Nothing Happens in Carmincross

By Benedict Kiely

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A controversial and ground-breaking novel in its forensic analysis of close community ties breaking spectacularly apart in a small rural town.

“Haste to the wedding and haste to the wedding, no more I’ll sit sobbing and sighing alone; and a journey like this should, legitimate or otherwise, be a sort of second honeymoon, a freedom, a discovery of something new and, by spitting at the years, young. Where at this moment are the burning Mexican beauty, in my memory she is now nothing but Mexican, and the tall young man whose people came from Carmincross? The sun, the green and brown and purple land, the little mountain wind.
Looking down now into a garden before the first hotel and out over a misty forested glen. The morning of the first full day.
Neither the three cats nor the man in the garden can have been out all night: they seem too dry and rested. Two of the cats squat.
The third prowls round and round the base of a grey stone sun-dial.
Prowling for birds who are plentiful but high up on the boughs or in the air. Over the high mountains across the glen the sun is doing his damnedest to burst the mist and touch the dial.
Outlines of mountains emerge; one, a pure pyramid; another, a round shouldered, hunchbacked giant, head still invisible. The man makes no contact with the three cats. He stands by a narrow, white, iron-barred gate that opens from the garden to a roadway on which a car is parked, engine running, a red car.
She says: My red baby. It did everything for me I wanted it to do.
He sees no baby.
The car. The red car. I left it behind me. I was in such a hurry to get away. What ever persuaded me?
You mean?
My husband. He hangs around. Peeping. I told you. Just peeping. He’ll go away after a while.
Well, I’ll be.
You’ll be anyway. If there’s such a thing as damnation.”

By kind permission of Mrs Frances Kiely, through the Jonathan Williams Literary Agency.

Mervyn Kavanagh is on his way to his childhood home. After a spell of living and teaching in America, the wedding of a favourite niece takes him back across the Atlantic to Carmincross, the small Ulster town where he was born. As he journeys towards this family celebration he encounters people and events from his own and his country’s past, while constant news of terrorist and counter-terrorist actions invades his consciousness more and more insistently. Somewhere, it seems, the past and the present are bound to collide…

The bomb in this story mirrors the experience of the town of Claudy in 1972, when an IRA team failed to provide a warning because a bomb the day before had knocked out the telephone exchange.

Further Infomation




‘Outstanding… It must be read by everyone interested in Irish writing and the peculiar tragedy of the Irish situation’ Irish Times

‘Even readers who know of Mr Kiely’s comic gift from his previous novels may find it hard to see much scope for comedy in such material. Yet the first thing to say about Nothing Happens in Carmincross is that it is often brilliantly funny ... He (Kiely) is a master of abrasive irony, whose mock-rhetoric acquires a rhetorical, almost poetic force of its own.’ John Gross, New York Times

‘Gleefully self-mocking and hilariously funny’ ... ‘A novel of exile and loss that should be on every Irish bookshelf’ Irish Times

‘Richly, grimly funny… At its best this is a remarkable study of a man struggling to come to terms with the country he thought he’d left behind him and with his own complicity in the troubles’ Margaret Walters, Observer

‘I have been waiting for a novel as full of rage about contemporary Ireland as this one. And this is the book I have been waiting for’ Frank Delaney, BBC World Service

‘Benedict Kiely’s most impressive novel’ Thomas Flanagan, author of The Year of the French

‘It is a complex novel of ideas, a work packed with literary and classical allusions, quotations from poetry and old songs… There is, I believe, nothing quite like it in modern Irish literature’ Irish Sunday Independent





Victor Gollancz