Book Review: This Plague of Souls – Mike McCormack

Posted 3 months ago in Book Review

The best sentences of This Plague of Souls read like dispatches from some abyssal edge, and capture the sensation of being carried out to sea: at first slowly but then, you suspect, all at once.

It is a vague force which carries Nealon, newly released  from jail and tormented by the phone calls of a glibly hostile stranger, who goads him into meeting. It is a meeting which Nealon is consistently reluctant, but increasingly fated, to grant.

To get there he must traverse the managed crisis-sphere of modern Ireland. In a bravura passage reminiscent of DeLillo’s “Airborne Toxic Event,” Nealon is witness to the early stages of an unspecified emergency, and senses something ‘attuning itself to a higher order of disturbance, a twitch in the ether to which it is sensitive. There is now a sharper edge to everything’. So resonant is his prose that even a small fluctuation in the weather — and no one writes the weather like McCormack does — can seem charged with some hidden consequence in deep geological time.

There is something here of Kafka, but also of the lesser-known catastrophists of Central Europe, Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Max Frisch, in the juxtaposition of the coldly procedural with flashes of a fever dream.

This Plague of Souls is a fever of an infectious, deleterious strain, the kind that will take its readers some time to shake.

This Plague of Souls – Mike McCormack

[Tramp Press]

Words: Diarmuid McGreal


The key to the city. Straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter.