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Aidan Higgins Biography

(1927– ), Felo de Se, Asylum and Other Stories, Langrishe, Go Down, Balcony of Europe

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Irish novelist and short-story writer, born in Celbridge, Co. Kildare, educated at Clongowes Wood College. After various jobs, he toured Europe and then Southern Africa with a puppet theatre company. He has lived in Spain, Germany, England, and, more recently, Ireland. Higgins belongs to that significant minority of Irish writers, such as Joyce and Beckett, who have been prepared to experiment. His first collection of short stories, Felo de Se (1961; revised and retitled, Asylum and Other Stories, 1978), attempts to avoid the provincial realism of Sean O'Faolain and Frank O'Connor by moving in setting from Ireland to Europe and developing a more continental complexity. This contradiction between the insular and the worldly is central to much of Higgins's work and most evident in his first novel, Langrishe, Go Down (1966); an avant-garde exercise in nostalgia, the novel experiments with the ‘Big House’ of Anglo-Irish fiction while being reluctant to undermine its prevalence. His next novel, Balcony of Europe (1972), is a long, solipsistic first-person narrative which begins and ends in Ireland but is mainly set in Andalusia and focuses on an adulterous affair between Dan Ruttle, an Irish artist, and Charlotte Bayless, an American Jewess; in this experimental work Higgins uses quotations from Yeats, Joycean symbolism, and a narrative technique of repetition and grammatical manipulation, reminiscent of Beckett. In Scenes from a Receding Past (1977), Dan Ruttle and characters from his earlier fiction reappear. Higgins combines a modern artistry with a talent for the more traditional techniques of character and recollection in Bornholm Night-Ferry (1983). By contrast, Lions of Grünewald (1993) is a picaresque novel about an Irish professor's lavishly funded sabbatical in Berlin in the late 1980s prior to the reunification of Germany. Higgins's other works include Helsingør Station and Other Departures (1989), a volume of short stories; Ronda Gorge and Other Precipices (1989), a travel work; and Donkey's Years: Memoirs of a Life as a Story Told (1995), an autobiographical work.

Brian Higgins Biography - (1930–65), The Only Need, Notes while Travelling, The Northern Fiddler [next]

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