Comparisons are invidious, but Hugo Hamilton is clearly a successor to the late Frank McCourt, author of the celebrated “Angela’s Ashes,” in the tradition of Irish memoir.
Hamilton read from his book, “The Speckled People,” as part of the PEN World Voices Festival on May 3. The event was held at Ireland House, a handsome mews building off Washington Square Park that is home to NYU’s Irish studies department. Hamilton was introduced by John Waters, head of the university’s Irish literature program. In the competitive world of memoir writing, a bizarre childhood is almost de rigueur. But Hamilton’s was even more bizarre than most. His father was an ardent Irish nationalist, married to a German woman. In protest against what he viewed as the British “occupation” of his country, he refused to allow any English to be spoken in his home. As a result, Hamilton grew up as a virtual émigré in his own country, speaking primarily Celtic and German.
The two languages also came to delineate the