Gerry Smyth
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‘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.

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The Judas kiss

Treason and betrayal in six modern Irish novels


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