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Blood-Dark Track: A Family History

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Blood-Dark Track: A Family History.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Joseph O'Neill(Author)

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A fascinating family memoir from Joseph O'Neill, author of the Man Booker Prize longlisted and Richard & Judy pick, ‘Netherland’.

Joseph O'Neill's grandfathers – one Irish, one Turkish – were both imprisoned during the Second World War. The Irish grandfather, a handsome rogue from a family of small farmers, was an active member of the IRA and was interned with hundreds of his comrades. O'Neill's other grandfather, a hotelier from a tiny and threatened Turkish Christian minority, was imprisoned by the British in Palestine, on suspicion of being a spy.

At the age of thirty, Joseph O'Neill set out to uncover his grandfather's stories, what emerges is a narrative of two families and two charismatic but flawed men – it is a story of murder, espionage, paranoia and fear, of memories of violence and of fierce commitments to political causes.

In a literary age awash with father-fixation, Joseph O'Neill goes back a generation to recall the lives of not just one but both his grandfathers. This is not mere indulgence: their experiences connect beyond their mutual grandson, and bear comparison with each other. On the one side was Joseph Dakad, a Christian Turk living in the port of Mersin, running a hotel and an import-export business. Jim O'Neill was a Corkman with a fiercely republican heart, who supplemented his graft with salmon poaching. Both grew up among conflict and prejudice, and both suffered at the hands of the British in the Second World War: Joseph was imprisoned as a spy in British-controlled Palestine after a misconceived business trip to import lemons, while Jim was interned in the Curragh as an IRA terrorist. However, the circumstantial meat, or fruit in Joseph's case, of their lives in these famously hospitable, yet divided, countries had remained shrouded by a veil of silence for decades.

2.4 (10078)
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Book details

  • PDF | 352 pages
  • Joseph O'Neill(Author)
  • Harper Perennial (30 April 2009)
  • English
  • 6
  • Biography

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Review Text

  • By Póló on 23 February 2012

    I read this book on the recommendation of Paul Waters, the writer, arising out of a post I did on Hadji Bey, an Armenian refugee who came to Cork and there manufactured quality Turkish Delight.As Mick Gold says in his review, it is a brilliant book.Joseph O'Neill tells the story not simply as the outcome of his research, he brings you along his own road of discovery as his research delves deeper into the characters of his two grandfathers and their relationships with those around them.The constant alternating between the researching and the results, and between the Turkish and Irish settings makes for a complex book, but the complexity is both challenging and provocative. It is particularly challenging for those of us brought up with a certain concept of nationality grounded in a centuries long grudge against a powerful imperial neighbour.The author succeeds in both desanitising the mythical nationalist narrative and, at the same time, validating it, up to a point, through the experiences of his two grandfathers.The subtitle of the book is "a family history". I am currently researching my own family history, and I have to say that this book both scared and shamed me. The thoroughness and dedication of the author in his pursuit of truth are mighty, but so also is his constant reflection and refining of his own views as he comes to grips with the ever increasing complexity of his main characters.He also captures beautifully the power of the living landscape over those who know its history:"Some spots give voice to the past by their names, like the inlet in the Bandon known as the Punchbowl because centuries ago wines and spirits were poured into it by banqueters at Togher Castle and for two days after the the locals drank freely while they swam; but most places are dumb. The uninformed visitor cannot know that Meehan was thrown from his horse at that gate and died; that the derelict cottage by the road is what splits the O'Herlihy family. Nor can the visitor guess that the petrol-station stands where there was once a British barracks; that twelve Thompson guns with rounds of ammunition were dumped for years beneath those rhododendron bushes; that the farmhouse in that copse was a training headquarters for the IRA; that a Big House stood among those diseased elms until it was burned to the ground; that in the square were deposited the three McCarthy girls, tarred and feathered for dancing with the enemy; that the stony furlongs of that mountainside were tramped by Tom Barry's Flying Column; that in that bog were placed the bodies of three men executed as informers."He brings out the value of going out and finding out for yourself, as in his search for the location of Emmaus where one grandfather had been interned.I was tickled by his reference to France having the most to lose from the spread of German influence in the Near East in the course of the early 20th century:"In imitation of the French imperial method, German missions and schools sprang up in the Near East to promote knowledge and appreciation of 'das Deutschum' - the values and character of German civilization, German history and, most importantly, the German language."Langue et Civilisation Française - how are ye?I could go on. Suffice it to say that the book is beautifully and tightly written and that, having read it, you won't forget it in a hurry.

  • By Village Reader on 25 February 2012

    This compelling book sometimes wanders along at a gentle pace but before you realise it, the tension has racheted up. I felt and shared the stress, confusion, pain and shame of the author as he uncovers aspects of his family history in Turkey, Palestine and Ireland - taking in pogrom, world war, middle eastern conflict, internment and rebellion. The layers are expertly peeled back one after another - not sparing his own sensibilities.One theme is the efforts of small ordinary people to make - and sometimes succeed in making - a difference. Perhaps such people are neither small nor ordinary. It tends to be the men who rush or skulk about making grand gestures - murderous gestures - while the women in this story hold things together.I highly recommend this fascinating, exciting thriller - which happens also to be history.

  • By Mick Gold on 18 January 2002

    This is a brilliant book. The author searches for the reasons why his two grandfathers - one Irish, one Turkish - both ended up in prison during the Second World War. His Turkish grandfather, Joseph Dakad, was interned by the British in Palestine on suspicion of spying for the Germans. His Irish grandfather, Jim O'Neill, was interned by his own government in the Curragh as a member of the IRA. By subtly intercutting the two stories, the book looks at nationalism in two very different contexts - the polyglot post-Ottoman culture of Turkey in the years between the two world wars, and the hidden story of Irish republicanism between De Valera coming to power and the resumption of The Troubles in 1969. In searching for the reasons why these two very different men were interned, O'Neill illuminates the unspoken ideas of nationalism and individuality that permeate (like DNA)the two sides of his family. While he sifts through British intelligence reports on "undesirable" activity in Jerusalem, and discovers who really murdered Admiral Somerville in West Cork in 1936, O'Neill's book is shot through with contemporary echoes of his grandfathers' ordeals. As the author watches Bernadette Sands reject the Good Friday Agreement in the name of Ireland's republican martyrs, and questions Yitzhak Shamir about the morality of political assassination, we realise that the ghosts of these men still haunt today's headlines, and our ancestors can assume the power of an unconscious force over our political reflexes.Mick Gold.


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