Born in Dublin, James Stephens became a clerk at the age of 14 and was active in Irish cultural nationalism from 1910 onward. Begin with The Charwoman's Daughter (1912), which draws on Stephens's impoverished Dublin background. The book's lyrical treatment of transformation through make-believe has a starkly realistic setting of backstreet squalor. The Crock of Gold (1912) makes rich use of the fantasy and folklore found in much of Stephens's writing. The story takes place in a forest, where two philosophers are visited by a succession of transient presences, including leprechauns, police constables, and the god Pan. The group of tinkers at the opening of The Demi-Gods (1914) are caught up in a supernatural struggle for power. Vividly evoking occult dimensions, the book's moral is that men and gods are alike motivated by love and desire.
Flann O'Brien. See IRELAND DH