I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Nordy Noir Knocks at the Door

Nordy Noir Knocks at the Door

Sharon Dempsey
Northern Irish crime writers have been exploring issues relating to the landscape of the Troubles for decades within the confines of a genre that is well-placed to provide close examination of social, economic and character-driven concerns. The success of Anna Burns’s Milkman has brought attention to Northern Irish writing, with some saying now is the time, post-Good Friday Agreement, to explore the complex issues. When Milkman won the Man Booker prize it was heralded as a win for Northern Irish literature. Yet the attention the novel’s success has brought to the Northern Irish literary scene has been met with partial disdain. After all, the Northern Irish crime-writing fraternity has been producing work that explores the complexities of social unrest and political division for decades. Writers like Adrian McKinty, Anthony Quinn, Stuart Neville, Claire McGowan, Gerard Brennan and Brian McGilloway have made great use of writing about life in a trigger-happy society, with the inherent socio-economic problems providing plentiful material for their work. However, there was something different in Milkman, something that touched a nerve and suggested that now, post-conflict, we were ready to explore our violent past in a new imaginative form. If ever a place needed retelling, then Belfast is that place. Like most writers, I don’t fully understand anything until I have written an account of it for myself. I feel that it is only now, with time providing distance from the realities of living amidst conflict that we can examine the nuances of how the incendiary atmosphere and ongoing violence has shaped us. Belfast has changed. The security barriers around the city centre are long gone and there is a vibrancy to socialising in the Cathedral Quarter that those of us who grew up during the seventies and eighties could only find by moving away. Now Belfast is a tourist destination, cashing in on the popularity of the filming hub that produced Game of Thrones. Our landscape is now as well known for the Dark Hedges as it is for the peace walls and the graphic sectarian murals. Yet, it is with this change, this growth, that we can now begin to understand what we have survived. In the totalitarian landscape of Milkman we come to see clearly the insidious nature of paramilitary control of society. The nameless characters and the unnamed city serve to make our plight universal, to expose the uncomfortable truths of living within the confines of a society controlled by fear…

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