Saturday 22 September 2018

Mary Kenny: Penning pregnancy

Female fiction writers are focusing on the great drama inside a woman's body

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

It's sometimes suggested that artists and novelists are better at sensing the zeitgeist - that spirit of the age - than more prosaic sources, such as economists and political analysts. This perhaps was illuminated by Dublin's choice, this year, for its UNESCO "one city, one book" focus. The book selected was Sinéad Gleeson's anthology of short stories by women, entitled The Long Gaze Back.

And see how the zeitgeist can animate the world of fiction and imagination: of the 22 stories by living women writers, 10 have some kind of preoccupation with, or focus on, the issue of pregnancy and motherhood.

Possibly the most strikingly contemporary story is June Caldwell's Somat. This is a description of a woman in a coma, being kept alive when it is found that she is pregnant. Soon the medics, the lawyers, the media and the State are all involved. "If there's only a 20pc chance of survival at 24 weeks - what hope has this mitten at 18? What are the doctors saying? Are we talking severe handicap or stillborn? How far is the State willing to go?"

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