Claire Kilroy: The Devil I Know

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Claire Kilroy The Devil I Know
  • Название:
    The Devil I Know
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Faber & Faber
  • Жанр:
    Современная проза / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2012
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • Рейтинг книги:
    4 / 5
  • Ваша оценка:
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The Devil I Know: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile. He made a crooked deal and he blew a crooked pile. He dug a crooked hole. And he sank the crooked isle. And they all went to hell in a stew of crooked bile. The Devil I Know is a thrilling novel of greed and hubris, set against the backdrop of a brewing international debt crisis. Told by Tristram, in the form of a mysterious testimony, it recounts his return home after a self-imposed exile only to find himself trapped as a middle man played on both sides — by a grotesque builder he's known since childhood on the one hand, and a shadowy businessman he's never met on the other. Caught between them, as an overblown property development begins in his home town of Howth, it follows Tristram's dawning realisation that all is not well. From a writer unafraid to take risks, The Devil I Know is a bold, brilliant and disturbing piece of storytelling.

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Claire Kilroy


The Devil I Know

In memory of John Long, 1944–2010

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

Sir Tristram, violer d’amores, fr’over the short sea, had passencore rearrived from North Armorica on this side the scraggy isthmus of Europe Minor to wielderfight his penisolate war:

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

First day of evidence, 10 march 2016

~ ~ ~

‘Please state your name for the record.’

~ ~ ~

Don’t be coy, Fergus. You’ve known me since I was yay high. I beg your pardon? Oh. It’s like that, is it? I see. Very well. As you wish. This is going to take longer than expected, but then, you lot are running on a pricey meter. Two and a half grand a day, I hear. Well, Fergus — I mean Justice O’Reilly — my name, for the record, is Tristram St Lawrence. Tristram Amory St Lawrence, the thirteenth Earl of Howth, Binn Eadair, hill of sweetness. I was — I am — the only son your old pal, the twelfth Earl of Howth, managed to sire, and not from lack of trying. People have been saying a lot of bad things about me in the press. I am here to say a few more.

What brought me back to Ireland? Good question. An act of God, or maybe the other fella. That was back in 2006. I had not set foot on this green isle for twelve years. I agree, Fergus: it is a long time in the lifespan of a comparatively young man, particularly one with such ties to the locality. Personal reasons kept me away. Personal, personal, unspeakably personal. This is neither the time nor the place.

I was en route from a conference in Birmingham to one in Florida. That is how I used to spend my life, travelling from one point on the globe to another, keeping my nose clean. As you are probably aware, I am by profession an interpreter. I was engaged in that capacity by large international institutions such as the IMF, the EU and the ECB. The Troika. I do all the major European languages.

No, I cannot tell you what the Birmingham conference was about and not because the subject matter was commercially sensitive, but since I am unable to recall a word of what has been said once the sessions are called to a close, such is the level of concentration translation demands of me. The interpreter is the medium through which other people’s thoughts and arguments pass. The key is not to engage with those thoughts and arguments. If you allow them to capture your curiosity for even a fraction of a second, you will lose the next sentence. And then you’re in trouble. The whole thing backs up. One must hollow oneself out. One must make of oneself the perfect conduit. This is a trick I have mastered.

It used to drive Hickey mental when M. Deauville and I conversed in what he called foreign — it was second nature to me to respond to M. Deauville in his language du jour, which depended on what part of the world he was calling from, for he travelled constantly too. Hickey thought I was concealing something from him and generally I was, just as generally he was concealing something from me. In short, I was recognised as the best at what I do, and had I spent the rest of my life on the international conference circuit, I would not be before you giving evidence today. They said my gift was uncanny. That was the word my clients used in their various mother tongues. Étrange, unheimlich, uncanny. Sometimes I thought they intended it as a compliment, but other times I wasn’t so sure.

M. Deauville? No, he wasn’t my employer, as such. And no, I wouldn’t describe him as a colleague either. He was more what you’d call a consultant. And we all know who Hickey is.

The plane was not long in the sky after take-off from Birmingham. The cabin crew had commenced their in-flight service, that is to say, an air hostess was reversing a leaden trolley down the aisle. ‘A drink, sir?’ she enquired when she reached me.

I smiled sadly. ‘No, thanks. I’ll have a cup of tea, please.’ I released the catch of my tray table and lowered it into position.

I was sitting in the window seat. The flight was full. A mother and son occupied the two seats next to me, the mother in the middle seat and the boy on the aisle. He kicked the back of the chair in front of him as he played his computer game, just as someone was kicking the back of mine. The stewardess leaned across to pass me tea in a plastic cup. I added two capsules of hydrogenated milk and looked at it. The water hadn’t been boiled. There are moments when I lose heart in the whole endeavour. That was one of them. Strapped into a bucking chair for the next seven hours, contemplating that cup of grey tea. A limescale scum was forming on the surface. I put the cup down and set my watch to Eastern Standard Time.

Then the tea blew up. It erupted out of the cup into my face. A scream of fright from the other passengers — the plane had taken a hit.

I gripped both armrests. The impact was followed by a blast of freezing air. I turned to glimpse a fracture in the plastic casing of the ceiling. A shard of metal had punctured the cabin. The gash was spurting electrical cables and frills of silver foil.

The plane began to shake violently. Several of the overhead bins sprang open, disgorging cabin luggage onto the aisle. The oxygen masks dropped, a dangling yellow crop of them, swinging and jerking in synchronisation. Hands reached up to pluck them like fruit, so I plucked mine and strapped it onto my face. Through the window, I saw that the engine was on fire. The pain in my ears was excruciating.

The plane entered a nose dive, juddering with such force that I thought our seats would come unbolted. It kicked to the side and the drinks trolley went lunging in the direction of the cockpit. The stewardess went lunging after it, swinging from headrest to headrest to keep herself upright. Beneath the flaming engine, the lights of a city had appeared in the darkness.

The captain said something on the intercom but we couldn’t hear him over the noise. I pulled my mobile phone out of my pocket. It was switched off and I couldn’t remember which button switched it on. I literally could not begin to make sense of the digits. The city beneath us was rapidly approaching. I made out the grid of roads. This is it, I thought. To hell with it. I peeled the rubber mask off my face and released the seat belt. I squeezed past the mother and son and went lurching down the aisle, tripping over the fallen hand luggage.

‘Get into your seat, sir!’ a stewardess shouted at me when I made it to the front. ‘Get back into your seat immediately, sir!’ Then the cabin lights went out.

I followed the emergency strip lighting and located the trolley. It had been locked down. The first drawer was crammed with miniature cans of soft drinks. I had to shove it shut to get at the contents of the next one down. ‘Sir, get into your seat,’ the flight attendant shouted from the jump seat. ‘We are preparing for an emergency landing. Get into your motherfucking seat now.’ It was an American carrier.

The nose of the plane lifted. We were horizontal once more. ‘Brace for impact,’ the captain shouted, loud enough that we could hear him this time. The third drawer down contained the hard stuff, tiny bottles of spirits, a casket of priceless jewels. I grabbed an amber one. My hands were shaking so hard that I could barely break the foil seal.

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