The House of Mourning and other stories, Desmond Hogan
Prenant pour prétexte le challenge Mai en nouvelles, j’ai sorti de mon e-PAL le recueil de Desmond Hogan, un auteur que je ne connaissais pas avant de lire un article qui le présentait comme « un des auteurs les plus prometteurs de sa génération (Colm Tóibín, Colum McCann et Joyce Carol Oates voient en lui l’un des plus grands écrivains irlandais contemporains) ».
Problème de timing, d’humeur (mai a été émotionnellement éprouvant), de concentration... ?
Toujours est-il que ce qui s’annonçait comme une belle découverte s’est terminé en fiasco. Impossible d’entrer dans l'univers d'Hogan et l’Irlande de l’après-guerre. J’ai lu près de la moitié des nouvelles du recueil sans jamais me sentir réellement concerné par ce que je lisais, presque mécaniquement.
Je dois pourtant reconnaître que par moments, j’ai été saisi par la sensualité qui se dégage des textes. Mais en dehors de ça, excepté The Mourning Thief, j’aurais bien du mal à résumer chacune des nouvelles que j’ai lues (The last time / The mourning thief / Memories of Swinging London / A marriage in the country / Ties / Miles / Martyrs / Winter swimmers / Caravans).
J’ai donc stoppé à mi-course, mais je ne désespère pas reprendre ma lecture ultérieurement. D’ailleurs, peut-être ferais-je mieux d'assurer le coup en commençant par lire un des deux romans d'Hogan traduits en français...
Susan went to bed early now, complaining of fatigue, and Gerard and Liam were left with one another.
Though both were obviously male they were lovers, lovers in a tentative kind of way, occasionally sleeping with one another. It was still an experiment but for Liam held a matrix of adolescent fantasy. Though he married at twenty-two, his sexual fantasy from adolescence was always homosexual.
Susan could not complain. In fact it rather charmed her. She’d had more lovers since they’d married than fingers could count; Liam would always accost her with questions about their physicality; were they more satisfying than him?
But he knew he could count on her; tenderness between them had lasted six years now.
"The Mourning Thief"
‘[...]. We were weaned on violence, me and others of my age. Not actual violence but always with a reference to violence. Violence was right, we were told in class. How can one blame those now who go out and plant bombs to kill old women when they were once told this was right?’
The dying man became angry. He didn’t look at Liam, looked beyond him to the street.
‘The men who fought in 1916 were heroes. Those who lay bombs in cafés are scum.’
Betrayed he was silent then, silent because his son accused him on his deathbed of unjustifiably resorting to bloodshed once. Now guns went off daily, in the far-off North. Where was the line between right and wrong? Who could say? An old man on his deathbed prayed that the guns he’d fired in 1916 had been for a right cause and in the words of his leader Patrick Pearse had not caused undue bloodshed.
"The Mourning Thief"
Miles was an orphan, always an orphan, always made to feel like an orphan. He was, through childhood and adolescence, rejected by his cousins with whom he lived, both male and female, rejected for his beauty. Nancy-Boy they called him. Sop. Sissy. Pansy. Queer, Gay-Boy, Bum-Boy. The ultimate name—Snowdrop. His enemy cousins took to that name most, considering it particularly salacious and inventive. Miles was none of these things. He looked unusually pretty for a boy. The names for him and the brand of ostracization gave him a clue as to his direction in life though. He found an easy entrance into the world of modelling. He was hoisted gracefully into that world you could say. At seventeen Miles had his face right bang on the front of magazine covers. He’d become an aura, a national consciousness arrangement in his own right. This success allowed him to have a flat of his own and, supreme revenge, wear suits the colour of the undersides of mushrooms down the Liberties. Miles sometimes had the blank air of a drifting, unpiloted boat in these suits in the Liberties.
Miles would start losing his soul that summer, if soul you could call it; his sensitivity, vulnerability, belief in something. Walsingham and Wells-next-the-Sea would have been the last stops for his openness.
Desmond Hogan - The House of Mourning and other stories (Dalkey Archive Press, 2013)