Kevin Doyle Blog

Writing and activism

About “Do You Like Oranges?”

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Do You Like Oranges?is a collection of three short stories, each of which is concerned with State repression.  The setting for the stories is the Ireland of the late 70s/ early 80s.

At the time, repression and ‘counter-terrorism’ were widely used in Northern Ireland by the RUC in conjunction with the British Army.  It is less well known that in the Republic (26 counties) the State used similar methods with clear disregard for human rights.  The intention was identical: to instill a climate of fear among political activists.  These stories then are of that time.

In the shortest story, But Your Mother, the central character is made aware of what the consequences might be for him if he continues with what he is doing.  The choice that he will have to make is not resolved in the story but it is significant and cannot be ignored.  The story is told in a first person narrative voice with the dilemma posed remaining interior to the character’s persona, underlining the personal and private nature of such choices.

In the title story, Do You Like Oranges? the main character has been the victim of a serious beating at the hand of Garda Special Branch.  The key events take place in and around the Hungers Strikes in the Maze Prison, although the location for the story is Cork – a city geographically removed from the conflict that was ongoing in Northern Ireland at that time.  In the aftermath of the assault the victim was threatened in such a way that he believed he was going to die.

We first meet the main character on his return to Ireland from exile in Australia.  Events and circumstances which are only broadly alluded to in the story have propelled him to come back and confront  the man who tortured him.

In this story the main character is about to take the matter of justice into his own hands.  This, to an extent, is what makes the story tick – the determination to seek some re-dress.  While the relevance of the story has receded in terms of the conflict in Ireland, the central concern in the story – the ability of torturers to evade justice and judgement – remains a pressing issue in particular with the resurgence in the use of torture in the post 9/11 period, particularly in the USA and the UK.

For example what should we do when the State de facto avoids its responsibilities in respect to the need and demand for justice.  Or what should we do when the State itself organises the business of torture and is resistant to any attempts to hold it or any of its agents to account?  Not an unusual occurrence in fact.

The third and final story, Down The Tunnels takes a different approach and is written from the point of view of a police officer who was involved in beating a confession from a number of innocent men.  The story resonates with the events of the infamous Sallins Train Robbery case (here in Ireland) when Nicky Kelly and a number of other men were falsely accused and convicted of a robbery that they had no part in.  The story focuses in an entirely imaginative and fictional way on what the motivation  might be for a police officer who knowingly seeks the conviction of an innocent man.

The three stories that make up the short collection have all been previously published. The title story was an Ian St James International Short Story Award winner and appeared in Pulse Fiction (London, 1998) and Snapshots (London, 1999).  Down The Tunnels was first published in The Cúirt Journal 7 (Galway, 1999) and But Your Mother in Stinging Fly (Dublin, 1999) and Southwords (Cork, 2000).

This collection is now available in all the main digital formats at Smashwords or Amazon.

Silence Now Pervades (The Pensive Quill)

Excerpt from Do You Like Oranges? (The Pensive Quill)

But Your Mother – Audio Reading

 

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