The book currently on my bedside table is MILKMAN by Anna Burns, which won last year’s Booker Prize. It’s a stylistically virtuosic and intelligent read, and its take on the Troubles is fresh and, I think, incredibly powerful. The book’s narrator is almost compulsively non-specific – even the closest to her are simply “ma” or “brother-in-law” or “nearly-boyfriend” – and her engagement with the troubles is equally cloudy. Burns writes of the “community across the street”, “country across the sea”, her haziness speaks of a forgetfulness, and a hollowing out of a once political struggle.
While an earlier generation’s task is an in-depth dissection of the troubles with an aim of arbitration, to attribute right and wrong, for Burns (and many people of her generation I think), sectarianism and violence have lost their weight, they are merely forms, rote, learned behaviours and attitudes, emptied out of any real meaning and to be left in the past.