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This review is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

BARRICADES Dermot Healy, Banished Misfortune (Allison & Busby) £6.95
Dermot Healy, Fighting with Shadows (Allison & Busby) £8.95

Dermot Healy was in his early twenties when sectarian violence returned to Ulster. What many Irish people bleakly and matter-of-factly call the War has now been in progress for nearly half his lifetime. Prolonged crises after a while begin to assume an air of permanence, and those most affected are forced to accommodate themselves to the new situation if they are to survive. Accommodation - and the failure of it - is a theme Healy returns to again and again in his first two works of fiction.

Banished Misfortune is a collection of twelve short stories, mostly about the raw, stubborn lives of the working-class in contemporary Ireland. In 'The Curse', a young boy is persuaded to insult a barmaid in return for the illusory promise of riding his temptor's racehorses. On one level, the story deals with a theme beloved of short story writers: the corruption of innocence. But with characteristic lack of sentimentality, Healy also makes the story into a comment on the age-old exploitation of the Irish by the English. 'The Tenant', a tale about a bank-clerk taking up a new posting, is a quiet, restrained piece of work which demonstrates its author's ability to recreate the atmosphere of a small Irish country town. 'Blake's Column', unusually for Healy, has as its central character someone who is self-consciously an intellectual, albeit a bitter one, rotted by his own sense of failure. Some of the stories in the book are overcompressed, the language dense and ...


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