Eugene O’Brien
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The cultural unconscious of the Celtic Tiger in the writings of Paul Howard
in From prosperity to austerity
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Eugene O'Brien argues that the cultural unconscious of the Celtic Tiger is to be found in the humorous narratives of Paul Howard and his fictional Celtic Tiger cub, Ross O'Carroll-Kelly. Freud has noted that ‘the realm of jokes has no boundaries’ and it is in humour that the repressed Lacanian ‘Real’ of the Celtic Tiger can be made to return. The satirical depiction of gross over-development of property, conspicuous consumption and illegal business deals captures what could be seen as the essence of this period far better than socio-economic or legal documentation, which are never able to access the lived, felt experience. This chapter traces the connections between the hilarious events of the stories and the actual parallel events of the Celtic Tiger, and makes the point that Ross is very much a synecdoche for the reality of this period, as when it is revealed that there is ‘a hundred grand missing’ from Ross and Sorcha‘s current account, it is Ross who says ‘I, er…well, I bought a couple of apartments. In Bulgaria’. Here the casual ease with which property, the ultimate commodity fetish of a certain class of people during this period, is bought, encapsulates, more than any government report, the ‘real’ of this time.

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From prosperity to austerity

A socio-cultural critique of the Celtic Tiger and its aftermath


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