Sebastian Barry: Mein fernes, fremdes Land (Dunne Family) (2011 /2014)

Mein fernes, fremdes LandWie es wohl klingen mag, wenn einer Neunundachtzigjährigen das Herz bricht?

Leise und zart, vermutet die Irin Lilly Bere. Viele Herausforderungen hat sie gemeistert, seit sie als junge Frau vor der IRA nach Amerika fliehen musste. Nun verlässt sie der Lebensmut – doch bevor sie geht, hält sie in einem großen Haushaltsbuch ihre Erinnerungen fest: Sie weiß, wie es sich anfühlt, wenn Männer als bloße Schatten aus dem Krieg zurückkommen, wie entwürdigend es sein kann, im Land der Freiheit die falsche Hautfarbe zu haben, wie hoffnungsvoll die erste Liebe ist – und wie bitter der Verrat eines Freundes. Herzergreifend und poetisch.

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  1. akpe

    Juni 9, 2017 um 6:23 am

    Rick
    Dec 16, 2013
    Rick rated it liked it · review of another edition
    Shelves: fiction
    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Barry, the Irish playwright, poet and novelist, has made the Dunne family the subject of a number of works. The father is featured in the play The Steward of Christendom (1995), as are his son and daughters. Annie Dunne, one of the daughters, is the title character of the eponymous 2002 novel. Willie Dunne, the son, is the subject of the war novel A Long, Long Way (2005). Lillie Dunne is the narrator and main character of On Canaan’s Side (though she is called Dolly in The Steward of Christendom, Annie Dunne and A Long, Long Way; and in both On Canaan’s Side and A Long, Long Way the father is James Dunne, while the play calls him Thomas). At the root of the family’s story is a father on the wrong side of history, a career policeman in Dublin during the heyday and twilight of British control of Ireland.

    James Dunne rises to the highest position allowed to a Catholic as the move for Irish independence enters its violent phase. His youngest daughter plans to wed a WW I veteran, a buddy of Willie who comes by after the war to pay his respects to the family. Superintendent Dunne helps get him a job with the Black and Tans and soon he and Lillie are forced to flee Ireland when the IRA puts a death sentence on both of their heads. Lillie is forced to build a life in America with no return to Ireland. The novel begins with her living in a cottage on a former employer’s estate in Eastern Long Island. She is old and the time is contemporary. Her American grandson, who reminded her so much of her brother Willie, returned from Iraq damaged and has hung himself. She is mourning him and planning her own death while leaving an account of her long life. She is estranged from a long time friend in her retirement, Mr. Nolan.

    In flashbacks we learn what happened to her in America, the fate of her husband, her son, and other of her friends and what she now holds against Mr. Nolan. “I am writing of these things, and as I do, as I sit here in my American clothes, clothed in my American self…I sit here, an old person, a relic, even a grateful relic, for what I was given, if not for what was taken away.” Lillie lives a heroic life but one where she can’t long escape sorrow and where being a survivor is to watch time gather one into a cumulative tragedy of loss. Yet there is humor and poetry (sometimes too much) and resilience and even some redemption.

    Barry is a fine, fine writer: “There’s no point talking about love,” Lillie writes bluntly, “what’s sure as sure is no human person knows what that is.” But his fineness seems to compete with his narrator’s own voice and experience. Lillie finds both hope and sorrow in the shared DNA of humanity as described to her by a friend: “The good news is we are all the same family,” she recalls the friend saying. “The bad news is we are all the same family.” Here irony puts a thumb on the scales of both hope and sorrow and whatever wisdom there is in the observation seems not just pat but conveyed from a distance. It’s a clever line but undermining. Lillie’s experience should have resulted either in a blunter, more developed observation or one that battered by her experience put her own thumb on one side or the other of the scale, not a borrowed one. But perhaps I am being too fussy. On Canaan’s Side is intelligent and humane, thoughtful in tracing an individual’s life across eight score years of consequence.

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