Tuesday, 28 June 2022

The Black Dreams - 'Redland' by Aislínn Clarke


The picture above is from a book of photographs of a British army training area in Germany. Red Land, Blue Land refers to the standard NATO colours given to friendly and enemy units. In this case, however, the squaddies were sent into the zone to train them for operations in the UK during the Troubles.

The story concerns a woman in the Northern Irish town of Redlands who is haunted by the barking of a phantom dog. The mental stress this causes her gradually accumulates, alongside her quest for the truth about the mysterious creature. Eventually, her quest leads her to the book, with its grotesque images of civilians and terrorists posed around a replica of her neighborhood. Dummies stand at the bar inside the nameless pub, a hooded rifleman crouches behind a bin. And a dog strains at its leash, barking endlessly. 

There is more than a hint of what might be termed unsympathetic magic, here. There's a sense that a fake community created to simulate a low-intensity war zone has impacted the real place it was modelled on. History can never be truly past if people are forced to live in its detritus. The story also, all too pertinently, contains a concise depiction of the collapsing NHS. 

I was not surprised to find out that the author is a film director as well as a writer, and I will be seeking out her work. You can find more about her here

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