This chapter suggests that John McGahern's work is in many ways emblematic of an exploration of the condition and reality of the foreign that is lacking in the collections of stories. By surveying the depiction of the foreigner in contemporary Irish fiction, it shows the failure to consider the stranger as anything other than a means to expand upon the state of the Irish nation as increasingly fractured and lost. The chapter also shows how McGahern's novel, That They May Face the Rising Sun, offers ways for us to understand the complexity of exile, migrant existence and homecoming. It argues that the immigrant characters in twenty-first-century Irish literature come from a 'nowhere-in-particular', have no history and are driven by the desire to be assimilated into Irish society, thus absolving the reader from having to engage with their dual existence. The chapter focuses on Julia Kristeva's theories of the stranger.
John McGahern is one of those writers whose work continues to be appreciated across a range of readerships. As a writer who eschewed the notion of himself as 'artist' he addressed his task through a commitment to style, what he called the 'revelation of the personality through language'. McGahern's work began to receive critical attention only from when Denis Sampson's seminal study, Outstaring Nature's Eye: The Fiction of John McGahern was published in 1993. This book focuses on the physical landscape to show how the inadequacy of the State that emerged after 1922 is reflected in the characters' shifting relationship with the landscape, the connection has been made vulnerable through trauma and painful memory. It explores this sense of resentment and disillusionment in McGahern's novels, drawing parallels between the revolutionary memories and McGahern's own family experience. McGahern's All Over Ireland offers a number of fine stories, mostly set in Ireland, and dealing with distinctly Irish themes. He wrote a novel that is an example of openness, compassion and understanding for any form of strangeness. The vision of education and of the shaping of identity found in his writing is not an idiosyncratic one - it is consistent with much of the best thought within the tradition of liberal education. The book provides an intriguing comparison between McGahern and Flannery O'Connor, illustrating how diverse stories share an underlying current of brutality, demonstrating their respective authors' preoccupation with a human propensity towards evil.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on literary works by John McGahern. It includes a collection of Paula Meehan, who was inspired by McGahern in the formative years of her own career, pays homage to McGahern with a poem and a memoir. The book explores the sense of resentment and disillusionment in McGahern's novels, drawing parallels between the revolutionary memories of McGahern's protagonists and McGahern's own family experience. It offers a sociological reading of McGahern's representations of love, courtship and sex. The book provides an intriguing comparison between McGahern and Flannery O'Connor, a chronicler of the deep American South, known for her economical, dead-pan, reportorial style. It considers McGahern's representation of a Protestant family in a small Irish community.