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Showing posts from July 21, 2019

Anna Burns' Milkman and the Role of Proper names in all histories, sacred or profane

Burns begins her novel with an utter spoiler of a sentence that pretty much states the case: The day Somebody McSomebody put a gun to my breast and called me a cat and threatened to shoot me was the same day the milkman died. He had been shot by one of the state hit squads and I did not care about the shooting of this man.  Fleshed out, this means that the novel follows a parallel between the events that befall the narrator as she is sexually stalked by a reputed IRA honcho and the events that have befallen Belfast itself in the years of the “troubles”, especially in her Ardoyne neighborhood in Belfast, which is Catholic and working class.  But here I run into a wee problem, because even if I could sum up the book like this, I would have to admit the fact that nowhere does the book mention Belfast or Northern Ireland or the British or  the IRA. All those names are blocked, all those names are not here. Somebody McSomebody is here, but his name is not here. The milkman is here,