The Saucer of Larks
Brian Friel, is better known as a playwright but also wrote short stories in the earlier part of his career. The Guardian’s obituary provides a portrait of his life and career.
First published in the New Yorker in 1960, and then as art of a collection by the same name in 1962, The Saucer of Larks is set in Ireland, Donegal, not so long after the end of World War II. The focus of the story is a visit by German police in order to exhume the remains of a dead German airman and lay him to rest in a designated burial ground in County Wicklow along with other German soldiers lost in the war. The story centres around the Irish police sergeant who is a ‘blow in’ (Kevin Barry, talking on the New Yorker podcast). The sergeant is much taken by the peace and natural setting of the Donegal coastline where the soldier has been laid to rest by those who found him, and in a moment of uncharacteristic behaviour, he asks the German policeman to leave the remains in the ground.
For my taste, the story goes beyond its natural end point and might have been better ended without what I felt was an afterward, back in the police station after the German’s had gone. On the other hand, this section provides the reader with a slice of social history, displaying attitudes of the time.
You can listen to the New Yorker podcast of Kevin Barry reading The Saucer of Larks here