The Star Factory

Ciaran Carson

Winner of The Yorkshire Post Book Award 1997

The Star Factory

The Star Factory of the title was an abandoned mill, full of Piranesian galleries and rusting machinery, which haunted the author as a child; roads converge on Belfast to form a stellar patter, in an ironic benediction of the city’s sectarian divisions. But the Star factory is also a place of the imagination, where history and decaying architecture are turned into stories. And this is a book about growing up in a city that is full of stories, waeving in and out of each other as Carson explores myriad cities of his native town, diving down “the wormhole of memory” into parallel worlds where religion, politics and the sad magic of the dying shipyards and linen factories take manifold forms.

‘In The Star Factory he has written a maze-like autobiography of sorts. It is not so much the tale of a young man growing to maturity along the Falls Road with an Irish-speaking, storytelling postman for a father, as an extended demonstration of the way in which language can raise up and consecrate the ongoing, fractious epic which constitutes that much blasted city, Belfast.’ Independent

‘The playful, enchanting contiguities of Irish poet Carson’s memoir (which is as much a portrait of the city of Belfast as it is of one of its denizens) are just as skilled as those in Nabokov’s standard, Speak, Memory, and are even somewhat bolder… Unlike Nabokov, who had a revolution and exile to write about, Carson is trapped in a city he’s unable to turn away from, its dark, smoking decline reflected in his eyes and extraordinary prose. Among the flood of Irish memoirs these days, none are as dazzlingly written as this, and none remain so solidly entrenched in the sovereign space of the imagination.’ Publisher’s Weekly

‘A whimsical, witty romp through the streets of Belfast… The book is interspersed with legends and folklore, some of which are wonderfully amusing, most of which Carson translated himself from the Irish. He also, quite naturally, manages to parlay some facts; our Titanic-crazed culture should thrill to read the chapter on the ship’s construction in the docks of Belfast. While the tone of most of the book is lighthearted (as when Carson reveals to us the titles of the books he keeps in his privy), there are also more serious undertones of violence and the IRA – mentioned only occasionally and always in passing when referring to some local landmark. Violence for Carson is just one part of the Belfast landscape – not to be dwelt upon, but not to be ignored. Carson’s imaginary ’star factory, – a place – where words were melted down and like tallow cast into new molds, – is freshly realized here. Beautifully written, with deep humor and a strong evocation of a very personal Belfast.’ Kirkus


  • Head of Zeus UK

Previously Granta Books UK

Material: English PDF