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Ronan Bennett, 11 February 1993

by Oriana Fallaci, translated by James Marcus.
Chatto, 599 pp., £15.99, November 1992, 0 7011 3835 1
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... Set in Beirut in the early Eighties, Oriana Fallaci’s novel opens at the moment when, on the morning of 23 October 1983, an Islamic Jihad militant drove a truck laden with explosives into the headquarters of the US contingent of the Multinational Force (MNF). A second suicide bomber attacked the French military base at the same time. Altogether more man three hundred servicemen were killed ...


Ronan Bennett: My Father, 9 July 1992

... In Queen’s University, Belfast, in the Department of English, there is a plaque to a student who graduated in 1954. He was an outstanding student – brilliant, in the opinion of some of his tutors, and he had a great career ahead of him. On graduation he won a scholarship to Oxford to begin his doctoral research on the Metaphysical poets. He was my father ...


Ronan Bennett: The IRA Ceasefire, 22 September 1994

... I am listening to the radio, only half awake. Some hammy old actor is camping it up in one of those overblown plays about the ‘Troubles’. In tones of high theatricality he sets the sinister scene: the Falls Road, Belfast, just after midnight; one of the most dangerous corners in Europe if you happen to be unaccompanied and of the wrong religion ...


Ronan Bennett, 16 December 1993

De Valera: Long Fellow, Long Shadow 
by Tim Pat Coogan.
Hutchinson, 772 pp., £20, October 1993, 9780091750305
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... We know all about Republican violence, about its worst excesses; in Britain, some people, maybe even most, know what the initials IRA stand for. I wonder how many could name the principal Loyalist organisations, still less distinguish between them. You could say that there has been little reason for the average Londoner to get acquainted with the world of Loyalist terror: the UFF do not bomb the City, the UVF don’t shoot policemen ...

Not Telling

Ronan Bennett, 23 September 1993

The Blue Afternoon 
by William Boyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 324 pp., £14.99, September 1993, 1 85619 366 7
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... Love story and murder mystery, The Blue Afternoon is full of puzzles. First: why ‘blue’ afternoon? It’s not just the afternoon, there are so many spots of blue throughout the novel it becomes a cyan wash. In the first few pages we are told that the sign outside the house designed by K.L. Fisher, architect, is small and blue; in her room there is a ‘blue and yellow Gertrud Arndt rug’; she gets a powerful urge to swim in the ‘overchlorinated blue’ of her building’s pool, where a woman sunbathes ‘in a cobalt two-piece’; and, at the end of the book, we learn that Fischer ‘loved too, once; my blue baby, Coleman ...


Ronan Bennett: Being Irish in New York, 6 April 1995

... Bainbridge Avenue in the Bronx, they assured us, would be ‘like Galway on a Saturday night’. I assumed this meant the place would be teeming with Irish people, hearty and green, enjoying a good night out. A vision leapt unbidden to mind, embarrassing in its insistence and sentimentality, of a prelapsarian Ireland, the Ireland of The Quiet Man, of fresh-faced cailins and freckle-faced lads, soft brogues, mischievous matchmakers, innocent fun, uileann pipes, sea-wind in the hair ...

What happened at Ayacucho

Ronan Bennett, 10 September 1992

Shining Path: The World’s Deadliest Revolutionary Force 
by Simon Strong.
HarperCollins, 274 pp., £16.99, June 1992, 0 00 215930 9
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Shining Path of Peru 
edited by David Scott Palmer.
Hurst, 271 pp., £12.95, June 1992, 1 85065 152 3
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Peru under Fire: Human Rights since the Return of Democracy 
compiled by Americas Watch.
Yale, 169 pp., £12.95, June 1992, 0 300 05237 5
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... Travelling in the Andean highlands of Peru some thirty years ago, Peter Matthiessen observed a group of drunken Quechua Indians. ‘In this state the Quechua looks more slack-jawed and brutish than the most primitive man imaginable.’ The Indians were ‘rife with hatreds and resentments ... But they are so subdued by their own poverty, and by their failure to realise how very numerous they are, that a Quechua revolution, while one day inevitable, remains remote ...

Out of the Pound Loney

Ronan Bennett: The demonising of Gerry Adams, 5 March 1998

Man of War, Man of Peace? The Unauthorised Biography of Gerry Adams 
by David Sharrock and Mark Devenport.
Macmillan, 488 pp., £16.99, November 1997, 0 333 69883 5
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... Shortly after the 1994 IRA ceasefire, the New Statesman ran a cartoon depicting Gerry Adams as a reptilian protohuman emerging from a primordial sea to take his first trepid step on the long evolutionary walk from terrorist godfather to constitutional politician. To judge from this biography, the Sinn Féin leader still has some way to go. According to David Sharrock and Mark Devenport, Adams is a ruthless, scheming hypocrite who talks peace in front of the cameras, but in private continues to plot death and misery ...

The Party and the Army

Ronan Bennett, 21 March 1996

... Shortly after the Canary Wharf bomb, John Major, speaking in the House of Commons, said: ‘As for the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA, I think that they are both members one of another.’ Sinn Fein, he continued, would now have to decide whether it wanted to be a constitutional party or continue as a front for the IRA. Ignoring renewed protestations from Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness that Sinn Fein is separate from the IRA, that it is a political party with a democratic mandate from its voters, most politicians and observers have, like Major himself, accepted almost without question the Unionist formulation: Sinn Fein/IRA ...

Marching Orders

Ronan Bennett: The new future of Northern Ireland, 30 July 1998

... The monolith’s full name was the Ulster Unionist Party, but its position as the dominant voice of Northern Irish loyalism was such that, for most of its history, those running in its interest needed only to declare themselves ‘the Unionist candidate’. The Party’s roots were in an all-Ireland Unionist coalition which came into being in the mid-1880s in response to the rise of Parnell’s Home Rule Party ...

During Her Majesty’s Pleasure

Ronan Bennett, 20 February 1997

... In Well Street, Hackney, shortly before midnight on 11 February 1982, Terry McCluskie and his friend Raymond Reynolds picked a fight with a total stranger, Robert Ford, and stabbed him to death. Ford was 15 years old and had just taken his girl-friend home after spending an evening at a local Citizens’ Band radio club. McCluskie, also 15, and Reynolds, 14, had spent the evening drinking and were on their way to a chip shop when they ran into their victim ...

Criminal Justice

Ronan Bennett, 24 June 1993

... by Gerry Conlon (Hamish Hamilton, 1990) Stolen Years: Before and After Guildford by Paul Hill with Ronan Bennett (Doubleday, 1990) Time Bomb: Irish Bombers, English Justice and the Guildford Four by Grant McKee and Ros Franey (Bloomsbury, 1988) Trial and Error: The Maguires, the Guildford Pub Bombings and British Justice by Robert Kee (Hamish ...

Star-Crossed in the Congo

Mark Hudson: Ronan Bennett, 20 August 1998

The Catastrophist 
by Ronan Bennett.
Headline, 313 pp., £14.99, July 1998, 9780747222101
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... say, a romance between journalists and the visionary overtones of The Year of Living Dangerously. Ronan Bennett’s novel sets out to be precisely these things, and much else besides. The cover invokes Graham Greene’s name twice in praise for Bennett’s previous novels. Initially, the book’s ...

Halifax hots up

Colin Burrow: Writing (and reading) charitably, 21 October 2004

Havoc, in Its Third Year 
by Ronan Bennett.
Bloomsbury, 244 pp., £16.99, September 2004, 0 7475 6249 0
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... who likes to stay with what he knows,’ James Gillespie, the persistently apolitical hero of Ronan Bennett’s third novel, The Catastrophist (1998), says. Gillespie, now a novelist, was once a historian. In his PhD he had argued that ‘the great political and religious upheavals of the 16th century owed little to ideological or doctrinal ...


Andrew O’Hagan: A City of Prose, 4 August 2005

... the continuing triumph of the market, but its failure.’ And it was into those same rooms that Ronan Bennett came with one of the longest pieces ever published in a single issue of this paper, a report on the civil and legal injustices perpetrated by the state in its desperate pursuit of those guilty of the Guildford bombings. Argument in the long run ...

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