Us and Them: A Vision of Heroes on the Move in John McGahern’s Fiction

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Abstract

Current explorations of migration in fiction focus on innovative perspectives, linking memory and trauma with the concepts of exile and conflict. Personal memories ask for an understanding of what belonging and identity represent for the Irish; immigration has hybrid and fertile links to memory studies, psychology and psychoanalysis (Akhtar), making the immigrant both love and hate his new territory, while returning to the past or homeland to reflect and regain emotional balance. From the focus on ‘the sexy foreigner’ (Beltsiou), we rely on the idea of crisis discussed by León Grinberg and Rebeca Grinberg, Frank Summers’ examination of identity, the place of the modern polis and the variations of the narrative (Phillips), the trans-generational factor (Fitzgerald and Lambkin), the departure seen as an exile (Murray and Said) and the impact of guilt (Wills).

Such views support an analysis of McGahern’s writing which works as a blend of memories and imagination, the writer highlighting dilemmas, success and failure as ongoing human threads. They are as diverse as the people met by the novelist in his youth, many of them being workers, nurses, entrepreneurs, teachers and writers, both young immigrants in search of a better life and migrants returning to spend their retirement or holidays home.

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