Fearless review: no case is too big, no detail too small

All of this would be easier to process if it didn’t seem so comically accelerated. As unlikely as it seems, this case has not only riven families and a community, its cover-up goes all the way to the top. (Actually, he is more likely a Syrian doctor.) This is one of the problems with the show, though: Banville is glorified for charging heedlessly into a world of murky intrigue, but Fearless hastens after her to shoo away any such ambiguities, as though it was nervously defending its own protagonist. No stranger to controversy, she takes the case and waives her fee over the objections of practically everybody. In these careening political times there is, at least, a hard pulse of distrust towards authority to which this show cannily panders. “Please help us find the truth,” implores the ex-wife of a man jailed for the murder of a teenage girl 14 years ago. Yes, the cover-up implicates the police, an RAF base, and – in the recruitment of two special guest stars who personify Britain’s vexed “special relationship” – Michael Gambon (as some kind of Cambridge don and peer) and Robin Weigert (as some sort of US government spook).  How Banville is expected to get to the bottom of this morass while the show keeps heaping her with character complexities may yet prove her biggest challenge: hard-living and frugal, she is also trying to adopt a child with her partner (a stand-up guy played by actual stand-up comic, John Bishop) while cradling her dying father in hospital. What does Fearless (TV3, Wednesday, 10pm) have to be afraid of? Director Pete Travis’s signature shot is a sudden zoom forward, like a nervous twitch, and that’s similar to how the plot progresses. Even the credits sequence, which so far bear no relation to the show at all, offer solemn credentials towards its political heft: a child walks along a broken wall daubed with hateful images of Thatcher, Blair and Trump. No, Banville is not a publicity hound with poor judgment. The original prosecutor (Wunmi Mosaku) now heads British counter-terrorism, an unenviable task which leaves little time for good acting. The dialogue does not help. Who are the real criminals, right? Filmed in nervous sways and urgent lurches, Fearless evidently wants to be taken very seriously. You have come to the right lawyer. This is already a lost cause, an open and shut case, …

David Grossman wins Man Booker International prize

Delighted to announce our #MBI2017 winner is David Grossman’s A Horse Walks Into a Bar translated by Jessica Cohen – https://t.co/AZQPkQiKfp pic.twitter.com/z441PP3DiC— Man Booker Prize (@ManBookerPrize) June 14, 2017 It was January 1991; by mid-month the Gulf War had broken out and Grossman cancelled his author tour to Britain. The Book of Intimate Grammar: One of Grossman’s great themes is childhood. Marked by war Poverty not war drove Grossman’s family from Europe. Her belief is simple and profound; as long as she walks, he will remain safe. Translated by Betsy Rosenberg. Images of Grossman, not as a famous writer but as an abruptly aged, bereaved father, went around the world. When we resumed our conversation he described the ordeal of wearing a gas mask, “they stink of rubber and make your face sweat”. Grossman had intended to return to London for a round of interviews, pleased The Smile of the Lamb, a more conventional novel than See Under: Love, had been received as a literary work not a polemic. He once told me that he wrote in order to understand but realised it didn’t work that way. Such thinking would appear to place many novels under scrutiny. In 1991, when I was about to interview Grossman at the time of the British publication of his first novel, The Smile of the Lamb, Uri, had only been five years old, one of two small sons, the other called Yonatan. Considering that so many Western novelists have based novels in the camps, it is interesting that Grossman has been reprimanded for doing so. In this novel Aron reverts from leadership of the local boy’s gang into fantasy as his friends abandon imagination and look to adult reality. Its English-language publication had come about because of the international success of See Under: Love in which Grossman had taken the real-life experience of Bruno Schultz, a Polish Jewish writer born in 1892, and placed them in a fantastical recreation of war-time Danzig and appeared to be acknowledging a stylistic debt to Gunter Grass. Translated by Betsy Rosenberg. His mother is Israeli-born, also of Polish parents. The dry earth shifted in the breeze while he delivered a tender eulogy at his son’s graveside and also recited the Jewish prayer of mourning. For him Hebrew is “a playful, flexible, juicy” medium for a writer. All his life Grossman has been a witness and a participant. The …

Man Booker International Prize preview

Now 40, she is single, her sister is decidedly unsupportive, but Sonja decides to fight back and attempts to learn to drive. It is a devastating feat of translation conveying all the menace and ambivalence of the original. Although the only one of the six who most emphatically should not win, and cannot win, Nors has written a book which is impossible to dislike and could leave even the most stony-hearted Grinch (me) with a smile on their face (it did.) Compass by Mathias Enard, translated by Charlotte Mandell Everything you may ever have heard or imagined hearing about French flair comes into play in this delightful confection. A Horse Walks into A Bar by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen Bold, brash, angry and heartbreakingly tender, with flurries of exasperated humour, here is a novel to take one by surprise. The winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction will be announced at 10pm this evening. The central character is Ingrid Barroy, born on the island which bears her name. The subsequent love story between the young man and a world-weary older woman of dangerous appeal may set teeth on edge, but Oz is always worth heeding. Lest we forget: firstly, the current and growing interest in the wealth of international fiction in translation owes a debt to the Dublin International Literary Award which has since 1995 pioneered and consistently showcased international fiction in translation. Equally, each of the six books has been well received; two of the shortlisted authors have been tipped as potential Nobel Prize in Literature laureates. This will be close. I love it. Arabist, scholar of the Middle East and author of cult wonder Zone (2008), Enard’s impossible genius is tempered by his humour. Who should win? Who will win? And to think all she did was to dare to enjoy a country vacation with her small daughter while her husband stayed on in the city, working. His narrator Franz Ritter, an insomniac musicologist, dreamer and unrequited lover, lies in bed, very ill, possibly dying and revisits the time he spent with the love of his life, a tenacious French woman, also a scholar, who pursed knowledge with a deranged intensity. Interested? The Unseen was my Book of the Year last year and it is also included in the forthcoming Irish Times selection of books for Dad on Father’s Day. Can Roy Jacobsen’s …

Corbyn’s grime cred: something exciting is stirring

One of the panellists is writer and broadcaster Stuart Bailie, an experienced hand who has been there, done that and has the John Smedley woollen shirt to back it up. His party may not have won the night, but there’s no doubt about the extent of Jeremy Corbyn’s personal victory. Although hard data is hard to come by regarding turnout and voting intentions (it’s a secret ballot for a reason), the youth factor was certainly to the fore during the campaign in terms of rallies and turnouts. Sensible thinking is always hiding in plain sight. There are still politics in music, says Bailie, although they’re of a different ilk to before. The issues now are equality, LGBTQ rights, racism, sexism, identity politics, mental health, abortion and much more, a wide swathe of different political issues that are deeply embedded in the words and music of many practitioners. We chew the cud over a range of topics, from Van Morrison and Good Vibrations to Sugar Sweet and the Ava festival, which had taken place the previous weekend in the city. Couple this flexing of promotional muscle with the new political edge many musicians are now exploring in their music and you have the stirrings of something exciting. While it may not have been on the same organised scale as the Red Wedge movement of the 1980s, it proved to be far more effective in the final countdown to see and hear directly on social media from people such as Stormzy, Novelist and Jme about why they were backing Corbyn. There’s an observation about how technology is enabling acts to get their music out far from home, a point about the state of venues and audiences in the city and a comment about politics or rather the lack of politics in today’s musical breed. You always know it’s a good night when the contributions from the floor add to rather than subtract from the discussion. It’s the night before the British election, the night before the DUP became the most unlikely queen-makers of the modern age. Tellingly, many grime stars were to the fore in advocating and evangelising for the UK Labour Party leader. Written off and rubbished by allies and enemies alike, Corbyn has demonstrated another way of doing things. It’s a gathering under the Banter umbrella so I’m there to guide the conversation and speak faster than everyone else. In …

Fish Story, a short story by Rick Bass

As if she lived in the darkness, had some secret sanctuary there. We were to have a big barbecue that weekend, and I was given the job of keeping the fish watered and alive until the time came to kill and cook it. I don’t use it, but keep it instead locked away in my drawer, as the fish once kept it locked away in its belly, secret, hidden. The dusty orange sky faded to the cool purple of dusk. “I pay my debts.” He crouched beside the fish and made his first cut lightly around the fish’s wide neck with the long blade as if opening an envelope. “Yes, ma’am,” I said, quietly. She turned her back to the bonfire and lifted that branch with the skin draped over it, and began dancing slowly with the branch, which, we saw now, had outstretched arms like a person, and which, with the fish skin wrapped around it, appeared to be a man wearing a black-silver jacket. I kept watering the fish. I take it out and look at it once every few years, and sometimes wonder at the unseen and unknown and undeclared things that are always leaving us, constantly leaving us, little bit by little bit and breath by breath. Throughout the afternoon, some of the adults who were showing up wandered over to examine the monstrosity. I swear I will,” he said. “Shit,” he said, “I ain’t takin’ no fish home. Don’t let Jack take that fish back.” “I won’t,” I said. I hoped that the fish would die before they began skinning it. Almost immediately, a fine wrinkling appeared on the previously taut gunmetal skin of the fish-a desiccation, like watching a time-lapse motion picture of a man’s or woman’s skin wrinkling as he or she ages, regardless of the man’s or woman’s wishes to the contrary. In watering the fish all day, and into the evening, I had not noticed how many men and women had been gathering. “You don’t talk much, do you?” she asked. “You’ll see. Jack, scowling but saying nothing, tipped his cap at the fish, and walked away. “It’s mine. “Clarabelle wants me to take the fish home,” he said, and seemed to be studying the logistics of the command. “Give it to me or I’ll beat you up.” People at school said he and I looked the same, but we did …

In praise of Jennifer Johnston

When Jerry enlists in the British Army because his family needs the money, Alec impulsively enlists too. Helen retreats from the world through her painting, and avoids all efforts by her son to jolt her into political awareness. Very often in her work the past reshapes the present, and family secrets are shown to be just as damaging as a corrosive political legacy. In Grace and Truth (2005), Johnston writes about incest, a subject rarely broached in Irish literature. Unbeknownst to Joe, Brendan is involved with the IRA and having confided in Kathleen, he panics when he finds out about her boyfriend and disappears. Although set during the second World War, the impact of the Ne Temere decree was felt for many generations in Ireland, and remained a source of resentment for the Protestant community. Her first novel was published in 1972 when she was 42, and since then she has published 18 novels. Her characters are psychologically convincing, even when engaged in self-deception. Her skill as a master storyteller prevents the drama that unfolds from descending into lurid sensationalism. Family secrets Recent work deals with families struggling with secrets in contemporary Ireland. Admission is free and all are welcome to attend and meet the author Laura Quinlan has become emotionally crippled by her father’s sexual abuse. They are Protestant and Catholic, male and female, urban and rural. Alexander Moore, the only child of parents in a loveless marriage, grows up lonely and friendless on his family’s estate in Co Wicklow. Her stories involve characters on both ends of the aging spectrum, from youth and adolescence to old age and inevitable decline. Her character is in many ways reminiscent of the inner-city mother figure featured in Paula Meehan’s poem, The Pattern, who also sublimates her frustrated energies into constant cleaning and scrubbing. The position of the Anglo-Irish in the new independent Ireland is deftly conveyed with poetic symbolism: “Just off the road leading to the Major’s house, the Protestant church crouched like a little old lady, embarrassed at being found some place she had no right to be, behind a row of yew trees. In an act of mercy, Alec privately kills his friend and he in turn is arrested and condemned to die. Born in Dublin in 1930 to the playwright Denis Johnston and the actor and producer Shelah Richards, Johnston was educated at Trinity College Dublin, and lived for …

Yellow, a flash fiction by Nuala O’Connor

We look at each other and smile. I jump high, knocking against the man again, but I miss. ‘Twice the chance,’ Rob hisses, snapping the net like a riding crop. Our Yellow. We run side by side down the corridor, with all the other hopefuls, into the dome. The Yellow’s eyes are clear and bright; it stares at me as if in recognition. ‘Come to me,’ I whisper. Keeping watch on its robust body, I see it gravitate towards me. I see babies high in the roof space, they helicopter and dive. Up ahead I see Rob dip his net under a drifting Blue. Our golden child. I lift my net then let it fall to the floor. Yes, I think, yes. Double the opportunity. At the entrance, a woman hands each of us a net. Yes, yes! We would move as one, four hands on the handle, catching our baby together. I catch the Yellow’s eye and it holds my gaze. It seems unconcerned as it streels across the dome, surveying the waggle of a hundred nets and the anxiety of the would-be parents below. ‘Pink,’ I snarl. One hundred per cent better. Its face is turtlish but it looks strong. Nuala O’Connor’s 13th book, a collection of stories and flash called Joyride to Jupiter, is out now from New Island Books and is launched on July 14th at 6.30pm in the Gutter Bookshop, Temple Bar, Dublin ‘Get fucked!’ the man screams at me and chases the Pink, arcing his net wildly but it meets empty air. We look back at the baby. ‘Stop!’ I shout, waving my arms. Then I see it, executing a cocky glissade above all the Pinks and Blues – a Yellow. If Rob snags a Blue, it is over. The air smells of talc and scalp. I open my arms and the Yellow descends, poised as a hawk. When I imagined this moment, I saw us being given a single net. A Pink with putto thighs flies towards me and I shove past a man and try to net her. We agreed Pink and the rules are clear: one baby per couple. ‘What the hell are you at?’ Rob steps back from the Blue and holds his palms out in surrender. The baby snuggles its head to my breast and Rob is suddenly at my side, placing his hand respectfully on the little one’s …

Fireworks, drowsy swallows and a box clicked shut

Flash, and to a lesser extent short stories, seem to have replaced poetry in my life. While miscarriage has not been a one-off event in my life, sadly, each one has had its own difficulties and effects. The experienced flash reader (and writer) knows that, similar to poetry, a flash story will offer up a moment of oddity or inventiveness that makes the whole piece sing, sting and reverberate. I’ve found though, over the past few years, that when I have a breathing space (when the novel loosens its grip) it’s to short prose forms that I turn. Also in Joyride to Jupiter, in the story Storks, a childless couple drive across Spain and everything Caitríona, the wife, sees brings to mind the series of miscarriages she has suffered. I’ve long been a fan of the small artwork that conceals a multitude: the poetry of Emily Dickinson. In a letter to a friend, WB Yeats wrote that “… a poem comes right with a click like a closing box”. Her ending will resonate; it may be abrupt or ruminative but it should make the reader gasp a little. And I’ve long been a fan of the small artwork that conceals a multitude: the poetry of Emily Dickinson. The concise novellas of Steinbeck and Baricco. Yes, we can see the flash’s perimeters, but the reader should understand that there was a before and there will be an after. Suggestion and omission are the order of good flash. And the writer is lucidly choosing to leave things out and concentrate on a white-hot moment in this character’s life, a unique event. For me the act of writing is closely linked to my overall wellbeing and, therefore, my mental health. I want to feel again the light, heat and brilliance, but I also want to find what I missed, see what treasures are still to be found inside the story and outside of it. The concise novellas of Steinbeck and Baricco Flash revels in concision, in cutting back and honing. But this is a slow gulp, a drowsy swallow, where the reader revels in language and action, rather than rushing past to get to the next bit and the next. The writer of flash learns to be definite and daring, beginning with her title (as readers and writers we must never take titles for granted). The wisps of ideas or inspirations that flit …

Are multimedia performances the future of live classical music?

During three instrumental interludes, when lesser artists might retreat offstage, DiDonato remains a statuesque presence on the platform, her own persona counterpoised by that of choreographer-dancer Manuel Palazzo, and never losing its hold on the audience. Musically speaking, the pairing of DiDonato’s lyric coloratura voice with the Baroque instruments of il pomo d’oro augured well for the developing rapprochement between mainstream and period performance techniques. If there was anything to regret in such vivid sonorities, it was that they could, in three of Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne, get in the way of the gorgeous whipped-cream tones of Japanese soprano soloist Mari Moriya, who reserved her not inconsiderable power of projection for moments when the music called for it. The atmosphere generated in the auditorium – by paragon US mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato backed by Italian early music ensemble il pomo d’oro and a posse of creative collaborators – was scarcely a volt less highly charged. Simultaneously providing an always-discreet continuo at the harpsichord, Russian conductor Maxim Emelyanychev struck a fine balance between dramatic thrust and classical poise, the violin scrubbing of the more martial arias energising but never overworking the delicate gut strings. If not by the weather, you can tell it’s summer when the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra renounces its staple fare of Austro-German and Russian repertory for, in this case, a thoroughly Latinate programme. And some impressive versatility was on display in a stylish cornet solo from Emelyanychev (the Sinfonia from Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di anima e di corpo) and in the beguiling piccolo recorder playing of violinist Anna Fusek (Handel’s Augelletti, che cantanti). Op 27 No 4 (deftly arranged for period band with lute substituting for harp), DiDonato could hardly have forgotten the composer’s well-known Nazi associations. DiDonato’s vision is not Tolstoyan, but rather a series of reflections on two opposed states of being that she powerfully combines within herself as a kind of bipolar allegorical figure. When diverse instruments join forces in unison, each adds to, rather than takes away from, the tone-colour of the others. Titled In War and Peace: Harmony through Music, DiDonato’s programme is already available on CD and has toured across Europe and the US. It was appropriate that last Thursday evening’s audience at the National Concert Hall had made their way there through a heavy electrical storm. The effects are kaleidoscopic. Her judiciousness was especially evident in a treasurable account of Villa-Lobos’s …