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Cal (1983)

af Bernard MacLaverty

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Skildring fra den nordirske borgerkrig af et håbløst kærlighedsforhold mellem en katolsk modstandsmand og en protestantisk pige.
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Der junge Katholik Cal lebt zum Höhepunkt des Nordirland-Konflikts in einem protestantischen Wohnviertel und erlebt das Misstrauen und den Hass zwischen den Konfessionen am eigenen Leib. Doch auch Cal iselbst ist kein unbeschriebenes Blatt: Wenngleich zunehmend widerwillig, fungiert er bei Anschlägen und Geldbeschaffungsaktionen der I.R.A. als Fahrer. Schließlich verliebt er sich in die Witwe eines Opfers, was sein Leben endgültig aus den Fugen bringt.

Bernard MacLaverty hat mit "Cal" ein großartiges Sittenbild Nordirlands in den frühen 80ern geschaffen. Der Roman trägt viel zum Verständnis des Nordirland-Konfliktes bei, ist aber mehr als ein Buch über die sogenannten "Troubles". "Cal" ist ebenso eine Charakterstudie des Hauptprotagonisten, welcher von Gewissensbissen geplagt und zerissen zwischen (Selbst)hass und Liebe seinen Weg im konfliktbeladenen Ulster sucht. MacLaverty verkehrt in literarisch gekonnten Volten die Oper- und Täterrolle und wirft die Schuldfrage auf, ohne moralisierend zu wirken. ( )
  schmechi | Dec 2, 2020 |
I recently read Milkman by Anna Burns which is about an 18-year-old girl growing up in Northern Ireland. This novella from 1983 is about a young man also living in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.

Cal McCluskey and his father Shamie are the only Catholics living in a Protestant area of Ulster. Cal falls in love with Marcella, a young widow whose husband, a Protestant reserve policeman, was assassinated. He hopes for a relationship with the local librarian but he has secrets because of his unwilling involvement with the IRA. The book jacket offers a perfect summary: “Springing out of the fear and violence of Ulster, Cal is a haunting love story in a land where tenderness and innocence can only flicker briefly in the dark.”

Cal’s father works in an abattoir where Cal could also have a job but he “hadn’t a strong enough stomach” (18). It is quite obvious that the slaughterhouse is a metaphor for Ireland: “People were dying every day, men and women were being crippled and turned into vegetables in the name of Ireland . . . [People were] caught between the jaws of two opposing ideals trying to grind each other out of existence” (83). Cal has been coerced into being a driver during some militant actions but he doesn’t want to be involved: “’I just don’t like what’s happening. . . . I have no stomach for it’” (23).

The book depicts what life is like in a conflict zone. Because of his neighbourhood, Cal faces almost daily intimidation, and he and his father receive a threat from the Ulster Volunteer Force: “Get out you Fenian scum or we’ll burn you out. This is your 2nd warning, there will be no other” (27). Cal is a sensitive and thoughtful person who does not want to get involved but is pressured into being an accomplice for the IRA. Then when he indicates that he wants out, he is threatened by those very people: “’That creates a big problem, Cahal. It would be out of my hands. I wouldn’t like to see you hurt’” (40). The effects on Shamie are equally devastating.

The characterization of Cal is outstanding. He is a decent person who wants nothing to do with violence. Yet he cannot live the peaceful life he wants or be with the woman he wants because of the sectarian violence. He feels a great deal of shame and guilt for the activities in which he’s participated: “Then he went to his bedroom to eat again the ashes of what he had done” (15).

An atmosphere of sadness permeates the book. The relationship between Cal and Marcella is doomed because of the circumstances. This is a harrowing story told with compassion but without sentimentality. It is a short narrative (154 pages) but its emotional effect lingers.

Note: Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Mar 10, 2019 |
The mid 70's to early 80's was a time fraught with danger in Northern Ireland. As an expat living and working in England I am well versed to understand the mindset of the various embattled groups that continued to carry on a war of attrition not only against the so called enemy (police and army) but equally against each other and if you happened to be of the wrong religion residing in the perceived wrong locality intimidation was an everyday occurrence.

Cal McCluskey and his dad were a catholic family living in a predominately protestant locality...."he could not bear to look up and see the flutter of Union Jacks, and now the red and white cross of the Ulster flag with it red hand.".... Cal was often the target of insults, taunting, and intimidation, but he tried to ignore, picking up his Giro on a regular basis and hanging around street corners, ripe pickings for paramilitary scouts. So he helped with the "cause" and when needed would act as a driver for his fellow republicans Crilly and Skeffington. With so much free time, and little hope of a job in this divided land, he was often to be seen perusing books and cassettes in the local library where one day he notices a new woman behind the counter. What follows is a beautifully written story of a love affair that is doomed to failure from the start. Cal holds a secret that if revealed to Marcella would end their relationship as he is torn between loyalties to his friends and honesty to his lover.

The language and descriptive prose of the author reminded me of the many years I lived in a country riddled with hypocrisy and bigotry....."the weight and darkness of Protestant Ulster, with its neat stifled Sabbath towns.".... "people were dying everyday, men and women were being crippled and turned into vegetables in the name of Ireland. An Ireland which never was and never would be."....."I like the look of Donegal where nothing grows. Beaches, bogs and mountains."......"The parade led by Evangelists screaming about sin and death and damnation."....

The ending when it happens is unexpected and sudden in its execution and brutality but I felt that it suited so well the time and events in such a deeply divided community. Highly Recommended. ( )
  runner56 | Mar 4, 2018 |
Racked by guilt at having been involved with a murder, Cal seeks out the victim's widow, but their relationship develops into something unexpected and Cal has to figure out how to deal with his past actions. Although this is very much about "The Troubles" in 1980s Northern Ireland, it's mainly a psychological study about guilt and how to deal with changing circumstances and creating your own fate. This was a reread for me (after about 25 years!) and, although I wasn't bowled over, it did hold up quite well. Not one I'll ever read again, but I'm glad I revisited it. ( )
  -Eva- | Jun 1, 2014 |
Belfast author Bernard MacLaverty's CAL is a page turner, that's for sure. I liked this little novel about the continuing "Troubles" in Northern Ireland very much, except maybe for the ending. I thought it far too abrupt. But the story itself, of a nineteen year-old Catholic, surrounded and threatened by Protestants, is really quite riveting. It's a coming-of-age tale of sorts, and firmly planted in modern times, but there's also an off-handed nod to Dostoevsky, with its mention of CRIME AND PUNISHMENT - "a fat red book ... [that] felt the size of a lunchbox under his arm" - and the young protagonist's name, Cal McCluskey, with its recurring "k" sounds, is reminiscent of "Raskolnikov." And too, there is Cal's guilty compulsion to keep returning to the scene of the grisly crime he took an unwilling part in, and the heartbreaking dilemma he finally finds himself in. MacLaverty is a fine writer who wastes no words. I may have to try another of his books, because this one has whetted my appetite. I will recommend it. ( )
  TimBazzett | Aug 20, 2013 |
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Skildring fra den nordirske borgerkrig af et håbløst kærlighedsforhold mellem en katolsk modstandsmand og en protestantisk pige.

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