Desmond Hogan - Kennedy
Kennedy was named after John F. Kennedy and Edward (Teddy) Kennedy by his mother, who must have had a thing for these Irish boys done good in America. Kennedy, on the other hand, lives in Desmond Hogan's Limerick, a nasty, brutish city where life, for the downtrodden poor, ends unnecessarily early after an adolescence spent thieving, killing, and doing drugs. Kennedy is unhappy and disconcerting, a story concerned with confusing the promise of the rich history and heritage of the Irish with the reality of the working- and under-class youths who, to borrow a phrase used to paper over the misery of it all, have “slipped between the cracks”.
Cuzzy, aged sixteen, was thrown in the girls' cell.
Kennedy was thumped with a mag lamp, a telephone book used to prevent his body from being bruised.
Cuzzy was thumped with a baton through a towel with soap in it.
A black guard put his tongue in Kennedy's ear. A Polish guard felt his genitals.
Kennedy punched the Polish guard and was jailed.
Solicitors bought parcels of heroin and cocaine into jail.
Hogan takes us through the (short) life of Kennedy as he rises through the ranks of an ill-defined gang of thugs, goes to jail, becomes involved with matters outside his purview of petty thievery, and is killed. Throughout this primary story are snippets from his friends and family, their own lives unhappy tales of deprivation, abuse and poverty. Hogan refrains from explaining how these people came to be the way they are: what biography is given supplies the reader with a forceful picture of the current straits of Limerick as the author sees it. The writer doesn't have an answer, nor a reason, but his dissatisfaction with the system is clear. These are not romanticised youths but rather grubby and mean little creatures, their lives turned the wrong way some time ago, without hope of turning back.
The narrator sprinkles the detritus of a Catholic upbringing through the narrative, idly mentioning Saints and breaking down the etymology of words, while simultaneously creating an implicit connection between the brutality of Medieval and Roman times, and contemporary Ireland.
Reading Desmond Hogan's Kennedy reminds one of the iron-gray skies of rotting Irish suburbs left after the violent sweep of industrialisation has passed and all of the jobs have moved to cheaper shores. There's not a lot of hope here, and what happiness exists is bleak and nasty. While reading, the impression develops that these people snatch what pleasure they can, are aware that their choices have made for a contracted life of misery and unhappiness, and then they die. One character, told by his doctor that, after smoking heavily since he was eleven, his lungs are black and that he'll be on oxygen by the age of twenty, retorts to his friends that, well, he is nineteen now, so why should he care? And that, distilled into an anecdote, is the essence of the nihilistic attitude of these kids. No wonder they kill each other.
Kennedy by Desmond Hogan is a short story from the Dalkey Archive Press' anthology, Best European Fiction 2012
Other stories from the Dalkey Archive Press' anthology, Best European Fiction 2012, include:
------Belgium (Flemish): de Martelaere, Patricia - My Hand is Exhausted
------Croatian: Hrgović, Maja - Zlatka
------Spanish (Galician): Fernández Paz, Agustín - This Strange Lucidity
------Polish: Rudnicki, Janusz - The Sorrows of Idiot Augustus
------Irish: Rosenstock, Gabriel - “...everything emptying into white”
------Hungarian: Bán, Zsófia - When There Were Only Animals
------Swiss (Rhaeto-Romanic and German): Camenisch, Arno - Sez Ner
------Portuguese: Zink, Rui - Tourist Destination
------Georgian: Dephy, David - Before the End
------Russian: Davydov, Danila - The Telescope
------Czech: Kratochvil, Jiří - I, Loshaď
------Estonian: Kõomägi, Armin - Logisticians Anonymous
Best European Fiction 2011 short stories under review
Best European Fiction 2010 short stories under review
Index of titles by The Dalkey Archive Press under review
Index of short stories under review