“We’re in very unheroic times…”
The first thing Craig Jordan-Baker mentions when we get to talk is that he has just come back from a spot of Morris Dancing, that most particularly British of folk traditions. But that’s the nature of the diaspora all over: we come not just from Ireland but also from somewhere else. We are a mix, and CJB (as I’ve never called him to his face) personifies that mix as much as anyone I’ve had the privilege to interview so far.
Raised in a council estate in Southampton, he was by his own description “an odd child”, immersing himself in the literature of Heaney and Wilde rather than trying to knock seven shades out of other neighbourhood kids. His story takes in not only his Irish father’s enforced exile across the water but also his Channel Islander grandmother’s incarceration by the Nazis.
Likewise his debut novel, The Nacullians, which is a bitter-sweet read that entertains without sentimentality, encapsulates that diaspora sense of being part of everything and nothing at the same time. The tragedy of The Nacullians is that they can’t see a way out of the void. The glory of CJB is he managed to find his through writing: better to be an exile than a prisoner.
Even if it does involve Morris Dancing…
For Epoque Press and The Nacullians, go to: https://www.epoquepress.com/titles