Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate it. Here at 4th Estate, we aren’t partaking in any festivities just yet (it’s only 11am) but we’re watching the clock. Here for you are three and a half of our favourite quotes from our Irish authors. Ian Sansom only counts as half because he lives in Ireland, you see.
Green Glowing Skull by Gavin Corbett
‘Tell me now, Rickard Velily’ – he said his name mockingly, Rickard sensed, throwing in an extra ‘-il-’ syllable, and became distracted with the taste of it on his tongue – ‘Velily, Velily, Velily. Is it an Irish name?’
‘It is. It’s also a village in White Russia.’
‘They are Bialy this and Bialy that in New York. Many people originate from places that were once part of Antique Poland or Lithuania, or Greater Austria or Russia. Velily is one of those names that is Irish but might not be. Like Costello, which could be Italian, or Egan, which could be Turkish, or Maher, which could be Berber.’
‘Or Walsh,’ offered Rickard, ‘which could be German.’
The old man looked at him testily.
‘You mustn’t make any jokes around these parts about the war, you’ll learn that smartly enough.’
‘He was used to lying on the floor of a pub and hearing somebody breaking into a song and holding on to the bar counter. He probably even knew her favourite song, if that’s possible, what do you think? A song in Irish. A song that she used to sing herself or say the words of, repeating the last lines again and again to herself about something that never comes again.
She didn’t believe in the afterlife. There is no such thing as the next life, she said. This is the next life we’re having right now, here, this minute. She said her life was no more than Buddy’s life, only that she could read and write and remember the words of a song, that was all.
She didn’t know why she was having a church funeral, but where else would you have it if not in a church? You end up going back to what you did your best to get away from. She always wanted to die in Dublin, by choice, like an ordinary person with a modest, heartfelt, traditional Dublin funeral, so she said.’
‘Eileen never even knew her mother could knit. She wondered if her mother had made clothes for her family in Ireland, or to sell in a store, but she knew enough not to ask. She couldn’t even bring herself to seek permission to rub the bump on her mother’s belly. The closest she got to the baby was when she went to the drawer to examine the articles her mother had knitted, running her hands over their smoothness and putting them up to her face. One night, after her mother had gone to bed, she picked up the knitting needles, which were still warm from use. Between them swayed the bootee to complete the pair. Eileen tried to picture this baby who would help her populate the apartment and whose cheeks she would cover in kisses, but all she saw was her mother’s face in miniature, wearing that dubious expression she wore when Eileen went looking for affection. She concentrated hard until she stopped seeing her mother’s face and saw instead the smiling face of a baby beaming with light and joy. She was determined to have a relationship with this sibling that would have nothing to do with their parents.’
”So, were you in the crash?’ he asked. My torn jacket and bloodied shirt, the bump on my head, and the ragged trousers must have been a give-away. I didn’t answer. ‘Very good, sir. Drinks are on the house for anyone who was in the crash.’
‘In that case make it a double,’ I said.
‘There’ll be no trains in or out for a week, I reckon,’ continued the barman, as he was examining the bottles behind the bar. ‘So I reckon we’ll be getting through a lot of port and lemon.’ He nodded towards the crowd around the bar, mostly women. ‘So, Scotch: we’ve got Haig, Black and White, or Macnish’s Doctor’s Special. Irish, I’m afraid we’ve only Bushmills or …’ He held up a full bottle of Irish whiskey. ‘Bushmills.’
‘I’ll take a Bushmills then.’ I had converted to Bushmills at one of Delaney’s places: he served only Irish whiskey, his famous gin fizz, and other drinks even more distinctly suspect and of no discernible provenance.’