1 minute read

John B. Keane (John Brendan Keane) Biography

(1928–2002), (John Brendan Keane), Sive, Many Young Men of Twenty, The Field

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick Kavanagh Biography to Knocknarea Sligo

Irish playwright, born in Listowel, Co. Kerry, educated at St Michael's College, Listowel. He owns a successful public house in the town and has become the most vociferous supporter of the Listowel Writers' Week. Keane's first play, Sive (1959), began his career as a dramatist much admired by the Irish public; with its theme of arranged marriage, Keane manages momentarily to revive the peasant drama of the early Abbey Theatre. Many Young Men of Twenty (1961) saw the beginning of his attempts to address modern Ireland and the demise of its rural communities. Although it is a musical, its serious main theme is emigration caused by permanent economic recession. Keane's best-known play, The Field (1965), presents a man, ‘The Bull’ McCabe, on the edge of destitution, resorting to savagery and murder in order to survive; the play also provides a fascinating portrayal of the local people, their distrust of authority, in the guise of police and priests, and their instinct to protect their own. The Field was produced as a successful feature film in 1991. Keane's plays have become central to the repertoire at the Abbey Theatre. His other plays include The Year of the Hiker (1963), Big Maggie (1969), Moll (1971), The Buds of Ballybunion (1978), and Chastitude (1980). More recently Keane has concentrated more on fiction with the novels Durango (1992) and The Contractors (1993), and the collection of stories Death Be Not Proud (1994). He has also published collections of essays, and a series of letters (Letters to an Irish Priest, 1970; and Letters of a Matchmaker, 1975).

Additional topics