When Irish Lies Are Beguiling……….. The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien

Mar 5, 2016 | British and Irish Fiction, Reading | 0 comments

In 2012, on the 20th anniversary of the Siege of Sarajevo, the central event of the commemoration was a line of 11 451 empty red chairs which stretched for 800 metres down Marshal Tito Street. The chairs represented the 11 541 victims of the siege of Sarajevo in the first half of the 1990’s. 643 of the chairs were little red chairs – they represented the children killed during the Serbian led-siege of the city. The cruelty and war crimes of that siege provide the backdrop to Edna O’Brien’s brilliant new novel………

……………………………..The Little Red Chairs takes the incomprehensible violence and almost indescribable evil of those who perpetrated those horrific war crimes and places it into the gentle, vulnerable setting of Cloonoila, on the West Coast of Ireland some 15 years later. That eveil arrives in Cloonoila in the shape of ‘Dr Vlad’ playing the part of a ‘self-styled’ faith healer and mystic who quite deliberately seems to bring to mind Rasputin above all others – and just in case you don’t make that connection Edna O’Brien makes sure you don’t miss it by getting one of the villagers to say it out loud. It’s the first of Edna O’Brien’s books I’ve read in many years – she’s always been an author I’ve loved and this is as good as anything she’s ever written.

Initially, Dr Vlad’s arrival in Cloonoila causes a ripple effect among the locals, but it’s a gentle stirring of the waters as he arouses their curiosity, their interest and in some senses their need for the exotic and different as a contrast to the everyday-ness of Clooniola itself. Intrigued and slightly puzzled by him, he draws the locals in partly to his personality and partly to the air of mystery that seems to shroud his arrival, his past and his purpose in settling in their midst. Early attempts to interrogate the stranger and get under the skin of his story get either diverted into talk of football as he does with the local Garda, or into a comic side-show when he’s first apporached by the redoubabtle local nun, Sister Bonaventure, who turns to be as pervious to Dr Vlad’s charms as everyone else when she succumbs to his offer of a hot stone massage. Yet for all the comedy in this scene, there’s that ongoing sinister undercurrent – it’s just that only you the reader can really see it.

Colum McCann on Edna O'Brien.....

She has been the advance scout for the Irish imagination

Phillip Roth on Edna O'Brien.....

“The most gifted woman now writing in English”

The novel unfolds the wake of destruction and devastation in Vlad’s past at the same time as he begins to exert a creeping unnreving influence over the village and its inhabitants, above all his growing involvement with the almost archetypal flawed beauty in the town, Fidelma McBride. A woman in a loveless marriage, further destroyed by miscarriage, Fidelma is ripe for the heady mix of sexuality and mystery that Vlad gives off and she’s soon arranging to meet with him in a local hotel.

It’s the relationship between the two that in some ways gives the novel its scope and range. The dark events in the aftermath of their sexual liaison allow the novel to continue it’s theme of the brooding pervasive sense of evil that eminates from Vlad. As a result, without giving too much away, there’s a trail of destruction behind him in Cloonoila and though it might be of a different order to  the Balkans he leaves  there’s destruction in the aftermath of Vlad’s time in Cloonoila as there is in the aftermath of his  and ensures that future of the Cloonoila power of wakeLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer nec odio. Praesent libero. Sed cursus ante dapibus diam. Sed nisi. Nulla quis sem at nibh elementum imperdiet. Duis sagittis ipsum. Praesent mauris. Fusce nec tellus sed augue semper porta. Mauris massa. Vestibulum lacinia arcu eget nulla. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Curabitur sodales ligula in libero. Sed dignissim lacinia nunc.

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Curabitur tortor. Pellentesque nibh. Aenean quam. In scelerisque sem at dolor. Maecenas mattis. Sed convallis tristique sem. Proin ut ligula vel nunc egestas porttitor. Morbi lectus risus, iaculis vel, suscipit quis, luctus non, massa. Fusce ac turpis quis ligula lacinia aliquet. Mauris ipsum. Nulla metus metus, ullamcorper vel, tincidunt sed, euismod in, nibh. Quisque volutpat condimentum velit.

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