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 Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan

Birth
Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
Death 20 Mar 1964 (aged 41)
Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
Burial Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
Memorial ID 2007 · View Source
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Writer. He wrote in both Irish and English, was a poet, short story writer, novelist and one of the most successful Irish dramatists of the 20th century. He was also a committed Irish Republican. He was born in inner city Dublin into an educated working class family. At the age of thirteen, he left school to become a house painter, like his father. In 1937, the family moved to a new local authority housing scheme in Crumlin, Dublin. Here he became a member of Fianna Eireann, the youth wing of the IRA and published his first poems and prose in the organization's magazine Fianna: the Voice of Young Ireland. In 1939 he was arrested in Liverpool in possession of explosives for use in a planned IRA bombing campaign. He was sentenced to three years in Borstal Prison (Kent) and did not return to Ireland until 1941. In 1942, he was tried for the attempted murder of two detectives and sentenced to fourteen years. He was sent to Mountjoy Prison and later to the Curragh Internment Camp. He was released in 1946 as part of a general amnesty of republican prisoners. In 1947 he spent a short time in prison in Manchester for helping a fellow republican to escape from jail. His prison experiences were central to his future writing career. While in Mountjoy Prison he wrote his first play, The Landlady, and also began to write short stories and other prose. Some of this work was published in The Bell, the leading Irish literary magazine of the time. He also learned Irish in prison and, after his release in 1946, he spent some time in the Gaeltacht areas of Galway and Kerry, where he started writing poetry in Irish. By the early 1950s he was earning a living as a writer for radio and newspapers and had gained a reputation as something of a character on the streets and in literary circles in Dublin.
His major breakthrough came in 1954 when his play The Quare Fellow, which was based on his experiences in jail, was produced in the Pike Theatre in Dublin. The play ran for six months. In May 1956, The Quare Fellow opened in the Theatre Royal, Stratford in a production by Joan Littlewood, bringing international fame to the author. In 1957, his Irish language play, An Giall (The Hostage) opened in the Damer Theatre and his autobiographical novel, The Borstal Boy, was published. He was now established as one of the leading Irish writers of his generation.
He found fame difficult to deal with. He had long been a heavy drinker (describing himself, on one occasion, as "a drinker with a writing problem",) and developed diabetes in the early 1960s. This combination resulted in a series of notoriously drunken public appearances, both on stage and television. He died in the Meath Hospital, Dublin.

Bio by: Frank Duffin


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 2007
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Brendan Behan (9 Feb 1923–20 Mar 1964), Find A Grave Memorial no. 2007, citing Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland ; Maintained by Find A Grave .