Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Five books to understand the Irish border

Fintan O'Toole is assistant editor of the Irish Times and author of Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Killed the Celtic Tiger. One of five books to understand the Irish border that he tagged at the Guardian:
In All Silver and No Brass: An Irish Christmas Mumming, his wonderful study of traditions in County Fermanagh, on the northern side of the Irish border, the US anthropologist Henry Glassie evokes in a few sentences the terror of the early 1970s, when the Troubles were at their worst: “People at work on their farms in the soft green Fermanagh countryside have been suddenly, brutally murdered. You never know when the next stranger on the street will be a bitter bastard with a gun. The nights are lonely. The wind howls cold on the streets.”

It is a bleak picture, but it serves in Glassie’s book as a backdrop to the sweetness and energy of the people whose lives and culture he studied. To read the book now is to be struck, not just by what people in this uncertain region endured for so long but also by the endurance of decency and of fun.

People in these places didn’t ask to be borderers and most of them didn’t want the complications and suspicions that came with the partition of Ireland a century ago. And they certainly don’t want bitter bastards with guns coming back to their streets and farms.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue