Other Literary Forms
Brendan Behan’s literary reputation rests on the merits of three works: The Quare Fellow and The Hostage, his dramatic masterpieces, and The Borstal Boy (1958), his autobiography, published in England by Hutchinson and in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf. The two plays were performed several times before their publication, and the performance rights are still retained by the Theatre Workshop in East London. The Borstal Boy, set in 1931-1941, is an autobiographical narrative of Behan’s adolescent years in prison. Several of the stories included in The Borstal Boy appeared initially in literary magazines and journals. Brendan Behan’s Island: An Irish Sketchbook (1962) was intended by Behan to be similar in tone and structure to John Millington Synge’s The Aran Islands (1907), but it does not stand up to this literary comparison. Unable to write for extended periods of time in his later years, Behan began taping his stories and subsequently had them edited by his publishing guardian angel and friend, Rae Jeffs. Brendan Behan’s Island, Hold Your Hour and Have Another (1963), Brendan Behan’s New York (1964), and Confessions of an Irish Rebel (1965) are all edited results of taping sessions. The Scarperer (1964) was published in book form the year Behan died but had been published first as a series in The Irish Times, in 1953, under the pseudonym “Emmet Street.” Several of Behan’s works were published posthumously. Among these are Confessions of an Irish Rebel, Moving Out (1952), A Garden Party (1952), and Richard’s Cork Leg, the latter of which was begun by Behan in 1960 and ultimately completed by Alan Simpson. In addition to his plays and books, Behan contributed scores of short stories and poems on a variety of subjects to journals and newspapers throughout his life. He was as renowned for his balladeering as he was for his writings, and he composed the songs for his plays. A recording entitled Brendan Behan Sings Irish Folksongs and Ballads, produced by Spoken Arts, provides insight into Behan’s passionate personality.