Category: Archive

U.S. novelist is subject of Kerry ‘fatwa’

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Booker Prize-nominated writer Brian O’Doherty is following is sharing the experience of many famous Irish authors with his novel being roundly condemned by a politician who called for its banning and a Muslim-style "fatwa" against him.

Kerry councilor Michael Healy-R’, a son of the Independent TD whose vote is helping keep the government in power, attacked the U.S.-based author’s novel, "The Deposition of Fr. McGreevy", after he was given a 29 pages of extracts to read.

"It’s a shocking, disgusting book, full of absolute, sheer nonsense," Healy-R’ said. "We’re talking about men running around fields with their trousers down round their ankles and they’re trying to catch up with sheep.

"That’s the picture and that’s the description that this man is giving of being an example of West Kerry. I think that’s an insult. The rest of the book concentrates mainly on sheep, murder and madness in West Kerry."

Healy-R’ said the book had been classified as a "masterpiece" in the U.S. and he was most upset because he thought it likely that O’Doherty would emerge as the Booker winner next month and this would increase sales.

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"It is my honest opinion, the book should be banned," said Healy-R’, who admitted he had not read all of the 323-page novel.

Much of the novel is set in Kerry 50 years ago and deals with the demise of an isolated village.

The priest, Fr. McGreevy, struggles to cope with insoluble problems while battling against the rough mountain elements, the grief and superstitions of his people, and the growing distrust of the town below.

An O’Doherty appeared on a RTE program with the councilor from the Kingdom. After O’Doherty said Kerry was a magical place, Healy-R’ reconsidered his fatwa.

O’Doherty said there was only one "poor, demented fellow" in the book who had a relationship with a sheep. He was out of his mind after being hit on the head with a stone.

The author said his grandfathers on both sides came from small farms in Clare and Northern Ireland and the book mainly dealt with the hardships of making a living on smallholdings 50 or 60 years ago.

"It’s been said to me that the book honors rural Ireland," O’Doherty said. "It honors the way of life that was full of hardship and difficulty in which people heroically made a living in very difficult circumstances."

He said he expected bad reviews in Ireland. "I think that people feel that in some way or other than I am letting down the side," he said. "That I am exposing Ireland, and an Ireland that they think doesn’t exist any more, to ridicule.

"That’s a great tradition in Irish letters from Synge on."

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