While held hostage by fundamentalist Shi'ite militiamen in the suburbs of Beirut, Brian Keenan was visited and sustained by the presence of Turlough O'Carolan - the legendary blind Irish harper of the seventeenth century. This novel is thus a re-creation of an extraordinary historical story and a personal debt repaid. It is also, obliquely, a parallel life - another life imprisoned, shaped by the dark.Narrated largely by O'Carolan from his death-bed, and through the recollections of those closest to him, Turlough powerfully brings to life a lost Ireland of famine and disease, eviction and oppression. Stalking through the broken and dispossessed comes Turlough O'Carolan, the musical prodigy, blinded by smallpox and now an itinerant harper, lauded by the aristocracy and a hero to his people. His Rabelaisian desire for drink and women is counterpointed by his artistic struggle towards the great music and some kind of inner peace. Driven by demons and dreams, riven by contradictions, Turlough emerges as a great man, full of frailty: a blind man afraid of the dark.A panoramic picaresque, rich with the textures and smells of rural Ireland and peopled by a host of angels and devils, Turlough is a remarkable historical journey, and a huge imaginative feat
Brian Keenan is a writer and poet. An Evil Cradling, the story of his four years' captivity in Beirut, is recognized as a non-fiction classic. He is also the author of a travel book, Between Extremes, with John McCarthy, and a novel, Turlough.
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