Brendan Francis Behan



Life and work of the Irish author and playwright




His life
    born 09/02/1923 father: house painter, imprisoned as a republican (end of Civil War) strong literary and cultural atmosphere in his home 1973: at 14 B. was apprenticed to his father’s trade already member of Fianna Eireann (IRA youth organisation), contributor to "The United Irishman" IRA launched bombing campaign in England in 1939, B. was trained in explosives arrested at his arrival in Liverpool 02/1940 sentenced to 3 years Borstal detention, used excellent library there 1942 Dublin: IRA parade, B. fired at a detective ├á 14 years’ penal servitude became a fluent Irish speaker, Borstal experiences were published in "The Bell" 1946 released as part of a general amnesty, returned to painting some years he concentrated on writing verse in Irish ├á Paris, 1950 return to Dublin, cultivated his reputation in the city’s literary circles 1953: as Emmett Street: published "The Scarperer", Irish Times crime story, weekly column from April on 1954: The Quare Fellow well received in the tiny Pike Theatre 1955: marriage with Beatrice Salkeld, art painter 1956: production at Joan Littlewood's Theatre Royal Stratford (London) ├á wider reputation drunken BBC interview, always media attention ├á alcoholic 1958: An Giall / produced at Joan Littlewood’s as The Hostage (changed) Summer 1958: first collapse because of diabetes and liver complaint lack of concentration ├á tape records instead of writing 11/1963: daughter Blanaid U 20 March 1964, Meath Hospital Dublin, IRA guard of honour escorted his coffin newspapers: biggest funeral since Michael Collins and Charles Stewart Parnell

Bernhard Scheller said in the epilogue to "Borstal Boy":
"Behan shows a serious philosophy of life with the impetuosity of the youth and calmness at the same time; the detailed and accurate description of both rooms and nature, humans and landscapes is accompanied by wise verses and the play with words. National prejudices and social envy is reduced by subtle portrait sketches of prisoners, wardens, priests and accurately drawn women like the Mother Superior [...] The author unobtrusively shows his wealth of songs, legends and old sayings and he can tell shining liar stories."
His work
The Quare Fellow
    protagonist never seen on stage condemned man in prison, execution imminent execution touches lives of other prisoners, warders, hangman the play is in part a protest against capital punishment blend of tragedy and comedy underlines survival of the prisoners' humanity in their inhumane environment production by Joan Littlewood brought him honour and made him famous

An Giall / The Hostage
    2ndplay: An Giall commissioned by Gael Linn (Irish - language organisation) Behan translated into English Joan Littlewood's production of The Hostage (1958) à success in London and New York tragi - comedy deals with a closed world Dublin brothel where IRA imprisons English soldier Littlewood diluted Irish naturalism with interludes of music - hall singing and dancing.

Borstal Boy
    autobiographical, appeared in 1958 early chapters on prison life are among his best work victim of his own celebrity, alcoholism and diabetes English publishers suggested dictation à Brendan Behan's Island (1962, readable collection of anecdotes and opinions à Behan moved away from republican extremism of his youth

1964:Brendan Behan's New York
1965:Confessions of an Irish Rebel, disappointing sequel to Borstal Boy
1963: Hold Your Hour and Have Another, collection of newspaper columns from the l950s

Borstal: youth prisons named after the first of them opened 1902, youths from 16 - 21 were arrested there

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