The narrative of Past Habitual roams through experiences both commonplace and formative; childhood play, scarlet fever, a first kiss, befriending a Nazi spy, all under the uneasy canopy of wartime Ireland. Voices move with ease from that of a young child to a German immigrant, IRA member to colloquial chatter, forming a web of interactions that lay out a century’s tensions both thoughtfully and provocatively. Accounts given through newspaper stories, military statements, anecdotes, memories of the dead, and gossip are of questionable factitiousness but nevertheless absorbing. Alf MacLochlainn’s style shifts between traditional prose, poetry, monologue and musical depiction, catching the reader unawares, referencing everything from conkers to anthropometrics, marbles to the IRA, fixing a flat tire to the Holocaust. Both recollection and memoir, fiction and fact, Past Habitual is an engaging and fascinating depiction of Ireland struggling through the effects of both a distant war, and another on her doorstep.
Publication: Irish Literature Series
Number of pages: 144
Publication date: April 2015
List price: $13.95