By Bernard Mac Laverty

Cal was written by Bernard Mac Laverty, an Irish author who was born in Belfast. Mac Laverty worked there for about ten years as a medical laboratory technician before starting to study English at Queen’s University. After his studies he moved to Scotland to teach for some years. The author now writes and lives in Glasgow.

He has yet written two novels, Lamb and CAL, and many short stories. Both of his novels became patterns for quite successful films.

The main character of this novel is the nineteen - year - old Cal Mc Cluskey. He loves music and plays the guitar whenever he sits in his room alone which is quite often because he doesn’t have friends. He often tries to hide or screen himself from the hard and cold world in his country. His music helps him doing this pretty well. He often thinks of his mother who died when he was only eight years old. She often gave him good advice and he still remembers many of the things she said to him.

Cal and his father, Shamie, live together in a loyalist district where they are the only catholics. Fear has driven out the others long ago, but Shamie doesn't even think about giving up. He insists on his right to live where he wants and would rather be killed than chased away. Cal on the other hand isn’t very satisfied with their situation and fears the crowd of protestants they are surrounded by.

Cal’s father, Shamie, works at the abattoir just like Cal himself did some time ago. His reason to quit this job was the nauseating smell which filled the whole building and made him feel sick all the time.

He often visits the library, not to rent books but to borrow music tapes. One day at the library he notices a new assistant. He gets interested and finds out that her name is Marcella Morton when an old man calls her by her name.

Cal falls in Love with Marcella, but he cannot forget about what had happened: he once drove Crilly, a member of the IRA, to a place near the Morton’s farm. On that day Marcella’s father got killed. Although Cal did not have anything to do with that he still feels guilty. The only thing preventing him from leaving the IRA is the fear of getting killed by them if he does.

He searches for a possibility to be close to his beloved one and applies for a job at Morton’s farm. He gets the job and from that day on he works at the farm at days and at nights - against his will - he drives Crilly around, helping him accomplishing IRA "missions".

One day the Mc Cluskey’s house is set on fire and the blame is obviously to be put on a loyalist wanting to force them out of "his" town. After this dragedy Cal’s father Shamie moves to relatives. Cal on the other hand uses this "chance" to run away saving himself from troubles with the IRA - he moves to Marcella’s farm. This situation allows the two of them to build up a closer relationship and start a real love affair.

When Cal one day goes back to town to buy Christmas Presents he visits the Library, too. There he accidentally meets Crilly who shows him a bomb hidden in a book. He informs Cal about what happens to people who try to cheat on the IRA and forces him to come with him. All the time Cal can only think about the bomb in the library. A little later, when the police comes to arrest them, Cal is the only one who can escape. He immediately calls the police and tells them about the bomb.

" The next morning, Christmas Eve, almost as if he expected it, the police arrived to arrest him and he stood in a dead man’s Y - fronts listening to the charge, grateful that at last someone was going to beat him to within an inch of his life."[1]

This book shows in a unique way how hard the life in Northern Ireland can be. It carefully and at the same time brutally hints at the hatred and aversion which totally fills the lives of the Irish. On the other hand the book shows how it should be done by presenting a love affair which lets the included persons - at least time by time - forget about all those conflicts and their bad situation.

Due to the fact that I have never experienced the situation of living in such a country, I think that an interpretation of this story would only be overbearing. It is very hard to write or talk about this book but it is, anyway, surely worth reading it.

[1] "Cal", Bernard Mac Laverty, Penguin Books, 1983, London

822 Worte in "deutsch"  als "hilfreich"  bewertet