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The concept of "hauntology" - a word combining both haunting and ontology – was coined by Jacques Derrida to characterise a situation where an ideology that is no longer operative continues to haunt a place, informing its ongoing representations, its latent conflicts. The term refers to a temporal disjunction where the past persists in the present through the paradoxical observation that something has been lost but persists in the spirit of the place.
Northern Ireland embodies this concept, as its history, geography and institutions are marked by a radical political schizophrenia stemming from a troubled past that even the peace process has not managed to erase.
In The twelve (2009), Stuart Neville questions the feasibility and consequences of coming to terms with one’s past when confronted with this haunting. Gerry Fegan, an IRA hitman, drowned in alcohol and depression, is shown to be obsessed, haunted by the ghosts of his twelve victims.
This article assesses the extent to which the book simultaneously renews the usual codes of thrillers and takes up the hackneyed classical tropes of the Elizabethan revenge tragedy, in a move that echoes the postmodern concept of differential repetition.
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