‘Cangled both to treachery’
Eugene McCabe’s Death and Nightingales
in The Judas kiss
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A range of circumstances contrived to position Northern Ireland at the centre of Irish political history in the latter part of the twentieth century; those same circumstances ensured that the issue of betrayal would feature time and again as a crucial trope in discursive engagements with that part of the island. Eugene McCabe’s novel represents one such engagement. Set on a farm on the shore of Lower Lough Erne in County Fermanagh in May 1883, Death and Nightingales is a story in which political betrayal is shadowed and to an extent mirrored by interpersonal treachery. This is a novel in which characters betray themselves and each other throughout; at the same time, each character is aware, to a greater or lesser extent, of inhabiting a political landscape in which the idea of betrayal – both historical and contemporary – features powerfully. One of the things Eugene McCabe looks to explore in this book (as indeed in all his writing) is the relationship between these two levels of experience.

The Judas kiss

Treason and betrayal in six modern Irish novels


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