Atlantic Books (2011), 216 pages
Central Library, Borrowed
Tomorrow I’m going to a talk in the Dublin Writers’ Festival featuring two Irish writers and two South Korean writers. The two Irish writers are Colin Barrett and Christine Dwyer Hickey The two Korean writers are Jeong Mi-kyeong and Lee Kiho. I know nothing about Korean literature but was unable to find either Korean writers’ books in a Dublin library. I did manage to get a copy of The Cold Eye of Heaven so I could familiarise myself with another author I know nothing about.
The Cold Eye of Heaven begins with the protagonist, Farley, possibly dying on a toilet floor. The book starts in the Dublin of 2010 and then each chapter works back a decade in Farley’s life. This unusual structure inverts the usual memoir form. The influence of James Joyce looms over this book and that’s not a bad thing. There is the sense of paralysis of Dubliners, the coming of age tales of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and the walking around Dublin of Ulysses.
As the reader goes back into Farley’s life we find that he has failed to move beyond major incidents in his life, especially the death of his wife. Farley invested much of his life in his job but when he retires he is childless and alone. Also, for various reasons, he has missed out on major events that act as cultural reference points for the rest of Irish society such as the trial of Catherine Nevin, the Irish victory over Romania in the 1990 World Cup, or the visit of Richard Nixon to Dublin. Farley’s story is a sad one but Hickey tells it with humour and insight. The Cold Eye of Heaven is a warning to live your life to the fullest before death snatches you away.