Liam O'Flaherty Biography
(1897–1984), Thy Neighbour's Wife, The Black Soul, The Informer, Mr Gilhooley, The Assassin
Irish novelist and short-story writer, born on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands where his father farmed a few, bare acres. He was educated at the Dublin diocesan seminary, but decided not to take Holy Orders. He spent one year at University College, Dublin, before enlisting in the Irish Guards in 1915. He fought in France and was invalided out in 1917; during a year's convalescence from shell-shock, he began writing stories. For the next three years he travelled widely, working as a stoker, deckhand, beachcomber, and lumberjack, on three continents. He returned to Dublin as a communist in 1921, joined the Republican side in the civil war, and in 1923 he fled to London. His first novel, Thy Neighbour's Wife (1923), is a detailed description of life on the land on Aran. It attracted the attention of Edward Garnett, the critic and editor of D. H. Lawrence, who helped O'Flaherty with his subsequent novel, The Black Soul (1924), which was also set on Aran. He married at this time, and travelled between Ireland, France, and England. The Informer (1925) made a great impact with its lurid portrayal of Republican terrorism, and has lasting interest as a study of rebellion. It was successfully filmed in 1935. Mr Gilhooley (1926), The Assassin (1928), and The Puritan (1931) all centred around men alienated by their urban environments. The Return of the Brute (1929), based on his army experiences, The Martyr (1933), which satirizes civil war, and Insurrection (1950), dealing with the Irish struggle, all relate to specific historic events but have a timeless concern with human dilemmas and reactions. Among his finest novels are Skerrett (1932), the sorry tale of a courageous Aran schoolmaster, and Famine (1937), which follows the Kilmartin family through the famine of the 1840s. He wrote over 150 short stories, the best of which concentrate on the characters and natural life of Aran. He wrote two volumes of autobiography, Two Years (1930), about his youthful travels, and Shame the Devil (1934). Throughout his life, O'Flaherty continued to travel, dividing his later years between America and Ireland; his most recent stories were written in the early 1960s.