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Displacement, identity and language in Hugo Hamilton

Elena Cotta Ramusino


Focusing on the memoir The Speckled People and the novel Sad Bastard, this article investigates Hugo Hamilton’s attitude to some central issues in Irish culture and literature, namely the idea of displacement, the nature of Irish identity and the language question presented in a surprisingly new way. Born into an Irish-German family, brought up speaking German and Irish, forbidden from speaking English at home, Hamilton is interestingly different from other Irish authors. In his writing the traditional confrontation with an external cultural, literary and linguistic authority takes on a new meaning. The Speckled People explores how his father’s language dream of an Irish Ireland was inflexibly enforced on his family. His father’s unflinching pursuit of an abstract model of Irishness shifted the focus of displacement, resulting in the child’s painful condition of ‘dislocatedness’. In Sad Bastard the author looks into the same issues from the exhilarating perspective of a grown-up, mentally fragile, ex Garda who is likewise ‘dislocated’.

Full Text:



Canetti, Elias (1979), The Tongue Set Free, New York, Continuum.

Dawe, G. (2004), “Speckled People”, Irish Pages, 2, Autumn-Winter: 268-72.

Genette, G. (1987), Seuils, Paris, Éditions du Seuil.

Hamilton, Hugo (1991), The Last Shot, London, Harper Perennial.

Hamilton, Hugo (1996), Dublin where the Palm Trees Grow, London, Faber and Faber.

Hamilton, Hugo (1997), Headbanger, London, Vintage.

Hamilton, Hugo (1998), Sad Bastard, London, Secker & Warburg.

Hamilton, Hugo (2003), The Speckled People, New York, Fourth Estate.

Hamilton, Hugo (2006), The Sailor in the Wardrobe, London, Fourth Estate.

Joyce, James (1986), Ulysses – The Corrected Text, Harmondsworth, Penguin.

Kiberd, D. (1996), Inventing Ireland, London, Vintage.


Linguæ & - Rivista di lingue e culture moderne
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (06/04/2012 n. 185)
Online ISSN 1724-8698 - Print ISSN 2281-8952

Dipartimento di Scienze della Comunicazione, Studi Umanistici e Internazionali: Storia, Culture, Lingue, Letterature, Arti, Media
Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo

Editor-in-Chief: Roberta Mullini
Editorial Board: Maurizio Ascari - Stefano Beretta - Antonio Bertacca- Tania Collani - Chiara Elefante - Marina Guglielmi - Maryline Heck - Richard Hillman - Reinhard Johler - Stephen Knight - Cesare Mascitelli - Sonia Massai - Aurélie Moioli - Maria de Fátima Silva - Bart Van Den Bossche 

Editorial Staff: Margaret Amatulli - Alessandra Calanchi - Riccardo Donati - Ivo Klaver  - Massimiliano Morini - Antonella Negri - Luca Renzi

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