Northern Ireland: Literature and Culture
The question of memory in Northern Irish film and literature
“History is a nightmare from which one must try to awake.”
Stephen Dedalus, Ulysses
What is the role of memory in a small, divided and post-conflict society? If we look at memory as the process of remembering and memorialisation. In a divided and post-conflict society like Northern Ireland, remembering and memorialization can be very problematic due to the total lack of consensus over how to remember, who to remember and what to remember. Even though I am a neutral and candid observant of the topic and the historical events, I have a difficult job. I could get an object that can be found in the cabinet of Dumbledore's office in Hogwarts. A stone vessel with runes and symbols carved on it. A “pensieve”. A pensieve works in such a way as to allow one to extract and store memories for later examination. It enables us to examine the memories in a third person view. As it is thermokinetically impossible for me to lay hands on a priceless object like this, I will research Northern Irish literature and film instead. It also often provides firm and solid insight and I will not have to convince elderly Irishmen to assist.
Ireland's literary and cultural tradition is closely bound with the experience of sectarian violence. But are the Troubles all there is to the country's literature? For Edna Longley, the North's most controversial feature is it's unhealthy obsession with the past. On the other hand, Ian McBride said “For national communities, as for individuals, there can be no sense of identity without remembering”. Will remembering be useful in coming to terms with what happened? Or a little collective amnesia just wouldn't be a bad idea? Well, both of them has a valid point for sure, so maybe Axl Rose is the one who is right after all: It will work itself out fine, all we need is just a little patience....