Glenn Patterson

Belfast-born novelist who brings a new understanding to the Troubles

While Glenn Patterson's novels explore new ways of understanding the history of the Troubles, they provide a subtle mixture of traditional and postmodern, informed by a deep historical sensitivity.

Patterson was born in Belfast in 1961, attended Methodist College and honed his writing skills under Malcolm Bradbury’s tutelage on the Creative Writing MA course at the University of East Anglia.

He returned to Northern Ireland in 1988 and published his first novel, Burning Your Own, in the same year.

Set in Belfast during the turbulent summer of 1969, it follows the protagonist’s rough transition into adolescence, paralleled with the greater conflicts about to engulf NI.

He has spoken how Salman Rushdie’s Midnight's Children has influenced his desire to expose the 'collective fictions' of his country.

Both books share a structural parallel between the private life of the individual and the public life of the nation. Burning Your Own won the Betty Trask Award and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.

Fat Lad (1992) explores similar themes of alienation and sectarian conflict. Its multi-layered narrative interweaves convoluted relationships and emotional entanglements against the ever-present backdrop of Ulster’s paramilitary violence.

Multiple narrative strands allow Patterson to deny his readers any one reading of the Troubles.

This multiplicity of meanings is evident in all his work. This book was shortlisted for the Guinness Peat Aviation Book Award. It was followed by Black Night at Big Thunder Mountain (1995).

The International (1999) is a beautifully-realised novel set in a Belfast hotel in 1967. It explores a day in the life of Danny, an 18-year-old barman.

It is seen from his viewpoint but we encounter various characters, including the founding members of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association.

Number 5 (2003) and That Which Was (2004) again explore the complex interaction between memory, identity, history and society.

Lapsed Protestant (2006) is a collection of provocative writings on life in Northern Ireland.

The Third Party was published by Blackstaff Press in Autumn 2007.