Kavanagh, Behan, and Somerville and Ross brought to life

Kilclief & Other Essays review: Patricia Craig is tuned at the deepest level to the Anglo-Irish voice

Patricia Craig in 2012.  Photograph: Patricia Craig

Patricia Craig in 2012. Photograph: Patricia Craig

Kilclief & Other Essays is the marvellous harvest-home of a lifetime’s reading and reckoning. At once critic and creator, Patricia Craig is what Jorge Luis Borges calls “a complete reader”; and complete readers, he suggests, are even rarer than good writers.

Why Kilclief? Craig was born and brought up in west Belfast, the Falls Road district. Even after living in London for some years, she says, “I never relinquished Belfast as a sobering and assuaging hinterland”. But then came the Troubles, and Belfast (she quotes the city’s great laureate Ciaran Carson) “tore itself apart and patched things up again”. It had become indeed a thing of shreds and patches. By 1976 her parents “had had enough of fear and loathing . . . They had come to crave tranquillity.”

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