The City of the Farset: Portrayals of Belfast in Three Novels by Glenn Patterson
This chapter discusses three novels, by Glenn Patterson, Burning Your Own, Number 5 and The International, all set in the city of Belfast, the first two in suburban areas, illustrating an often neglected but very important aspect of urban living: the areas away from the centre of a city, areas where in fact most of the inhabitants live. All three novels highlight the sense of urban districts as shared spaces with their own complex power structures and power struggles, which are reflected in Burning Your Own in the struggles for dominance within the gang formed by the local youngsters. For the inhabitants of these shared spaces, their locality forms the context of their daily activities, which are framed by their subjective observations of the streets within which they live: central and well-known areas in The International, which find their echoes in the mind of the reader. The modern city is seen as impermanent, in a constant state of flux. This is particularly noteworthy in Number 5, with its focus on a single house, built on an estate which was originally an extension of the city boundary but, eventually, several decades later, formed an integral part of the city. All three novels demonstrate the importance of political, social and economic power, the last of which is particularly significant, with its power to change the landscape of the city. Particularly in The International there is an ethnic mix, more likely to be found in urban than rural communities. The novels do not ignore ‘the Troubles’ but convey a broader interest in the city of Belfast, both its distinctive elements and its typicality, and connections with other parts of the world.
KeywordsGlenn Patterson Burning Your Own Number Five The International Belfast Suburban Power structures Power struggles Shared spaces ‘The Troubles’ Ethnic mix Impermanent Landscape Estates
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