Edna O'Brien

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Edna O'Brien
Born(1930-12-15) 15 December 1930 (age 81)
Tuamgraney, County Clare, Ireland
OccupationNovelist
Notable work(s)The Country Girls


 
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Edna O'Brien
Born(1930-12-15) 15 December 1930 (age 81)
Tuamgraney, County Clare, Ireland
OccupationNovelist
Notable work(s)The Country Girls


Edna O'Brien (born 15 December 1930) is an Irish novelist and short-story writer whose works often revolve around the inner feelings of women, and their problems in relating to men, and to society as a whole.[1]

Contents

Life and career

Edna O'Brien was born in Tuamgraney, County Clare, Ireland, in 1930, a place she would later describe as "fervid" and "enclosed." According to O'Brien, her mother was a strong, controlling woman who had emigrated temporarily to America, and worked for some time as a maid in Brooklyn, New York, for a well-off Irish-American family before returning to Ireland to raise her family. O'Brien was the youngest child of "a strict, religious family". In the years 1941-46 she was educated by the Sisters of Mercy - a circumstance that contributed to a "suffocating" childhood. "I rebelled against the coercive and stifling religion into which I was born and bred. It was very frightening and all pervasive. I'm glad it has gone."[2]

In 1950, she was awarded a licence as pharmacist. In Ireland, she read such writers as Tolstoy, Thackeray, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1954, she married, against her parents' wishes, the Irish writer Ernest Gébler and the couple moved to London - "We lived in SW 20. Sub-urb-ia."[2] They raised two sons, Carlo (a writer) and Sasha, but the marriage was dissolved in 1964. Gébler died in 1998.

In London, she bought Introducing James Joyce by T. S. Eliot and has said that when she learned that James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was autobiographical, it made her realise "where she might turn, should she want to write herself: 'Unhappy houses are a very good incubation for stories.'"[2] In London she started work as a reader for Hutchinson where, on the basis of her reports, she was commissioned, for £25, to write a novel. She published her first book, The Country Girls, in 1960.[citation needed]

This was the first part of a trilogy of novels (later collected as The Country Girls Trilogy), which included The Lonely Girl (1962) and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964). Shortly after their publication, these books were banned and, in some cases burned, in her native country due to their frank portrayals of the sex lives of their characters. In the 1960s, she was a patient of R. D. Laing: "I thought he might be able to help me. He couldn't do that - he was too mad himself - but he opened doors", she later said. Her novel, A Pagan Place (1970), was about her repressive childhood. Her parents were vehemently against all things related to literature; her mother strongly disapproved of her daughter's career as an author.[citation needed]

In 1981, she wrote a play, Virginia, about Virginia Woolf and it was staged originally in Canada and subsequently in the West End of London at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with Maggie Smith and directed by Robin Phillips. It was staged at The Public Theater in New York in spring 1985. Other notable works include a biography of James Joyce, published in 1999, and one of the poet Lord Byron, Byron in Love (2009). House of Splendid Isolation (1994), her novel about a terrorist who goes on the run (part of her research involved visiting Irish republican Dominic McGlinchey, later shot dead, whom she called "a grave and reflective man"), marked a new phase in her writing career. Down by the River (1996) concerned an under-age rape victim who sought an abortion in England, the "Miss X case". In the Forest (2002) dealt with the real-life case of Brendan O'Donnell, who abducted and murdered a woman, her three-year-old son, and a priest, in rural Ireland.[2]

She has received numerous awards for her works, including a Kingsley Amis Award in 1962 (for The Country Girls), the Yorkshire Post Book Award in 1970 (for A Pagan Place), and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 1990 for Lantern Slides. In 2006, O'Brien was appointed adjunct professor of English Literature in University College, Dublin.[3] In 2009, she was honoured with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at a special ceremony for the year’s Irish Book Awards in Dublin.[4] According to Scottish novelist Andrew O'Hagan, her place in Irish letters is assured. "She changed the nature of Irish fiction; she brought the woman's experience and sex and internal lives of those people on to the page, and she did it with style, and she made those concerns international." Irish novelist Colum McCann avers that O'Brien has been "the advance scout for the Irish imagination" for over fifty years.[5] She is one of two surviving panel members of the first edition of the BBC programme, Question Time, the other being Teddy Taylor.

She won the 2011 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award with her collection Saints and Sinners,[6] with judge Thomas McCarthy referring to her as "the Solzhenitsyn of Irish life". RTÉ aired a documentary on her as part of its Arts strand in early 2012.[7]

Awards and honours

Selected bibliography

References

  1. ^ Kirjasto O'Brien profile
  2. ^ a b c d "Edna O'Brien: A writer's imaginative life commences in childhood", interview in The Observer, 6 February 2011.
  3. ^ "UCD bestows Ulysses Medal on author Edna O'Brien"
  4. ^ Irish Times article 05-06-2009.
  5. ^ The Observer, 6 February 2011, assessments of her influence from article by Rachel Cooke.
  6. ^ "Edna O'Brien wins Frank O'Connor Award". Irish Examiner (Thomas Crosbie Holdings). 18 September 2011. http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/edna-obrien-wins-frank-oconnor-award-521077.html. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  7. ^ "RTÉ launches Spring Season on TV". RTÉ Ten (RTÉ). 16 January 2012. http://www.rte.ie/ten/2012/0116/ocarroll.html. Retrieved 16 January 2012. "There will also be a number of major Arts commissions throughout Spring including profiles of Edna O'Brien and Finbar Furey and "Ballymun Lullaby", the award-winning musical documentary that follows music teacher Ron Cooney on a journey of creating a collection of music that aims to bring the community of Ballymun together." 
  8. ^ O'Brien, Edna. "Watching Obama". The Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2009/01/17/a-poem-for-barack.html. Retrieved 27 September 2012. 

External links