John McGahern Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John McGahern was a distinguished novelist, dramatist, and short-story writer, the winner of numerous awards for his fiction. Born in 1934, he was raised in the village of Cootehall, in the west of Ireland. He was educated at Presentation College, Carrick-on-Shannon, St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, and University College, Dublin. He was trained as a schoolteacher and taught at a parochial school in Dublin from 1957 to 1964. In 1964 McGahern won a Macauley fellowship for his novel The Barracks, the early chapters of which had won him the first Æ Memorial Award in 1962. His second novel, The Dark, appeared in 1965.

The Irish Censorship Board banned The Dark in June, 1965, and that autumn its author was dismissed from his teaching post. He moved to London and lived for a time in Spain and the United States before returning to a small farm in County Leitrim in 1974 with his American wife, Madeline Green. He was a visiting professor at many universities, including Colgate (in the United States), Durham (England), Victoria (Canada), University College, Dublin, and University College, Galway. Since 1971, all his work has been translated into French. He received the Irish American Foundation Award (1985), the title Chevalier des Arts et Lettres (France, 1989), the Irish Times/Aer Lingus Fiction Prize (1990), and an honorary doctorate from Trinity College, Dublin (1991). He was also awarded the Prix Étranger Ecureuil in 1995. McGahern published his memoir, All Will Be Well, in 2005. He died in Dublin on March 30, 2006.

McGahern’s poetic vision is existentially grim. His emotionally thwarted characters take little comfort from one another; they merely survive together. His highly disciplined fiction catches the nuances of conflict between generations, sexes, neighbors, and classes as characters move through a landscape drained of sympathy and live with a fear of their own annihilation. Within these limits,...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

John McGahern was born in Dublin in 1934, the son of a police officer. He was raised in County Roscommon, in the west of Ireland. He received his education at Presentation College, Carrick-on-Shannon, St. Patrick’s Training College in Drumcondra, and University College, Dublin. For a brief time after receiving his degree, he worked as a laborer in London but soon returned to teach at St. John the Baptist Boys’ National School in Clontarf. After seven years of teaching, he published The Barracks in 1963, which was well received and highly honored.

McGahern took a year’s leave from teaching after the publication of The Barracks to go to London and write his second novel, The Dark. When the book was banned by the Irish Censorship Board because of its treatment of sexuality and child abuse, McGahern lost his teaching job. After appeals and legal action failed to reverse the Board’s decision, McGahern began a career as a visiting lecturer in the United States, England, and Europe. He later returned to settle in Ireland. McGahern published his autobiography, All Will Be Well, a year before his death from cancer on March 30, 2006.