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New Left Review 3, May-June 2000


Declan Kiberd on Francis Mulhern, The Present Lasts a Long Time. On the ferry across St George’s Channel, contemporary legacies of Raymond Williams, for cultural politics and national identity alike.

DECLAN KIBERD

THE VIEW FROM ENNISKILLEN

In Towards 2000 Raymond Williams considered a socialist future in which old notions of territory and sovereignty might be undone. Francis Mulhern justly observes that, although the significant societies of today are either larger or smaller than the nation-state, it nonetheless persists as the site of despatch. Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, more and more nations have clamoured for the right to recognition which is embodied in some form of state. This is but one sense in which Mulhern’s present lasts a long time. The current situation persists, but only as a travesty of William’s imagined future. The most one can do is survey the botched narrative with pessimism of intellect, optimism of will. Such stoicism makes for a remarkable diagnostic coherence in these disparate essays, which trace the history of intellectuals in many places, most notably Britain and Ireland.

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