Saturday, June 6, 2020

the last book I ever read (Patrick Radden Keefe's Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, excerpt nineteen)

from Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe:

In 2016, the Abbey Theatre, in Dublin, premiered a provocative new play by the East Belfast playwright David Ireland called Cyprus Avenue. It is a scabrous black comedy, the story of a Belfast loyalist named Eric Miller. His daughter has recently given birth to a baby girl, but Eric is seized by a mad delusion: he thinks that the baby looks like Gerry Adams. At first, this is played for a joke. Eric asks his daughter whether the Sinn Féin president is not in fact the father of her child. At one point, when he is alone with the baby, he takes a big magic marker and scribbles a black beard onto the child’s cheeks. “The Gerry Adams beard is part and parcel of the Gerry Adams persona,” Eric points out. “It symbolizes his revolutionary ardor, his passion for constitutional change. And now as it whitens it cements his status as éminence grise, aging philosopher king.

Eric was played by Stephen Rea. He had worked steadily since the death of his ex-wife, in film and in theater, and had still not spoken in any substantial way about the life or legacy of Dolours Price. But now he was playing a man who is undone by his own obsessions with Gerry Adams. Eric’s delusion intensifies, and Adams seems to represent, for him, all that threatens his identity as a Belfast Protestant and as a loyalist. He comes to believe that the baby actually is Gerry Adams. When he encounters a loyalist gunman named Slim in a local park, Eric confides, “I think that Gerry Adams has disguised himself as a new-born baby and successfully infiltrated my family home.

Slim, without skipping a beat, replies, “That’s exactly the kind of thing he’d do!”

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