Paul Lynch (2023) Prophet Song.
Posted by celticman on Sun, 11 Feb 2024
Writers are told, never start with the weather. Paul Lynch starts with the weather in his debut novel, Red Sky in the Morning. Prophet Song, Lynch’s latest award-winning novel, starts with the night weather and a knocking on the door.
‘The night has come and she has not heard the knocking, standing at the window, looking out at the garden. How the dark gathers without sound the cherry trees. It gathers the last of the leaves and the leaves do not resist the dark but accept the dark in whispers.’
Long convoluted sentences that don’t make sense yet they do. A writer’s job is make things worse for his or her characters.
Mother Courage, Ellish Stack has a Phd and a good job. Her dad, Simon, was a scientist too, but her mother is dead, and he’s paranoid, and in the early stages of dementia. Larry, her husband works for the teacher’s union. They’re respectfully upper-middle class and their eldest son is in line to become that icon of respectability: a university place to study medicine. His future is set. She has three other children, including baby, Ben.
The knocking on the window is their Kristallnacht. They are not Jews. But Larry Stack as a trade-unionist is an enemy of the people. Two officers from the Irish Government’s newly formed GNSB have come to question him. Have come to warn his family. This will be your fate if you oppose us. In the name of freedom, they’re asking them to give up their freedom of thought and assembly, freedom of press. It’s a Trumpian scenario we’re all familiar with.
‘The world is always ending over and over again in one place but not another, and the end of the world is always a local event. It comes to your country, visits your town, knocks on the door of your house, and becomes to others but some distant warning, a brief report on the news, an echo of events that has passed into folklore.’
Prophecy comes from the prayer-book of it couldn’t happen to us. Inevitably it does. Germany, Chile, Spain and Ireland itself had their ‘Disappeared’. Ellish refuses to believe that Larry is gone. Disappeared.
The Irish Government dictatorship will somehow see sense. Suspend the Emergency Powers and the curfews and the rounding up of enemies of the people. Her son, Mark, the doctor-to-be will not be drafted into the militia and fascist army of the governing forces. The logic of inevitably and disbelief creates a toxic fatalism.
‘We were offered visas to Australia, but we turned them down. How could we have known what was going to happen? Leaving everything behind was impossible.’
The impossible is always impossible until it becomes possible. Prophet Song seems prescient. ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ An epigram attributed to the philosopher and essayist George Santayana. It is often paraphrased as ‘Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.’
Santayana first used this expression in his work ‘The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress,’ which was published in 1905. Mother Courage, the heroine in the novel 2023 by Ellish Stack, illustrates that not much progress has been made. We wait to bear witness to see if the moron’s moron Trump will be re-elected President. Prophet Song may well follow this playbook in American society. Hyperbole? I hope so.