‘A Love’ by Neil Jordan

Night in Tunisia was the first book of short stories I bought, forty years ago. I had seen Neil Jordan’s film Angel twice in a week when it was released, and the book had been in the news when it won the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1979. After years of studying Shakespeare and fat Victorian novels, it was exciting to discover that stories which were so powerful and memorable could be told in short form. ‘A Love’ is the final story in the collection and the one that has stayed with me the longest. A young man and older woman meet again in Dublin after his long absence in London, on the day of de Valera’s funeral, then drive across country as they rake through the last embers of a relationship which started when he was a teenager and she a holiday landlady. It’s an elegiac and ruminative Oedipal story, which lingers in images like the “peculiar yearning” he felt when he found her father’s civil-war pistol and she took it from him and hid it between her breasts under her blouse: “you called it love, I remember. And it must have been”.

Collected in Night in Tunisia, The Irish Writers Co-operative, 1976, and Chatto and Windus, 1983