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Irish author John McGahern dies in Dublin
The death has occurred of the great Irish writer John McGahern, at the Mater Hospital in Dublin. He was 71 years of age. Although his health had not been the best for some time, his death was sudden.
Niall Stokes, 30 Mar 2006
While he was not a man of abundant rock’n’roll credentials, McGahern was a giant of Irish literature, and played a huge part in the struggle by Irish writers and artists for recognition in a country that had, through most of the 20th century, been deeply suspicious and mistrustful of creativity of any kind.
His first book, the award-winning The Barracks was well received, but it was with The Dark that he invoked the wrath of conservative Ireland. The book was banned and he was sacked from his job as a teacher in a school in Clontarf in Dublin, as a result. He lived in London and elsewhere abroad for a number of years but returned to Ireland and moved back to Leitrim, where he had spent part of his childhood – and where he was based for much of the past thirty years with his wife Madeline Green.
His brilliant novel, Amongst Women, set in the West of Ireland that he knew and loved, was nominated for the Booker Prize and was subsequently turned into a successful TV drama. That was followed by the wonderfully resonant That They May Face The Rising Sun (called By The Lake in the US), which was acclaimed as the work of a master of literary economy.
His most recent book Memoir gives a moving and sometimes angry account of his own life story, until the death of his father Frank – of whom McGahern is particularly critical. It offers a remarkable insight into the Ireland of the 1940s and 1950s in particular. But most of all, it is sustained cry of love to the mother that he lost when he was a boy. It has been on the best sellers list for many months – a reflection of the huge affection which has grown in Ireland for a writer of real and magnificently understated genius.
McGahern was described by the Minister for the Arts, John O’Donoghue, as a man of high principle and remarkable courage. He was not one, said the Minister, who ever inclined to bend a knee. Would that there were more like him in this regard.
John McGahern was the recipient of many honours and awards, including the Society of Authors, the American Irish award, the Prix Etrangere Ecureuil and the Chevalier de l'Orde des Artes et des Lettres. He was a current member of the Board of the Arts Council of Ireland.