Fresh Perspectives on Irish Literature
Edited By Paddy Lyons and Alison O'Malley-Younger
These shifts in culture have given Irish literature the opportunity to look afresh at its own past and, thereby, new perspectives have also opened for Irish Studies. The contributors to this volume explore these new openings; the essays examine writings from both now and the past in the new frames afforded by new times.
José Lanters ‘Nothing Is Ever Arrived At’: Otherness and Representation in Colum McCann’s Zoli 31
‘Nothing Is Ever Arrived At’: Otherness and Representation in Colum McCann’s Zoli José Lanters Like its predecessor Dancer, Colum McCann’s fourth novel Zoli (2006) is loosely based on the biography of a real person: the Polish ‘Gypsy’ poet Bronisława Wajs (c. 1910–1987), better known as Papusza (‘doll’). Papusza’s fictional counterpart in the novel, Marienka ‘Zoli’ Novotna, is a Slovakian Rom whose life, like that of her alter ego, is deeply and adversely affected by policies implemented against her people by the Nazi and Communist regimes. In interviews, McCann is often asked about his fascination with ‘Otherness’ in his work, as the characters he chooses to write about are almost invariably racially and culturally far removed from his own white middle class Dublin background. Postcolonial theorists like Abdul JanMohamed have indicated the fundamental problem inherent in the attempt to ‘write the Other’ by arguing that a genuine understanding of Otherness ‘entails in practice the virtually impossible task of negat- ing one’s very being, precisely because one’s culture is what formed that being’ ( JanMohamed, 1985: 65). McCann, however, argues that writers do not ‘speak for people’, but ‘with them’ (Welch, 2006), and remains largely unapologetic about exploring different cultures and ethnicities in his work. Indeed, he is careful to acknowledge that he inevitably writes from his own cultural perspective, even when creating characters from a different background: ‘Zoli is an Irish novel. How can it be anything else? I’m an Irish writer’ (Hayes, 2006). Conscious that he did not, as...
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