Negotiating Texts and Contexts in Contemporary Irish Studies
Chapter Eight ‘Guests (Geists) of the Nation’: A Heimlich (Unheimlich) Manoeuvre 133
Chapter Eight ‘Guests (Geists) of the Nation’: A Heimlich (Unheimlich) Manoeuvre At dusk the big Englishman, Belcher, would shift his long legs out of the ashes and say, ‘well, chums, what about it?’ and Noble or me would say, ‘All right chum’ (for we had picked up some of their curious expres- sions), and the little Englishman, Hawkins, would light the lamp and bring out the cards. Sometimes Jeremiah Donovan would come up and supervise the game and get excited over Hawkins’ cards, which he always played badly, and shout at him as if he was one of our own, ‘Ah, you divil you, why didn’t you play the tray?’ — O’Connor 1985, 172 Thus begins Frank O’Connor’s story, ‘Guests of the Nation’. This story is about the war of independence and an imaginary action in which two English soldiers, Hawkins and Belcher, are being held in a gentle form of captivity by two members of the IRA, Bonaparte and Noble. From the outset, any form of racial, political or ideological enmity between the captors and their captives is dissolved: ‘I never in my short experience seen two men take to the country as they did’ (O’Connor 1985, 173). The feelings towards the Englishmen would seem to set this story in the genre of honourable comradeship – the notion that war is a form of advanced game and when chaps are not fighting, they can show each other mutual respect and treat each other decently: as chums – it all seems...
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