“My Traitor” is the unflinching story of Antoine, an idealistic young French violin maker, who takes a train from Dublin to Belfast in 1977 and is propelled into the heart of the Falls Road and the Republican movement. He meets Tyrone Meehan, a charismatic high-ranking member of the IRA, who becomes his friend and mentor who introduces him to Ireland’s music, pubs, suffering and beauty. As he increasingly identifies with his new-found home, Antoine leaves behind his life in Paris. During the next thirty years, he travels to Long Kesh and to Donegal, learns about bombs, and prison, and loyalty; he tries to become involved in the Republican movement. Then, in 2005, his world falls apart when the IRA lay down their arms and discover that Tyrone has been an informant to the British for the past 20 years. Paradoxically, through his friend’s betrayal, Antoine becomes wholly part of the community – and a circle closes in a satisfying yet deeply troubling resolution. An intense depiction of the nature of friendship and loyalty, and the loss and emptiness brought about by betrayal, “My Traitor” is alive with historical resonance. The outsider’s view of the conflict and the country provides a compelling insight of a terrible period in Irish history.
In “Return to Killybegs”, Tyrone Meehan, damned as an informer, ekes out his days in Donegal, awaiting his killers. Now that everything is out in the open, they will all speak in my place – the ira, the British, my family, my close friends, journalists I’ve never even met. Some of them will go so far as to explain how and why I ended up a traitor … Do not trust my enemies, and even less my friends. Ignore those who will say they knew me. Nobody has ever walked in my shoes, nobody. The only reason’I’m talking today is because I am the only one who can tell the truth. Because after I’m gone, I hope for silence. Return to Killybegs is the story of a traitor to Belfast’s Catholic community, emerging from the white heat of a prolonged war during the 197os and 198os in Northern Ireland. This powerful work, lauded by critics, shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt and awarded the Grand Prix de Roman de l’Académie Française, deals with a subject that touches a nerve for most Irish people: the all- too-human circumstances of betrayal and survival. It is an extraordinary read. Sorj Chalandon is a novelist who spent formative years on assignment in Northern Ireland as a reporter for Libération during the Troubles. He is the author of two works: My Traitor was first published to acclaim in France in 2007 and winner of the Prix Joseph Kessel and the Prix Jean Freustié. Return to Killybegs was originally published in France in 2011.
Written by: Santiago Amigorena