‘Nightfall’ by Daniel Corkery

Nightfall by Daniel Corkery, 1929

The magic trick:

Using a summary introduction to create a feeling of beginning and end for the character of Reen

Interesting story today. There are a lot of things that I simply don’t understand; themes and conflicts that I get the sense are very specific to the Irish post-World War I experience. It’s a story that features a character with a beginning and an end – an émigré who doesn’t know that his end has come and gone. Now he’s back home in Ireland, and the transition isn’t going smoothly.

The story itself is separated into three sections, started with a brief intro. It’s that intro that really makes things work. We get a succinct summary of the Reen’s life in New Zealand. It’s tidy, neat. It definitely sets the scene that this is a man out of time. Even if you don’t know the ins and outs of Irish history, you can still appreciate the complications here. And that’s quite a trick on Corkery’s part.

The selection:

His name was Reen, but they called him the Colonial: their way of pronouncing the word, however, could not easily be set down here. They had never used it, scarcely overheard it until the newspapers during the Great War had dinned it into their ears. In New Zealand he had lived his many years. There he had landed in his young manhood, toiled upwards, found himself a wife, built his household, in course of years married off his three sons and his two daughters, all to the wrong people, it seemed; there at last he had buried his wife, upon which he had thrown in his hand, sold off everything, and made straight back to the rocks and the fields of his boyhood. Without warning one summer afternoon he drove into his sister’s house in West Cork, a man still hardy, if grey-haired, erect enough, bright-eyed, and with the firm voice and free ways of one who had not won through without sweat and bitterness.

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