‘“Intertextual quotation”: Troubled Irish bodies and Jewish textual memory in Colum McCann’s “Cathal’s Lake” and “Hunger Strike”’: ’

Alison Garden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In addition to his enduring commitment to the exilic subject in its many guises, Colum McCann is particularly concerned with the embodied affects of displacement and shared interstices of transcultural memory. Through a discussion of two stories, ‘Cathal’s Lake’, from Fishing the Sloe-Black River (1994), and ‘Hunger Strike’, from Everything in This Country Must (2000), this chapter highlights how McCann’s fashioning of bodies affected by political violence relies heavily on codes—visual and textual—that he transcribes from Jewish history and cultural memory. In this way, we can read McCann’s work as galvanised by what Michael Rothberg has termed ‘multidirectional memory’; his fictions animated by ‘borrowing or adaptation from a history that initially might seem foreign or distant’.1 For both Rothberg and McCann, this ‘productive, intercultural dynamic of multidirectional memory … has the potential to create new forms of solidarity and new visions of justice’.2 McCann’s invocation of multidirectional memory has a twofold ethical impetus. Firstly, in borrowing from Jewish cultural memory to write about Ireland, McCann creates spaces for imaginative, transcultural empathetic relations. Moreover, his intertextual aesthetics—narratives mediated through other narratives—illustrate his remove from the subjects he writes about and ensures he does not appropriate an experiential reality beyond his own.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe body in pain in Irish literature and culture
EditorsFionnuala Dillane, Naomi McAreavey, Emilie Pine
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9783319313887
ISBN (Print)9783319313870
Publication statusPublished - 09 Dec 2016

Publication series

NameNew Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature
ISSN (Print)2731-3182
ISSN (Electronic)2731-3190

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, The Author(s).


  • Cultural Memory
  • Hunger Strike
  • Jewish Culture
  • Jewish Experience
  • Jewish History

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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