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O'Faolain, Sean

humour story stories irish

(Irish, 1900–91)

‘Sean O'Faolain’ was the pseudonym of John Whelan, a one-time director of Republican publicity who later became a distinguished editor and biographer, and was widely regarded as one of Ireland's finest short-story writers. His works are both lyrical and realistic, portraying the clash between Catholic and secular values in Irish society, often with wry humour. Midsummer Night Madness (1932) shows his early phase of romantic nationalism; a story such as ‘Fugue’ sympathetically portrays an IRA man on the run who finds temporary respite in a remote cottage. His first novel, A Nest of Simple Folk (1933), concludes with an explosive quarrel between a father and son over politics. From A Purse of Coppers (1937), ‘A Broken World’ is one of O'Faolain's classic stories, symbolizing post-Civil War tensions in its train conversation between a garrulous priest, an old farmer and the vehement narrator. The Collected Stories (3 vols., 1980–3) demonstrates his great range, from humour to elegiac grace, satire, and fantasy.

William Trevor, Julia O'Faolain, Anton Chekhov. See IRELAND  JS

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