Behan Brendan 1923 - 1964 (41)

“They took away our land, our language, and our religion; but they could never harness our tongues…”



Brendan Behan (Irish: Breandán Ó Beacháin, 1923 - 1964) was an Irish poet, novelist and playwright who wrote in both Irish and English. He was born on February 9, 1923 in Dublin to a left-wing politicized family involved in anti-British actions. From an early age he started alcohol which will mark his whole life. He left school in 1937 and took some painting lessons while at the same time became a courier for the Irish Democratic Army (IRA).

Behan was arrested in England while on a sabotage mission and sentenced (February 1940) to three years in a reformatory in Suffolk. He was deported to Dublin in 1942 and soon became involved in a shooting incident in which a police officer was injured. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempted murder. He served his sentence until 1946, when a general amnesty was granted, in Dublin prisons, where he perfected his Irish and wrote the first version of a play entitled "Homer".

Subsequent arrests followed, either for revolutionary activities or for drunkenness, which also forced various hospitalizations. In 1948 Behan went to Paris to write. Returning to Dublin in 1950, he wrote short stories and screenplays. In 1955 he got married and a year before his death their daughter was born. Bian was diagnosed with diabetes and as his reputation grew, so did his alcohol addiction, with the result of serius health problems.

His first successful work was Quare Fellow, a tragic comedy about the reactions of guards and prisoners to the hanging of a convict. His play "Homer", however, is considered his masterpiece, in which ballads, silly pranks and fantasies satirize social conditions and war. The play deals with the tragic situation of an English soldier whom the IRA holds hostage in a brothel to prevent the execution of one of their own men. The play was performed in 1960 on Broadway in New York with great success.

Behan's latest works were "The Island of Brendan Behan" (1962), a book of Irish jokes, "The Scarperer" (1964), a novel about a smuggling adventure, originally published in sequels in the Irish Press, "Brendan Behan's New York" (1964) and "Confessions of an Irish Rebel" (1965, published posthumously).

Behan died on March 20, 1964 after collapsing in a bar in Dublin. He was taken to hospital but it was already late.