‘The Fjord of Killary’ is one of the stories in the ‘Dark Lies The Island’ collection by Kevin Barry.
Originally published in the New Yorker, read the story online here.
‘So I bought an old hotel on the fjord of Killary.’
Although Caoimhin himself is a bit of a bore, his customers are varied and typical. The conversations of the locals in the pub, from the undertaker to the retired lorry driver, give a realistic insight into the rural psyche in the west of Ireland.
Caoimhin tries to engage in discussions but is magnificently ignored. The staff, all Belorussians, won’t let him forget he’s paying them minimum wage. The disco that follows the rising water is vividly portrayed: We can imagine the old ballroom, the dusty corners and the disco lights as the water rises up the stairs.
Barry’s genius must lie in the authentic dialogue. The voices of his customers make the stories more gritty, more real.
“Do you know Madigan’s in Maynooth?”“I do, of course.”
“You’d take a left there.”“I have you now.”
Bill worked in haulage as a young man and considers himself expert.
“Would we say an hour twenty if you weren’t tailbacked out of Newport?”
“I said I really don’t fucking well know, Bill.”
“There are those’ll say you’d do it in an hour.” He sipped, delicately. “But you’d want to be grease fuckin’ lightnin’ coming up from Westport direction, wouldn’t you?”
“Cunts,” Bill Knott confirmed.
‘This, by the way, was the Monday of the May bank-holiday weekend. Killary was en fête. Local opinion, cheerfully, was that it had been among the wettest bank holidays ever witnessed.’
‘I always tended bar in the evenings. I’d had a deranged notion that this would establish me as a kind of charming-innkeeper figure. This was despite the fact that not one but two ex-girlfriends (both of them, admittedly, sharp-tongued academics) had described my manner as “funereal.”’
Kevin Barry is a bit of an oul’ character himself. I went to see him last year at the Cork Short Story Festival where he presented the Faber anthology which he edited: ‘Town & Country: New Irish Short Stories.’ Remarkably down-to-earth, considering he also won the 2013 International Impac Dublin Literary Award for his novel ‘City of Bohane’, he advised us to ‘go home to your tea, now’ to close the event.
A good interview with him on Irish Writers in America, in which he describes Ireland as ‘a wet, tormented little rock,’ can be viewed here.