Brendan Francis Behan (1923 – 1964)
Irish writer and dramatist, born in Dublin and educated
by the Christian Brothers until the age of 14.
Behan's extended family included many talented musicians and writers as well as
An important figure of both controversy and literary brilliance, Behan is best
known for his autobiography Borstal Boy (1958), based on his experiences
of prison and knowledge of the workings of the IRA. These themes are revisited
in his play The Quare Fellow (1954), and tragicomedy The Hostage
(1958), first written in Gaelic as An Giall. Behan's other output
included poetry in Gaelic, radio plays, and some late volumes of reminiscence
and anecdote, notably Brendan Behan's New York (1964).
Behan's plays are imbued with black humour and a grim realism it was largely
Joan Littlewood's adaptation of The Hostage for the London stage which imparted
to it a strong music-hall sensibility, which includes song and dance.
After living a hard life of drinking and being a famous figure of the Dublin
literary and pub scene, Behan died young and, many believe, before his best work
could be produced.