McGahern, John 1934-2006

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McGahern, John 1934-2006


See index for CA sketch: Born November 12, 1934, in Dublin, Ireland; died of cancer, March 30, 2006, in Dublin, Ireland. Author. One of the most respected Irish writers of the twentieth century, McGahern was noted for his novels and stories set in the countryside and populated by characters weighed down by the constricted environment of a society dominated by the Catholic Church. Compared to authors such as James Joyce—because of his nationality—and Thomas Hardy—because of his subject matter—the author attended Presentation College and University College in Ireland before embarking on a teaching career in 1956. Often drawing on his personal experiences, his first novel, The Barracks (1963), is based on his own childhood; his second, The Dark (1965), was banned by the Irish government and cost him his career at St. John the Baptist Boys National School because its main character is an aspiring priest who feels guilty about masturbating. After losing his job, McGahern moved to Paris for a time, where he gained the sympathy of such writers as Samuel Beckett, who wanted to defend his work before Ireland's government. The novelist, however, turned their aid down, saying that the book belonged to the reading audience now and he did not want to distract from that by creating a public spectacle. McGahern would go on to publish four more novels, a play, and several short-story collections. His tales, neither hopeful nor hopeless, typically ended on an indeterminate note after the characters had struggled to earn a hardscrabble living as farmers and either remained in or abandoned that life. McGahern would go on to teach off and on at Colgate University through the early 1980s, and was also a visiting professor and fellow at universities throughout Ireland and England. Among his other books are the novels Amongst Women (1990) and By the Lake (2002), and the story collections Getting Through (1987) and The Collected Stories (1993). His final book was All Will Be Well: A Memoir (2006).



McGahern, John, All Will Be Well: A Memoir, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.


Chicago Tribune, April 1, 2006, section 2, p. 11.

Los Angeles Times, March 31, 2006, p. B11.

New York Times, March 31, 2006, p. A17.

Times (London, England), April 1, 2006, p. 66.

Washington Post, April 1, 2006, p. B6.