My Traitor

By: Sorj Chalandon

Publication Date: 6 June 2011

(9 customer reviews)


My Traitor tells the story of Antoine, an idealistic young French violin-maker, who takes a train from Dublin to Belfast in 1977 and is propelled into the heart of the Falls Road and the Republican movement, and Ireland’s music, suffering and beauty.

He meets Tyrone Meehan, a charismatic. high-ranking member of the IRA, who becomes his friend and mentor, and a symbol of the Irish struggle. As he increasingly identifies with his newfound home, Antoine leaves behind his life in Paris. Over the next three decades, from the streets of Belfast to the fields of Donegal, he witnesses the marches, the hunger strikes, the peace process, learning about bombs, prison, poverty and pride. In 2005 his world implodes when the IRA finally lay down their arms and Tyrone is revealed as an informer.

An intense depiction of the nature of friendship and loyalty, and the emptiness occasioned by betrayal, My Traitor is a powerful lyric novel – an ode to Northern Ireland – paying an outsider’s tribute to a wounded and extraordinary country.

Acclaimed in France, My Traitor won several award on publication in 2007. One reviewer wrote: ‘Why did Chalandon choose to write a novel rather than a documentary? Because fiction enabled him to go where he couldn’t: to meet “his traitor” face to face, to look him in the eye and ask: “what about our friendship? Was that a lie as well?” We understand Antoine. We understand Chalandon. He doesn’t falter. His book is a rugged account of a terrible beauty.’

‘Terrible and beautiful. – Le Nouvel Observateur

‘Fascinating.’ – L’Express

‘A virtuoso novel, sharp as a knife, that takes us to the very heart of life and its inner struggles. An essential novel that is both burning hot and icy cold.’ – Madame Figaro

‘The book catches, with remarkable atmospheric accuracy, the claustrophobic nature of life behind the barricades… As good an account of life behind the barricades in the worst period of the Troubles that we are likely to get for some time.’ – Irish Independent


SORJ CHALANDON was a reporter for Libération from 1974 to 2008, during which time he was awarded the Albert Londres prize for his work on Northern Ireland. He now works for the Canard Enchîné. He is the authos of four novels, all published by Grasset in France. Le Petit Bonzai, Une Promesse, Mon Traître and La Légende de nos Pères.

Also available as an ebook

9 reviews for My Traitor

  1. Lilliput Press

    “If you read Return to Killybegs then you will be sure to want to read this shorter novel as well. This is the Frenchman Antoine’s POV of the events surrounding the IRA traitor Tyrone Meehan.

    I couldn’t gel with Antoine when I first started this, couldn’t empathise with his motives, felt he was to some extent a “hanger on” and in some ways immature. He looked for a father figure, a hero, a cause, a country and thought he had found those ideals, traits in Meehan.

    Antoine’s sense of loss is palpable in this short novel, his sense of betrayal, of being used by Meehan. The final chapters I found to be emotive. Even though it is Antoine’s story it was Sheila, Meehan’s wife and his son Jack that I felt for, they had their faith and belief destroyed. This concise novel deals more with the aftermath of Tyrone Meehan’s actions.

    Well written, a dense and emotionally draining read in parts.” CPHE

  2. Lilliput Press

    “Every so often you come across a book that no one else has read and seems to have passed under the radar and you wonder how it got away. One of those books is My Traitor by the French author Sorj Chalandon. First published in 2007 in France and the winner of several prizes, it was published here in the summer of 2011. Chalandon was a reporter for the French newspaper Liberation for over thirty years until 2008 writing in particular about Northern Ireland. Asked by many why he didn’t write something beyond the structure of a newspaper article, it was the revelation on Christmas Eve 2005 that an important member of the Republican movement well-known by Chalandon had confessed to being a traitor that led him to turn to writing. My Traitor is the result.
    With a completely unique approach to telling the story of the northern struggle, Chalandon tells the story through the voice of Antoine, a Parisian violin maker who on the spur of the moment on a visit to Dublin takes the train to Belfast. His subsequent acceptance into the community of Belfast Nationalists brings a feeling of kinship that he clings on to and he returns regularly, becoming both a witness to situation in the North in the late 70s and a sympathiser with the Republican demands. In particular he is taken under the wing of Tyrone Meehan, a high-ranking IRA member. Spending time with the people of Belfast, he becomes dissatisfied with his life in Paris and increasingly isolated from his friends as he continually talks of the Irish situation. Living almost in limbo, no longer feeling part of his own community in Paris but never truly one of the people in Belfast, he gives more to the movement by letting people stay temporarily in a bedsit above his Paris workshop and asking no questions.
    The quality of the story-telling is superb. It spares nothing in the description of the bleakness and also of the closeness of the community of late 70s and early 80s Belfast; the poverty, the poor living conditions, the lives of wives and mothers with sons and husbands in Long Kesh prison, the drinking, the hunger strikes and the late night raids on suspected IRA houses. The cleverness of this story is that it is written with a voice of someone from the outside looking in; although the protagonists sympathies are with the Republicans they are always described with an outsiders eyes. And another skill of the storytelling is that even though the book is titled My Traitor and that Meehan is named possessively by Antoine as ‘my traitor’ through the book, we are almost as surprised as Antoine when in 2005 on the laying down of arms by the IRA he reads the newspaper story of Meehan’s confession as a traitor, falling down in the street in shock.
    This is a book that deserves much more attention. Recognised in France, largely helped by the authors name as a reporter, it should be recognised here also.” LOUISE WARD

  3. Lilliput Press

    “Arguably, one of the best novels written about events in the north of Ireland. A sensitive handling of a tragedy.” ANNE

  4. Lilliput Press

    “This book is a must read if you read the previous one. It shows the effect on the innocent of betrayal by your hero. Perhaps the message is that if you hero worship someone they ultimately must fail you.” A MOORE

  5. Lilliput Press

    Anger, hurt, the need to understand … a powerful, transfixing novel.’ – Le Figaro Magazine

  6. Lilliput Press

    ‘Terrible and beautiful.’ – Le Nouvel Observateur

  7. Lilliput Press

    A tale of true friendship that draws on the very autobiographical feelings of a great war correspondant with a genuine talent for stories of real human interest.’ – Elle

  8. Lilliput Press

    ‘A virtuoso novel, sharp as a knife, that takes us to the very heart of life and its inner struggles. An essential novel that is both burning hot and icy cold.’ – Madame Figaro

  9. Lilliput Press

    ‘Fascinating.’ – L’Express

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 135 × 215 mm
Publication Date

6 June 2011


Paperback, 175pp