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Reading - Ronan Bennett - Havoc in its thrid year

Bennett stands amongst the few modern irish writers really wortth reading. This is his forth novel and perhaps his best after the Catastrophist. His early work, "Overthrown by Strangers" and "No Second Prison" had a distinctly noir quality but staggered in moments. In th elate 1970s the author was framed for a paramilitary crime he did not commit but nonetheless paid for with several years in jail. Whilst incarcerated he came in contact with he Anarchist Black Cross and upon his release he moved to the UK to live with some of its most active figures, including Stuart Christie as the latter recounts in his recently published "Granny Made me and Anarchist."

These days Bennett writes frequently for the Observer usually on themes related to prison, juvenile detention and suicide. A couple of years ago he was interviewed by Black Flag, the first hint I had of his political persuasion.

"Havoc, In its third year..." unfolds on several levels, narrating the story a concealed catholic and inquisitor, his wife and their struggle to save their recently born son. Simultaneous with this the inquisitor is called to interrogate and gicve evidence against an incendiary irish woman charged with the murder of her child.

The strong twist of noir injected made me tyhink occasionally of Luther Blissett's "Q" one of the few other historical novels from the period to have taken my fancy. Whilst an incensed and ascendant puritan vengeance hastens to hang the irish woman for a crime she did not commit -- and to send good part of the town's poor and dissident population with her -- the protagonist pursues the truth behind the infanticide convinced that it will alllow him to unmask the the hyprocritical and authoritarian clique exercising ever more terrible tyranny on town and country. Ultimately the book's injunction is to eschew the desire to judge and condemn, to substitute vengerance for mercy. Asd I write these lines I'm reminded of Agamben's plea for amnesty, for a refusal to make bad use of memory. Peals of libertarian abolitionism ring through Bennett's text, even as the conflagration tightens apocalyptically around the book's figures and their vindictive moralism sharpens. The snakiness and diabolical malleability of power in the hands of his childhood friend completes the grim landscape of power. At the end between the hell of sectarianism and consumption by the world's self-destructive course, the only path unbarred is that of exodus.