24 - A Star Called Henry

This is a Whitsun/Pentecost-Weekend-Reading-Blog from Muenster. A Star Called Henry is a novel (first part of a trilogy) by the Irish writer Roddy Doyle - and one of his best, in my opinion. It's set in Ireland between 1916 and 1923, the times of the War for Independence and Civil War. The main figure is Henry Smart, a Dublin slum boy - his father a one-legged whorebouncer, his mother a weak little person who cannot overcome the death of one newborn baby after the other, and takes to alcohol. Henry becomes a robber and beggar, a star of the streets. At 14 he joins the Irish Citizen Army, later - using his father's wooden leg as a weapon when he fights as one of Michel Collins' boys.

The following passage describes Henry's attempt for getting schooling for himself and his little brother Victor. On their first and second day, which will be the only two school days in their lives, they are taught by Miss O'Shea (who is later to become Henry's wife).

.. Now she said, up at the blackboard. - Sums. Henry?
It took me a while to realise: she was talking to me.
- Yeah?
- Yes, Miss O'Shea.
I didn't understand. I waited.
- Say Yes, Miss O'Shea, she said.
- Yes, Miss O'Shea.
- Very good. Stand up, please.
- I'm only after sitting down.
More laughing at the back.
- Stand up, Henry.
She said it kindly, so I got out of the desk, tried to hold it down as I rose. Victor's weight beside me helped.
She picked up a long piece of chalk and wrote 6+6+14-7 = on the blackboard. She did it without looking at the numbers; her eyes roved the classroom. Then, tapping the board unter each number, she spoke.
- Now, Henry. Tell us all. If a man has six very valuable male dogs and six very valuable bitches and they have fourteen puppies but he has to sell seven of them because he's a bit slow with the rent and the landlord is threatening to evict him, how many dogs will he have left?
- Nineteen, I said.
- Yes, she said. - Six plus six plus the fourteen puppies minus the seven for the rent equals nineteen. See? It's easy, isn't it? Thank you, Henry. Now, I want you all to use your heads like Henry.
Victor slapped my leg. He was delighted. And so was I. My first compliment.
- You can sit down again now, Henry.
I slid easily into the desk.
A hand went up in front of me.
- Yes, Cecil?
- Who did he sell the pups, to, miss?
- Different people, Cecil. Now.
She cleaned the board.
- Hey miss, My uncle buyed one of them pups.
We spent the rest of the morning buying and selling pups and dividing bits of cakes. I was several slices ahead of the rest and Victor was no slowcoach either; I could almost see the jam on his chin. I was learning nothing new. But I was happy. I knew that I'd been able for anything".

Two days later they're expelled from school.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

liebe richi. deine seite ist ja echt heiß. aber warum musst du soviel in englisch schreiben. glaubst du wirklich ich setze mich mit einem wörtzerbuch zum computer. oder willst du deine wahre identität verschleiern. das einfache kärtner dirnl mach voll auf comopolitisch. da kann i ja nur saggen: lei, lei weiter so. aber deine bodenständigen fans werden damit sicher nicht mehr. Wenn ich ein bisschen mehr zeit habe, werde ich mir die inhalte etwas genauer anschauen. lg.gernot.

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