Benedict Kiely's Troubles Fiction: From Postcolonialism to Postmodernism

Elmer Kennedy-Andrews

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    This essay traces a development in Kiely's work from the polemical, intensely nationalistic Counties of Contention: A Study of the Origins and Implications of the Partition of Ireland (1945), through the post-revolutionary 'rebel' narrative of his first novel Land Without Stars (1946) which begins to question nationalist orthodoxy, to the excoriation of militant Irish republicanism in Proxopera (1977), to the postmodernism of Nothing Happens in Carmincross (1985). Where his earlier novels and stories followed the assumptions about Irish writing which underpinned his study, Modern Irish Fiction, namely, that it was the job of Irish writers to reveal the universal truth of specific (Irish) individuals' struggle in a hostile (Irish) world, his latest work, imbued with the postmodern spirit, challenges the very foundations of accepted notions of what constitutes the (Irish) individual and his (Irish) world - not necessarily to demolish the concepts of the individual, society, nation, identity, or humanity, but to redefine them. Nothing Happens in Carmincross is seen to represent a strand of self-reflexive writing which is critical of realist premises and deconstructs the usual relationships which exist betweem text and reader, language and reality, fiction and history. In this novel Kiely accepts the urgent new challenge of experimenting with the possibilities of remapping identity, rewriting history and reinventing the language of the Troubles.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)98-120
    JournalIrish University Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 May 2008


    • Benedict Kiely
    • postcolonialism
    • postmodernism


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