This book considers the widespread treatment of traumatic memory in Irish fiction of the past thirty-five years. It focuses on both trauma fiction and the historical novel, and the way certain novelists looked to early events in twentieth-century Irish history to engage the recent political violence in Northern Ireland beginning in 1969.
The novels have at least one narrative strategy in common: characters that suffer traumatically. Individuals witnessing or participating in an act of violence are portrayed as permanently attached to that moment - they are in the grip of their own traumatic history. The sense that history repeats itself, which gnawed at Irish political thought during the 1970s and 1980s, is a central tenet of trauma theory and traumatic experience, and lies at the heart of these novels.
The novelists discussed here are some of the most recognizable names in late twentieth-century Irish fiction, including J. G. Farrell, Julia O'Faolain, William Trevor, Jennifer Johnston, John McGahern, Patrick McCabe and Sebastian Barry.