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Colm Tóibín 1955-

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(Also spelled as Colm Toibin) Irish journalist, travel essayist, novelist, short story writer, and nonfiction writer.

The following entry presents an overview of Tóibín's career through 2001.

Tóibín is an award-winning Irish journalist who has won acclaim for his series of travel essays and novels. He has been noted for his skillful evocation and thoughtful examinations of different cultures in his travel writing. His travelogues also display a firm concern for social and political histories, whether he's examining the traditions of Spain or South America or the customs of his own home country of Ireland. His sparse, journalistic writing style—developed in his long-running weekly column in the Dublin Sunday Independent—influenced the simple prose of his later novels. Tóibín's novels are set in many of the locales that he explored in his travel writing, and the attention to cultural details in his fiction has been commended.

Biographical Information

Tóibín was born in the village of Enniscorthy, Wexford, in 1955. He was the second youngest of five children. During his youth, he attended the Christian Brothers School and later transferred to St. Peter's College, Wexford. He enrolled in University College, Dublin, in 1972, where he received a B.A. in History and English. After graduating in 1975, Tóibín moved to Barcelona, Spain, where he taught at the Dublin School of English. Tóibín became involved in Spanish politics during his stay and attended many demonstrations supporting Spanish democracy. His experiences living in Spain would later be used as source material for several of his works, including The South (1990) and Homage to Barcelona (1990). He returned to Ireland in 1978 and began work on an M.A. in Modern English and American Literature. During this period, Tóibín began writing for several publications, including In Dublin, Hibernia, and The Sunday Tribune. In 1982 he became an editor at Magill, one of Ireland's top current affairs magazines. Tóibín left Ireland again in 1985, travelling to South America, the Sudan, and Egypt. He wrote a number of travel essays recounting his experiences abroad, which were published weekly in the Dublin Sunday Independent. Upon returning to Ireland, Tóibín worked as a journalist and contributor to a number of publications, such as the London Review of Books. He published his first novel The South in 1990. The novel won the Irish Times/Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize and was nominated for the Whitbread Prize. He also won the Encore Prize for Best Second Novel, the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize for The Heather Blazing (1992). The Blackwater Lightship (1999) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Award. In 2000 Tóibín became a Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. He has taught and held workshops at several universities, including the American University at Washington, D.C., and the New School in Manhattan, New York.

Major Works

Tóibín is widely regarded for his journalism, essay collections, and travelogue writing. In Walking along the Border (1987), Tóibín travelled along the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, recording the day-to-day lives, fears, and prejudices on both sides of the divide. Homage to Barcelona explores the rich cultural history of the city of Barcelona and examines the city's turbulent political past, as evidenced by its role in the Spanish Civil War. The Sign of the Cross (1994) recounts Tóibín's travels through Poland, Bavaria, Italy, the Balkans, the United Kingdom, and Ireland during different Roman Catholic Holy Weeks. Tóibín discusses his own Catholic upbringing and the unique ways that European countries practice and celebrate their Catholicism. The Irish Famine (2001)—co-written with...

(The entire section contains 1369 words.)

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Principal Works