HIGH GROUND by John McGahern

HIGH GROUND by John McGahern (hier online bestellen)

The story:
Set in Dublin, in the small towns and fields of the Midlands, and the big houses of the Anglo-Irish, these ten stories explore the painful changes in ordinary lives as Ireland is propelled into the late twentieth century.

Extract from book:

I let the boat drift on the river beneath the deep arch of the bridge, the keel scraping the gravel as it crossed the shallows out from Walsh's, past the boathouse at the mouth, and out into the lake. lt was only the slow growing distance from the ring of reeds round the shore that told that the boat moved at all on the lake. More slowly still, the light was going from the August evening.

I was feeling leaden with tiredness but did not want to sleep. I had gone on the river in order to be alone, the way one goes to a darkroom.

The Brothers' Building Fund Dance had been held the night before. A big marquee had been set up in the grounds behind the monastery. Most of the people I had gone to school with were there, awkward in their new estate, and nearly all the brothers who had taught us: Joseph, Francis, Benedictus, Martin. They stood in a black line beneath the low canvas near the entrance and waited for their old pupils to go up to them. When they were alone, watching us dance, rapid comment passed up and down the line, and often Joseph and Martin doubled up, unable or unwilling to conceal laughter; but by midnight they had gone, and a night of a sort was ours, the fine dust from the floor rising into the perfume and sweat and hair oil as we danced in the thresh of the music.

There was a full moon as I drove Una to her home in Arigna in the borrowed Prefect, the whole wide water of Allen taking in the wonderful mysteriousness of the light. We sat in the car and kissed and talked, and morning was there before we noticed. After the harshness of growing up, a world of love and beauty, of vague gardens and dresses and laughter, one woman in a gleaming distance seemed to be almost within reach. We would enter this world. We would make it true.

I was home just before the house had risen, and lay on the bed and waited till everybody was up, and then changed into old clothes. I was helping my father put a new roof on the house. Because of the tiredness, I had to concentrate completely on the work, even then nearly losing my footing several times between the stripped beams, sometimes annoying my fatherr by handing him the wrong lath or tool; but when evening came the last thing I wanted was sleep. I wanted to be alone, to go over the night, to try to see clearly, which only meant turning again and again in the wheel of dreaming.

'Hi there! Hi! Do you hear me, young Moran!' The voice came with startling clarity over the water, was taken up by the fields across the lake, echoed back. 'Hi there! Hi! Do you hear me, young Moran!'

I looked all around. The voice came from the road. I couldn't make out the figure at first, leaning in a broken gap of the wall above the lake, but when he called again I knew it was Eddie Reegan. Senator Reegan.

'Hi there, young Moran. Since the mountain can't come to Mahomet, Mahomet will have to come to the mountain. Row over here for a minute. I want to have a word with you.'

I rowed very slowlv, watching each oar splash slip away from the boat in the mirror of water. I disliked him, having unconsciously, perhaps, picked up my people's dislike. He had come poor to the place, buying Lynch's small farm cheap, and soon afterwards the farmhouse burned down. At once, a bigger house was built with the insurance money, closer to the road, though that in its turn was due to burn down too, to be replaced by the present mansion, the avenue of Lawson cypresses now seven years old. Soon he was buying up other small farms, but no one had ever seen him work with shovel or with spade. He always appeared immaculately dressed. lt was as if he understood instinctively that it was only the shortest of short steps from appearance to becoming. 'A man who works never makes any money. He has no time to see how the money is made,' he was fond of boasting. He set up as an auctioneer. He entered politics. He married Kathleen Relihan, the eldest of old Paddy Relihan's daughters, the richest man in the area, Chairman of the County Council. 'Do you see those two girls? I'm going to marry one of those girls,' he was reported to have remarked to a friend. Which one?' 'It doesn't matter. They're both Paddy Relihan's daughters'; and when Paddy retired it was Reegan rather than any of his own sons who succeeded Paddy in the council. Now that he had surpassed Paddy Relihan and become a Senator, and it seemed only a matter of time before he was elected to the Dail, he no longer joked about 'the aul effort of a fire', and was gravely concerned about the reluctance of insurance companies to grant cover for fire to dwelling houses in our part of the country. He had bulldozed the hazel and briar from the hills above the lake, and as I turned to see how close the boat had come to the wall I could see behind him the white and black of his Friesians grazing between the electric fences on the far side of the reseeded hill.

I let the boat turn so that I could place my hand on the stone, but the evening was so calm that it would have rested beneath the high wall without any hand. The Senator had seated himself on the wall as I was rowing in, and his shoes hung six or eight feet above the boat.

'It's not the first time I've had to congratulate you, though I'm too high up here to shake your hand. And what I'm certain of is that it won't be the last time either,' he began.

'Thanks. You're very kind,' I answered.
'Have you any idea where you'll go from here?'
'No. I've applied for the grant. lt depends on whether I get the grant or not.' 'What'll you do if you get it?'

'Go on, I suppose. Go a bit farther.....'
'What'll you do then?'
'I don't know. Sooner or later, I suppose, l'll have to look for a job.'
'That's the point I've been coming to. You are qualified to teach, aren't you?'
'Yes. But I've only taught for a few months. Before I got that chance to go to the University.'
'You didn't like teaching?' he asked sharply.
'No.' I was careful. 'I didn't dislike it. lt was a job.'
'I like that straightness. And what I'm looking to know is - if you were offered a very good job would you be likely to take it?'
'What job?'

Source: John McGahern: High Ground, faber&faber, 1985, pp. 92-95

About the author:
Born in Dublin, McGahern spent his childhood in the parish of Aughawillan near Ballinamore county Leitrim until his mother, who was the local primary school teacher, died. He was educated by the Presentation Brothers.The family then moved to Cootehall, county Roscommon to live with their father who was a Garda sergeant in the village. After graduating from University College Dublin, he began his career as a schoolteacher at Scoil Eoin Báiste (Belgrove) primary school in Clontarf where, for a period, he taught the eminent academic Declan Kiberd before turning to writing full-time.

McGahern's novel The Dark was banned in Ireland for its alleged pornographic content and implied clerical sexual abuse. In the controversy over this he was forced to resign his teaching post. He subsequently moved to England where he worked in a variety of jobs before returning to Ireland to live and work on a small farm in Fenagh in County Leitrim, located halfway between Ballinamore and Mohill.
He died from cancer in the Mater Hospital in Dublin on March 30, 2006, aged 71.

HIGH GROUND by John McGahern
Taschenbuch: 160 Seiten
Verlag: Faber and Faber; Auflage: New Ed (18. September 2000)
Sprache: Englisch
ISBN: 057114571X
Preis: € 11,95

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