Cities are what make me write.
Q: You have written a text this summer for the French magazine Telerama, about a picture of a girl and a boy in a train (if I remember well, it was about youth passing by, with a sense of happiness and nostalgia, and everlasting life). Have you worked for others newspapers or magazines?
A: I’ve written occasional short pieces for American or European magazines and newspapers. Only one or two a year. It’s too hard. Writing novels is easy. The short form is truly difficult.
Q: Do you write poetry, or theater ?
A: Never.
Q: Your book Manfred’s Pain doesn’t seen to be published in France. Is it planed to be published in France ?
A: Manfred’s Pain is a dreadful piece of shit, a mon avis. I would like to prevent it being published in French if I can. I really hate it. On the other hand, my translator, Brice Matthieussent, is such a good writer that the novel might be better in French. [END]

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Commentary
La verve et l’insolence’, interview with with E. N. [sic.], in Figaro Magazine [?Aug. 1998]. Pronouncements and opinions include the follow: ‘mes livres son meilleurs en français’; prefers Chartreuse de parma to Rouge et Noir; decided to write when he read David Copperfield at six; wrote depressive adolescent novel, ‘Pourtant, je n’étais pas déprimer de tout. Mais je croyais qu’être déprimé c’était bien, en littérature’; hates his books and thought his second novel so bad that he refused to let it be translated into French; his ‘franc-parler’ gets him in trouble with his ‘concitoyens’; non-practising Catholic who lives in Protestant part of Belfast; rewrites five or six times; ‘Un livre n’est jamais fini. On l’abandonne, c’est tout’; doesn’t know his biological father; conceived the day Kennedy was assassinated; on New York: ‘Trop d’Irlandais, trope difficule de fumer. Je n’y remettrai plus les pied’; wants children and is installing himself in Paris ‘dans n’importe quel quartier.’

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Edna Longley, reviews Eureka Street (1996), in Fortnight Review (Oct 1996); notes twin protagonists, Jake Jackson and Chucky Lurgan. respectively Catholic and Protestant; Jake, recovering from a love afffair, now up-and-downwardly mobile; Chucky is fat and lazy and amazingly successful; Jake partly narrates; considered his most Dickensian yet, and highly recommended. (p.34).

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Gerry Smyth, The Novel and the Nation: Studies in the New Irish Fiction (London: Pluto Press 1997), pp.132-34: ‘Having rejected Irishness, England provides no answers either. It is as if despite the claims to non-affiliation, Bogle has been permanently marked by his youth and background, and there is no true escape from it, either physical or psychological. England and exile, the traditional answers to the contradictions of Irish identity, have failed also. In Cambridge he finds a cohort of Thatcher’s privileged children desperately looking for some authenticity (of the kind they suppose he has left behind in Belfast) to fill their hollow lives, while as a tramp in London he discovers at sordidly close quarters the darkness at the heart of modern civilisation. / So cultural hybridity, rather than offering Bogle a positive and enabling set of options, actually robs him of any power other than that of indicting both sides and adopting a spurious position above (or rather, below) and beyond.the real world. He has sampled both, in Belfast, Cambridge and London, has intimate knowledge of both, and disdains both. Bogie decides to opt out of history, not to start again but to retreat into some state of non-being. This leaves him, literally, with nowhere to go, except to a deeper form of exile from the “acceptable” world of the 1980s into the underworld of the drop-outs and discarded humanity living in the cracks of what passes for “normal” modern life.’ (p.133.) [Cont.]

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Gerry Smyth (The Novel and the Nation 1997) - cont. ‘This search for alternative perspective is built into the very structure of the novel, taking the form of a parodic discourse which samples but offers no investment in any of the received novelistic reactions to the ‘Troubles’. The novel rehearses the three standard tropes of traditional Northern Irish fiction: the involvement of Bogie’s friend Maurice in paramilitary activities (thriller); his ‘love-across-the-barricades’ with the middle-class Protestant Deirdre (national romance); and his exile to Cambridge and affair with the English rose Laura (domestic fiction). As it turns out, however, Ripley Bogle turns out to be a ‘fiction’ in more than one sense, for these narrative tropes are exploded, revealed at the end of the narrative as an elaborate set of lies. The truth is far from the story of sexual success and proud disdain for the rat race that Bogie would have us believe in the earlier parts of the narrative; it is, rather, a story of guilt, cowardice, betrayal and failure. / Bogie, moreover, is an unreliable narrator who parodies his own unreliability, always remaining one step ahead of the interpretative game. The novel contains a metanarrative strand which constantly reminds the reader of the constructed nature [134] of this, and any other, narrative.’ (pp.133-34.)

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Lire (Ête 1998), pp.83-86, review article: Ripley Bogle [trans. extract], under caption, ‘Quel sale gosse! Bogle, 7 ans, joue au débile à l’école alors qu’il lit en douce à la bibliothèque Dickens, Thackeray et Shakespeare …’; extract beginning, ‘Dan mon enfance, le ciel était clair et lumineux, il dardait ses sourires aurifiés à travers mes fenêtres grandes ouvertes ….’ Biog. notice includes sentence, ‘Bogley le flammard arrogant et abvard et génial et désopilant est devnu deopuis la parution du livre en 199 un anti-Lucien Leuwen très en vogue.’

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Bruce Stewart, unpublished remarks on Manfred’s Pain (1992):
‘“Manfred had wanted to die for a long time.” He has begun to have excruciating pain in his abdomen, and it’s going to kill him more secretly than medicine or suicide. Raised a Jew in London, he has been to war and seen man’s inhumanity to man; in his marriage he destroyed the thing he loves, beating his beautiful wife Emma; now he embraces his coming agony as the proper sum of his experience. His neighbours are the awful Webb, a brutish Cockney who abuses women, and Garth, a goodnatured black hospital orderly. With these he forms tentative relationships emblematical of his predicament as a guilty but intelligent and compassionate man. He sees Emma once a month, meeting at an appointed park bench, but may not look at her directly. She is the hidden heart of the novel, an emblem of its theme of suffering, have survived a concentration camp as a girl. Thus the shame of political and domestic violence, and the pain of living with it remorsefully fuels the novel.’
[See full text, infra.]

Peter Guttridge, ‘Tales of love and sects’, review of Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson, in The Guardian (1 Sept. 1996) ‘“All stories are love stories,” Wilson declares at the start of his third and best novel. Eureka Street tells a number of them but, as you would expect from the author of the acerbic Ripley Bogle, there is nothing anodyne about them, nor is that all the book is about. Wilson’s fresh, unhackneyed, boy-meets-girl stories are set against the background of the Troubles in Belfast, against the competing truths of the sectarian divide. [...] Chuckie, who goes from poverty to wild riches in Ireland, then America, thanks to his crazed entrepreneurial vision, is one of the great comic capitalist creations, almost akin to Milo Minderbender in Catch 22 or William Gaddis’s JR. [...] Wilson’s particular strength is in his characterisations. They include Max, the love of Chuckie’s life who came to Belfast to avoid the violence in America, and her fanatically republican friend Aoirghe, humiliated by the fact her last name, bathetically, is Jenkins. Even Ripley Bogle makes a cameo appearance. / Wilson finds much to amuse us in the political rivalries of Belfast. The mysterious appearance on walls, paving stones and phone boxes of the letters OTG causes panic in the world of bully boys since nobody knows what they stand for. [...] He has a lot of fun with the Gaelic-language fanatics, satirising people with unpronounceable names saying unpronounceable things.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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Ellen-Raïssa Jackson, ‘Gender, Violence and Hybridity: Reading the Postcolonial in Three Irish Novels’, in Irish Studies Review, 7, 2 (August 1999), pp.221-31: Jackson adds the comment: ‘By representing these figures exclusively in terms of heterosexual relationships, Wilson’s novel continues to treat women as symbols in a metanarraive of identity rather than agents and subjects in their own right. Ripley Bogle plays out the narratives of nation in which women are the symbols of power and hybridity and yet are unable to make use of them.’ (p.230.)

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Danine Farquharson, ‘The Language of Violence in Robert McLiam Wilson’s Eureka Street’, in New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, 9, 4 (Winter 2005): ‘Why does McLiam Wilson destroy, and then recuperate, his own narrative? [...] And how does the manner in which he narrates his chapters of violence inform what is undoubtedly the ethical drive of Eureka Street? [...] Character propels the first half of the novel, and Jake Jackson articulates the ethical drive that undelies the story: empathy can stop violence. Jake's ‘hard man” ethics offers one way of reading the explosive Chapter 11, and of understanding its importance. Having written a novel that represents violence in such a way as to elicit an ethical response in the reader beyond simple sympathy, Robert McLiam Wilson demands of his readers both imagination and active empathy.’ (p.66.) [...] ‘In Eureka Street, McLiam Wilson wanted to write responsibly, to respond to the situation in Northern Irelnad, and to be able to offer a response for others. He does this with a philosophy of empathy and then a test of that empathy - the theory, and the question of the practice. The test is one ultimately placed with the reader in a potent narrative game. As Wayne Booth has written, “When we lose our capacity to succumb, when we reach a point at which no other characters can manage to enter our imaginative or emotional or intellectual territory and take over, at least for the time being, then we are dead on our feet.” (Booth, The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction, California UP 1988, p.257.) If we do not feel for Rosemary Daye and for the other characters, or stories, obliterated by the bomb blast at the center of the novel, then we are dead on our feet. The language of violence in Eureka Street demands that we fully comprehend their loss.’ (p.78; end.)

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James Lomax, review of Eureka Street by Robert McLiam Wilson (9 April 2007): ‘[...]The two central narrators on Eureka Street are Jake and Chuckie, who are Catholic and Protestant respectively. Neither of them subscribe to the ideas and belief systems of their city, which are the basis for the hatred and feuding. Jake sometimes pretends to be on the other side, and rejects the partisan arguments as tired, old and irrelevant bigotry; it’s time to stop it, and move on to a more mature and humanitarian position. The novel begins by describing a day-dreaming Chuckie wandering around working class Belfast, and his belief that he is about to be very prosperous seems most unlikely. In fact this becomes a narrative weakness because he does indeed become very wealthy, on the basis of various business and money-making scams beginning with a dildo-selling scheme where he takes payments for a fictitious product, knowing that women will not deposit refund cheques in the bank when he has stamped on them the words GIANT DILDO REFUND. Although Eureka Street undoubtedly refers to very serious matters, it is tragi-comic rather than polemic, and it glistens with humour. Chuckie’s success is unlikely, but it is in the spirit of slapstick rather than serious narrative.’ (See full-text version in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

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Quotations
Ripley Bogle (1989)

‘I learnt of a great many things on my first day at school [...]. I discovered that I lived in Belfast and that Belfast lived in Ireland and that this combination meant that I was Irish. The grim young bint we were loaded with was very fervent on this point. She stressed with some vigour that no matter what anyone else were to call us, our names would be always Irish ... [she] told us that the occasional Misguided Soul would try to call us British but that of all things to call us this was the wrongest. No matter how the Misguided Souls cajoled, insisted or pleaded, our names would remain Irish to the core, whatever that meant ... in the spirit of compromise (ever with me even then), I dubbed myself “Ripley Irish British Bogle”.’ (1989, pp.13-14; quoted in Edna Longley, ‘From Cathleen to Anorexia’, in The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 1994, p.176.)

‘We Irish, we’re all fucking idiots. No other people can rival us for the senseless sentimentality in which we wallow. Us and Ulster. The God-beloved fucking Irish, as they’d like to think. As a people we’re a shambles, as a nation - a disgrace; as a culture we’re a bore ... individually we’re often repellent ... all that old Irishness crap promoted by Americans and professors of English Literature.’ (p.160; quoted in Gerry Smyth, The Novel and the Nation, Pluto Press 1997, p.132.)

‘The British got it wrong. They grew all philanthropic and noble. They were the only imperial power ever to try giving their empire back. That was their mistake. We wogs, us wogs, we didn’t like that. Not at all.’ (p.111.)

‘[T]he world did me wrong by making me an Irishman’ (p.325; both cited in Ellen-Raïssa Jackson, ‘Gender, Violence and Hybridity [...]’, 1999, p.229.)

‘I smile without reason. Things aren’t so bad. Perhaps the situation may be resurrected. After all, I am young. I’ve done it before. Dragged myself out of destitution. The world could still let me in. Perhaps I should go to Oxford this time. Who knows? Smoking with steady, slow compassion, I begin to make some plans.’ (Vintage Edn., 1998, p.326; quoted in Gasahiko Yahta, ‘From Despair to Hope [... &c.’, in Journal of Beppu University, Junior College, Feb. 2000, p.89.)

Note also ‘poetic untruths’ (Ripley Bogle; q.p.).

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Eureka Street (1996): ‘[Chuckie] had always delighted in lording it over yokels from the dark interior of Northern Ireland. If you were from Lurgan, Enniskillen, Omagh or Dungiven, Chuckie Lurgan would become the ultimate in urban, the complete cosmopolite. But now, as Manhatten walked and drove past him, Chuckie Lurgan was terrified.’ (p.257; cited Pauline McAllister, ‘Contemporary Irish Fiction’, EN305 UUC 1997.)

Eureka Street (1996): ‘As Belfast bombs go, it went. Little to relate. Nobody died, nobody bled. It was no big deal. That was the big deal. It was dull stuf.. Nobody really noticed. What had happend to us here? Since when had detonations in the neighbourhood barely raised a grumble? ... What were bombs life? Well ... explosive, naturally. And loud. And frightening. They were loud and frightening in your gut like when you were a child and you fell on your head and couldn't understand by it hurt like panic in your belly. They were fairly irreversible too. Bombs were like dropped plates, kicked cats and hasty words. The were error. They were disarrangement and mess. That were - and this was important - knowledge. When you heard that dry splash, that animal thud of bomb, distant or close, you knew something. You knew that someone somewhere was have a very bad time indeed.’ (pp. 14-15; quoted in Danine Farquharson, ‘The Language of Violence in Robert McLiam Wilson’s Eureka Street’, in New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, Winter 2005, p.71)

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Eureka Street (1996): ‘You have seen the flags, the writing on th ewalls and the pavement flowers. Thsi is a city where people are preapred to kill and die for a few pices of coloured cloth. The city's surface is thick with its living citizens. its earth is richly sown with its many dead. This city is a repository of naratives, of stories. Present tense, past tense or future. The city is a novel.’ (pp.214-15; quoted in Danine Farquharson, op. cit., 2005, p.75.) Further: ‘[Cities are] the meeting places of stories. The men and women there are narratives, endlessly complex and intriguing ... In cities the stories are jumbled and jangled. The narratives meet. They clash, they converge or convert. They are a Babel of prose. [...] There is magic in this, an impalpable magic, quickly gone.’ (pp.215-16; Farquharson, op. cit., pp.75-76.)

Eureka Street - sundry quotations: ‘Belfast was only big because Belfast was bad’; ‘the under-populated capital of a minor province’; opposing groups ‘resembled no one as much as they resembled each other’; Jake ‘feared the withdrawal’ from violence; ‘Over 3,000 people killed ... What had it been for ... What had it achieved?’; ‘imperfectly macho town’; Jake: ‘There is little more to know on earth than what a deserted city street at four in the morning can show and tell.’

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Street cred: ‘[I have] the perfect credit card. I’m a West Belfast Catholic’; ‘I’m fed up with the Irish, north and south, with their obsessive navel-gazing sectarianism and distortions of the truth, so I left for England’ (interviewed for John Ardagh, Ireland and the Irish, Portrait of a Changing Society, London 1994, p.253).

The Glittering Prize’ [ on Heaney and the Nobel], in Fortnight Review, 344 (Nov. 1995), pp.23-24. Wilson writes: ‘... Only Heaney himself can properly quantify his own sincerity. I’m quite a young writer myself, but already I find I’m beginning to be increasingly bothered by the question of my own sincerity. In the complex jumble of greed, vanity and ambition that provoke you to write, what space can be found for the integrity of the work itself? It is a crucial question. [/.../] I can only presume that, senior as he is, Seamus Heaney has happily settled this question within himself some time ago.’ Further: ‘Heaney lived in a country where, for twenty-five years murder and death were the philosophical cutting edge of the definitions of nationhood. Heaney doesn’t really cover it.’

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References
Adrian Rice, Signals: Anthology of Poetry and Prose [Abbey Grammar School Arts Week, Feb. 1997] (Newry: Abbey Press 1998), contains extract.

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Notes
Ripley Bogle
: Having survived a dysfunctional family and a nationalist education in in working-class Catholic Belfast of the 1980, he reaches Cambridge University before whimsically turning homless London street-person after an affair with an upperclass girl in his adopted milieu and the ensuing explosion of his personality. The zanily articulate narrator carries us along with a slangy salad of literary allusions (prominently including Joyce and Shakespeare) and a raft of topical allusions. Ripley ends by pulling the rug from under his own sympathetic narrative with the admission that he hasn't “quite been candid” while professing the opinion that “twentieth-century heroes must be flawed”. The novel demonstrates and demolishes ideas of cultural hybridity against an Irish historical background which refuses to render itself amenable to a postcolonial narrative of oppression and liberation. Yet it also reveals the inherently schizophrenic nature of the Irish-English composite substance, especially in the case of brilliant products of the English educational system in Northern Ireland.

Protestant writers: For Wilson’s remarks on Protestant writers in a review of Maurice Leitch’s Gilchrist (Fortnight Review, Sept. 1994, p.45-46), see under Leitch, above.

Dermot Bolger, Contemporary Irish Fiction (1993), remarks that Wilson repudiates the ‘post-colonial literature’ tag (p.xii).

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