Now and in Time to Be 1991

Dustjacket synopsis:
"From the furthest rim of the Irish diaspora, Thomas Keneally - Australian Booker Prize-winning author, of Irish descent - returns to his spiritual homeland.

"The result is both an unforgettable journey rich in observation and insight, and a passionate exposition of his own deeply personal view of Ireland today: an attempt to unpack his 'baggage of myths picked up from ancestors and others and match them against the ambiguous late twentieth-century reality.' Between Cork, Ulster and Dublin, history reverberates and persists, and modern Ireland presents its ironies and contradictions.

"Now and in Time to Be is a sometimes poetic, sometimes proud and always thoughtful evocation of Ireland in all its glory and complexity."

"If you only read one book on Ireland, please make sure that it is this one" - Roy Winter, Belfast Telegraph
"Thomas Keneally is a sensitive and agreeable companion" - Victoria Glendinning, Literary Review
"An enthusiastic account of an odyssey...Keneally is in love with the Irish character" - John Ardagh, Daily Telegraph
"Tom Keneally has written a book full of delights for anyone who loves Ireland" - Judith White, Sydney Morning Herald


On a post-Mass Sunday morning about first pint time, at the south-east Cork port of Ballycotton, I made my lunge at starting this book about Ireland, about the large business of Ireland in itself, and the miniscule question of Ireland and me. I would make second lunges elsewhere, and these would not be wasted, I hoped, but would be sewn into this story somewhere.

One of the starts which didn't take was at Cobh, though I would have put my money on that great harbour so redolent of Irish departures, willed and unwilled. Another was at Newgrange, at the Great Tomb, built by neolithic farmers for the purpose of focussing just one beam of light into a burial chamber at dawn on the year's shortest day. Next lunge was Antrim, at the Giant's Causeway, where I tried to reach for a connection between Fionn MacCumhail's (pronounced, 'Finn Ma Cool') palaver with a Scottish giant on one hand, and on the other hand the poisonous Orange-Green dialogue up there in Britain's last, most beautiful and saddest province. Fifth, sixth, seventh lunge will all appear in time, and by the time I finish, I may know where to start. Just the same, this account may very well be like the Ireland that's represented in the neolithic tombs in the Boyne: a set of circles carved in stone and lacking an end and a beginning; or instead possessing both at every point.

Even in the spruced-up, economic-rationalist end of the savagely linear twentieth century, Ireland challenges linear explanation and defeats number one lunge, number two, three, and all the others.

From the Flamingo paperback edition, 1992.

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