Night Boat to Tangier
(CANONGATE, 214 PP, £14.99)
Tablet bookshop price £13.49 • Tel 020 7799 4064
Irish literature has repeatedly presented readers with mordantly comic pairs of men. Sean O’Casey created Joxer Daly and Jack Boyle in Juno and the Paycock. James Joyce presented Shem and Shaun in Finnegans Wake. Most famously, Samuel Beckett put Didi and Gogo onstage in Waiting for Godot. All of those double acts owe a debt to the cross-talk of the music hall, and the male frustrations, rivalries and sorrows of these characters are refracted through an often hilarious literary style.
This is the terrain of Kevin Barry’s new novel, which presents two middle-aged gangsters from Cork, Maurice and Charlie. In late 2018 these two find themselves in the Spanish ferry port of Algeciras, waiting for the night boat from Tangier, hoping to meet a 23-year-old Irish woman travelling from Morocco.