September 2014        

The pigs are back!

Tomás Mac Síomóin, Is Stacey Pregnant? Notes from the Irish Dystopia (Nuascéalta, 2014; ISBN 978-1-4992-1354-6; $10.75). Available from Amazon, Connolly Books, and general booksellers.

Anybody familiar with Orwell’s Animal Farm will be amused by Tomás Mac Síomóin’s rebirth of the pig as the “Smilin’ Porky” in his newly published novel Is Stacey Pregnant?—although the amusement will not last long as this novel gradually unfolds its horror!
     The world we are introduced to, at a short fourteen years’ distance in the future, has fast-forwarded the developments of our own time to their apocalyptic extremes: the Brave New World shallowness of “entertainment” culture, crisps, Coke and celebrity “culture,” talk shows and the sameness of news stories, combined with an inability of people to communicate meaningfully.
     The return of past trauma, the hegemony of neo-liberal values and a denial of one’s own cultural heritage are part and parcel of this drama as it moves towards its cataclysmic climax in the context of a horrendous traffic jam. The Citoyen (disguised as the Citroën), the distant and almost mute echo of the French Revolution, records all of this!
     It is Mac Síomóin’s truly magnificent artistic achievement to create a narrative that holds the reader’s attention over a story of standstill and downward spiralling in human culture. Anybody who reads this book will emerge from it with a sense of deep concern for the future of Irish society and of all working people. His “Smilin’ Porkys” (thinly veiled EU bureaucrats), in cahoots with unscrupulous local politicians, are intimately linked to the impending holocaust, their world and that of the “parishioners” (code for a dumbed-down working class) increasingly fuse as the latter begin to realise that they themselves are fated to become victims of an inhuman economy whose structure they can only dimly understand.
     Is Stacey Pregnant? was first written in Irish. This, of course, is part of the subtext of this dystopia: a culture’s recognition of having being caught again by a new master and being unable to communicate this in the native language.
     A linguistic twist to Mac Síomóin’s dystopia is relevant in this connection: at the end of the 500-year time span of the novel Irish place-names have been replaced by their German phonetic approximations. However, the fact that the text of the Citoyen’s diary in Irish survives the horrific traffic mega-jam that is at the centre of Is Stacey Pregnant? and a generation five hundred years in the future publishes it, is hopefully prophetic.

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