THE STATE OF IRELAND: A Novella & 17 Stories by Benedict Kiely
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THE STATE OF IRELAND: A Novella & 17 Stories

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Recent short fiction by a fine Irish writer whose work (except for a few stories published by The New Yorker) is relatively little-known here. The novella, ""Proxopera,"" deals with The Troubles in Northern Ireland--IRA gunmen bursting in on a family at their lakeside vacation home and forcing the grandfather, a retired teacher, to drive a bomb-rigged milk can to town in his car while the rest of the family is held hostage. And a few of the stories are political, too, though less starkly so. But while these are good--Kiely naturally writes with a purling, non-stuttering energy of narrative, a legato reliability unlikely ever to prove clumsy--they stand a little slack before the terrors of the war. When dealing with more bucolic material, however--never simple, just gentler--Kiely is at his best, able to get a Brueghel-esque amount of information (sometimes just skirting over-busyness) into even the stillest of paragraphs, nosing poetically through particulars: ""Small rich fields were ripe in the sun. This was a glen of plenty, a gold field in the middle of a desert, a happy laughing mockery of the arid surrounding moors and mountains. Five hundred yards away a dozen people were working at the hay."" He's also a landscapist of general good cheer, whether it be of memory (""There Are Meadows In Lanark"" is a vividly visual rendering of an Irish seacoast resort through the eyes of a summering boy) or in the present. For an Irish writer of his generation (born 1919), Kiely, finally, seems most remarkable not for the shared national traits--generosity over foible, humor, eloquence--but for the open-spirited way in which his eye tends to register. . . and then rise up. Welcome indeed--a good, balanced selection by a good international writer.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Godine