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Outlaws and SpiesLegal Exclusion in Law and Literature$
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Conor McCarthy

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474455930

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474455930.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Unanswered Questions: Ciaran Carson

Unanswered Questions: Ciaran Carson

(p.159) 6 Unanswered Questions: Ciaran Carson
Outlaws and Spies

Conor McCarthy

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines themes of surveillance, uncertainty, identity, and political violence in the work of Ciaran Carson. If Carson's Belfast poems, written during the Northern Ireland Troubles, have something of a journalistic aspect, they also contain the motifs of surveillance and interrogation paired with uncertainty and doubt. Carson revisits some of these themes in three post-Troubles works. The mirroring sonnet sequences of For All We Know play with the archetypes of spy narrative. The poems are full of dressing up, disguising, cross-dressing, but when you take on a false identity, these poems ask, who are you then? What does uncertainty mean in the aftermath of conflict, when so many unanswered questions remain? And in the context of so many false witnesses, where might truth, or justice, be found? In The Pen Friend, both the realities and possibilities of collusion between security forces and paramilitaries during the Northern Ireland Troubles find an echo in the explosion at the heart of Carson’s novel. Finally, Exchange Place gives us a fantastical take on surveillance, uncertainty, and questions of identity, with a whiff of espionage, in a novel that leaves us, again, with unanswered questions.

Keywords:   Ciaran Carson, Northern Ireland, Troubles, Surveillance, Spies, Espionage, Terrorism, Collusion, Uncertainty

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