Linnane in London By Kieran Furey Self Published by the author (2009)
By Kieran Furey
Self Published by the author (2009)
Review by Jack Little, UK/Mexico (Published in issue 18).
Linnane in London is a strange book bringing together poetry and prose in an autobiographical (perhaps) analysis of Irish builders who emigrated to London in the 1980s. What is remarkable about the book is how Furey began his quest to explore the life of Irish workers as a young man in London for several months, never quite fitting in: the intellectual and the writer who could never quite pull his weight among the burly and hard drinking labourers of the Irish London community, always dreaming of returning home to Ireland with some hard earned cash to buy a home and pub.
Furey brings to life the inner struggle of the Irishman abroad tackling sectarianism with wit and sadness. When Linnane first reaches London he finds the following pronouncement scribbled across the lockers of his shabby rented room:
ROTTEN FUCKING BASTARDS. BLACK TANS. THE GAS CHAMBER IS THE PLACE FOR YOU. I HAVE TO PAY FOR MY ROOM. I WANT NO BASTARDS WATCHING. GAS THE BRITISH. HITLER WAS RIGHT.
The second little epistle was briefer, more enigmatic:
I WIL…I WIL BRE… THE RUSSIANS WOUL…
Furey brings the characters and people whom he meets with gruff and grisly language, real working men with real dreams and tough lives, content to drink and work and repeat the cycle for a lifetime. An example of one of the lighter anecdotes of the books (discounting IRA knee-cappings and British army shootings) Jimmy and Sean are two of Linnane’s close co-workers, although on Linnane’s departure he himself is forgotten, thus is the transient life of the working Irishman abroad. Here is an example of these two tough guys at the time of lent:
Jimmy and Sean influenced each other greatly when it came to smoking and drinking, with the former usually leading the way. When he gave up beer and cigarettes at the beginning of Lent, Sean followed suit, pointing out, however, that he wasn’t doing it for religious reasons, but because he wanted to save enough money to visit Ireland in the summer. John Joe, who had no intention of going without any of his pleasures, commented drily that there were worse habits than fags and booze a man could give up if we were that way inclined.
The variety of characters and persons that Linnane meets on his journey throughout the construction areas of London is astounding, all with fascinating and varied life stories.
This sad and at various time humorous book seems to explore a “truth” of what it means to be human, especially from a working class perspective of them and us. The construction workers are always at odds with the contractors, other construction workers and nature as cold and ice battles throughout the day and only a cup of tea offers some respite (apart from the long night’s drinking sessions throughout the weekend). That isn’t to say that Linnane has a battle to fight with the rich: “Paddy was a man well used to liking it and lumping it; to taking whatever was dished out to him”. The love hate relationship of the Irish and British is discussed hilariously throughout the book. They are from two different worlds.
Linnane’s search for truth exams corruption, greed and what it means to be British. A fantastic example of this is the poem, Paddy The, in which the irony cannot go unnoticed.
Paddy the Irishman is waiting
To get the fourth green field back.
Paddy the Welshman is waiting
For King Arthur to come back.
Paddy the Scotch man is waiting
For his ball of malt out back.
Paddy the Australian is waiting
On tables in the outback.
Paddy the Englishman
Is waiting for an absent joke to come back.
A note about the author, Kieran Furey is an interesting fellow. A prolific and talented writer who is relatively unknown compared to his talent, he seems to shy away from publishing companies in favour of self-publishing his own work. It seems unfair that his work isn’t better known than it is but this seems to be in part to Furey’s own shy nature or maybe something else, perhaps a political ideal or perhaps something more related “truth”. This “slice of life hacked out with a shovel” is a must read, a fascinating insight into what it means to Irish, what it means to be British and what it means to be human.
To purchase the book, contact Kieran diurectly by email at: [email protected] You can get a copy of this book for just ten euros plus postage. Highly recommended.