Abstract. This paper will analyze father-son relationships in some of Neil Jordan's novels and short stories. His writing often deals with this theme, as well as with the gap between old and young generations. His works are often built around the contrast between tradition and modernity, such as de Valera's idealised concept of Nation and contemporary, 'global' Ireland. Thus following a consistent trend in contemporary Irish literature, Jordan develops new narratives of the Nation. What do fathers do? What do sons do? How do fathers respond to their sons' actions and behaviours, and vice versa? These questions will be addressed and, possibly, be answered. In Neil Jordan's work, father-son struggles have their counterpart in the process of the revision of ideologies and norms of tradition (patriarchy and the Catholic Church). At the same time, they are accompanied by a strong feeling of belonging to Ireland as a Nation.
Key Words. Father, son, Nation, de Valera, ghost, identity, roles.
Resumen. El articulo analizara las relaciones padre-hijo en algunas novelas y relatos de Neil Jordan. Su obra a menudo trata este tema, asi como la distancia entre generaciones. Sus obras estan construidas a menudo en torno al contraste entre tradicion y modernidad, el concepto idealizado de la Nacion propagado por de Valera y la Irlanda 'global' del presente. En sintonia con una arraigada tendencia de la literature irlandesa contemporanea, Jordan crea nuevas narrativas de la Nacion. ?Que hacen los padres? ?Que hacen los hijos? ?Como responden los padres a las acciones y comportamientos de sus hijos, y viceversa? Tales preguntas seran formuladas, y posiblemente respuestas. En la obra de Neil Jordan, las luchas padre-hijo tienen su contrapunto en el proceso de revision d ideologias y normas tradicionales (patriarcado e Iglesia Catolica). Al mismo tiempo, van acompanadas por un fuerte sentimiento de pertenencia a Irlanda como Nacion.
Palabras clave. Padre, hijo, Nacion, de Valera, fanstasma, identidad, roles.
During a conference in Munich in 1988 on the Irish cultural panorama, Richard Kearney asserted that: "Yes, we have an identity crisis in the South. But at least we are trying to work it out in our literature" (Kearney 1988b: 213). Kearney also pointed out that Ireland's "transitional crisis" must be viewed as a consequence of the country's move to globalisation, and this implied a reassessment of its national identity (Kearney 1988a: 84). Irish contemporary authors, haunted by de Valera's ghost, have developed new narratives of the Nation in order both to re-gain possession of the concept of Irishness and of their own relationship with Ireland's colonial past and national history. The revision of traditional tropes and the shaping of alternative representations of individual and national identities lead to the deconstruction of stereotypes and 'typically Irish' re-workings of subjects and narrations silenced so far. It is in these borderline areas where everything new--new forms of representation, new identities--is defined according to its obsessive relation with the past that Neil Jordan's work has its origins. A novelist, short story writer, screenwriter and director, Neil Jordan is perhaps the leading exponent of what Gerry Smyth has defined as the "Pan Celtic Revival" in Irish culture over the last three decades (Smyth 1997: 175).
At a superficial level, Jordan's techniques are similar to Flann O'Brien, Aidan Higgins and John Banville's postmodern deconstruction of narrative language, something which Kearney has referred to as a "counter-tradition" in Irish contemporary literature (see Kearney 1988c). These authors fluctuate in a mid-position between Modernism and revivalism, a position which Kearney has called "mediational Modernism ... a collage of modern and traditional motifs, ... It may be termed post-modern to the extent that it borrows freely from the idioms of both modernity and tradition, one moment endorsing a deconstruction of tradition, another reinventing and rewriting the stories of the past transmitted by cultural memory" (Kearney 1988c: 14). Neil Jordan's works, for instance, very often deal with the theme of father and son relationships set in the broader, metaphorical context of an attempt to leave behind the tradition established by Irish 'literary fathers'. His revision of traditional motifs and attitudes is motivated by the deconstruction of the norms and stereotypes of both patriarchy and the Catholic Church, which are currently being replaced by new identities that purport to cross boundaries as a means to undermine all stereotypes (of gender, of race, and of political ideals). A recurring theme in Jordan's fiction is also the rewriting of Irish myths of the Nation and an exploration of how these myths impinge upon people's lives and behaviour.
Some recent studies on Irish literature have drawn a comparison between Neil Jordan's point of view and Homi Bhabha's notion of third space (see Kearney, Smyth and Hopper). For Bhabha, hybridity does not account for the possibility "to trace two original moments from which a third one emerges, [but] (...) is the 'third space' which enables other positions to emerge. This third space displaces the histories that constitute it, and sets up new structures of authority, new political initiatives, which are inadequately understood through received wisdom" (Bhabha in Rutherford 1990). Neil Jordan's work moves freely within these ambiguous spaces, for it tends towards the indefinableness of all representations, in a never-ending process of revision of the possibilities of fiction. Kevin Rockett has appropriately defined certain tendencies in Jordan's fiction as a "trope of mutability", that is to say
(...) notions around appearance, reality and 'unreality', or the irrational; the psycho-sexual dynamics of the family, but most especially around the young male and the oedipal triangulation of desire; the interrelationship of private and public; the (im)possibility of transformation and the blurring of categories other than in negative terms; an enjoyment of the sensual, of fantasy and the impossible made possible (E and K Rockett 2003: 1).
Father-son relationships are pivotal to the narrative development in many of Neil Jordan's texts (that is, the novels, especially The Past, The Dream of a Beast and Sunrise with Sea Monster, and some of the short stories in Night in Tunisia). It may be seen how the illuminating way in which father-son struggles are treated is linked to a common trend in Irish cultural debate--which had its peak in the 1990s--in which tradition is neither fully rejected, nor yet considered thoroughly reliable. In a time when Irish culture has been undergoing a radical re-structuring of its foundations, Jordan's work shows an urge for revision and invention of alternative representations of the narratives of the Nation. This is relevant for the study of contemporary Irish culture since his works belong to a genuinely post-modern (Irish) counter-tradition which focuses on transitional spaces, shifting deliberately across the United States and Europe, Ireland and England.
Neil Jordan's recent film production has over-shadowed his career as a writer and has perhaps distanced his interest in father-son and other traditional motifs and themes, as well as to issues of the Nation, which characterise his most accomplished works to date. However, below this choice there may lie his desire to leave the haunting ghost of the Nation's past behind once and for all; it is also possible that Rockett's definition of 'trope of mutability' could again provide an explanation, for it gives an eloquent judgment on Jordan's whole production. The analysis of a series of works in which the father-son struggles reach their climax will demonstrate how such an 'Irish' issue is still at the core of contemporary Irish literature. In spite of Ireland's move to globalisation and its recent economic-social developments, Jordan and most of his contemporaries share the same urge to mould ever-changing ideas of the Nation into their fiction, an urge which draws consistently on their revaluation of not only Ireland's, but also of their own past.
A national myth of origins: The Past
In his analysis of the epistemological crisis in post-modern Irish …