Reading in the Dark
by Seamus Deane
I have never cried over a book so much since I was ten. To think that a woman who bore seven children to a good man could allow such darkness to enter their life. How could a family that loved so well be so riven? Why should a boy, too bright to be deceived, too loving to tell, too young to be protected by doubt, lose his innocence and his childhood? Is it because revellers on St. Patrick's Night a world away pop small change into collecting boxes "for the auld people"?
What has an ignorant Dutchman, inauspiciously crowned English king not so very long ago to do with anything today? Or the Duchess of Sutherland who wanted sheep, not people, on her grouse moors in Scotland? What do uniforms and suits in Whitehall and Westminster (the
daily cleaners employed to mop up) really understand about Northern Ireland?
READING IN THE DARK is about betrayal, a police double cross on a double cross, and, of course guilt and remorse. (Well, but even priests have to live).
This novel, if it is a novel, and not a biography, may seem irrelevant to us, busy about our daily lives. After all, what is Ulster to us? Only a woman dying of cancer felt deeply enough to throw her wig at it. The Irish Question has long been mired in speeches, propaganda, global economy, BBC photo-calls, conferences, more speeches, and, at last, indifference.
Well, but if the rulers and governors of the great nations of the earth could pause from pirouetting on their tippy-toes just long enough to consider a tiny scrap of history (nothing too demanding, mind) they might take note: do not steal from the poor for they cannot forget, and to the third and fourth generation their children are not allowed to forget.
READING IN THE DARK may help the spinning world to understand.
Review by Paula