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Thread: Brendan Behan

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    Post Brendan Behan

    Irish writer, nationalist..character.
    A Dubliner, he was arrested at age 16 for complicity in acts of terrorism and served 2 years in Borstal and later a 5 year sentence in Dublin.
    He was of a staunch Republican family and soon found himself in the IRA, fighting for Ireland and later writing and publishing poetry and prose as Gaeilge and later in English. His first play was produced in 1954 - The Quare Fellow - and things spiralled from there. He died in dublin at age 41, leaving a relatively small but a wonderful body of work behind. There are a few decent biographys around - here's one from http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/behan.htm

    ''Irish author noted for his powerful political views and earthy satire. While not in jail or in pubs, Behan worked in odd jobs and wrote plays and stories that colorfully depicted the life of the ordinary working men. Several of his books were banned in Ireland. Behan spent most of the years from 1939 to 1946 in English and Irish penal institutions on political charges. However, his writings are lively, full of humor and do not show much signs of anger or polemical fervour.

    "... it was not really the length of sentence that worried me - for I had always believed that if a fellow went into the I.R.A. at all he should be prepared to throw the handle after the hatchet, die dog or shite the licence - but that I'd sooner be with Charlie and Ginger and Browny in Borstal than with my own comrades and countrymen any place else. It seemed a bit disloyal to me, that I should prefer to be with boys from English cities than with my own countrymen and comrades from Ireland's hills and glens." (from Borstal Boy, 1958)
    Brendan Behan was born in Dublin and lived his childhood in the slums of the city. In spite of the surroundings, he did not become an unlettered slum lad, but had an alert and incisive mind. His family on both sides was traditionally anti-British. At Behan's birth, his father was in a British compound because of involvement in the Irish uprising of 1916-1922. Behan attended Catholic schools. He also owed much of his education to his family, well-read, and of strong Republican sympathies. Behan left school at the age of 14 and worked as a house painter. From the age of nine he had served in a youth organization connected with the IRA, and in the late 1930s he was IRA's messenger boy.

    In 1939 Behan was arrested on a sabotage mission in England and sentenced to three years in Borstal in a reform school for attempting to blow up a battleship in Liverpool harbour. After release Behan returned to Ireland, but in 1942 he was sentenced to 14 years for the attempted murder of two detectives. He served at Mountjoy Prison and at the Curragh Military Camp. In 1946 he was released under a general amnesty. He was in prison again in Manchester in 1947, serving a short term for allegedly helping an IRA prisoner to escape. During his years in prison, Behan started to write, mainly short stories in an inventive stylization of Dublin vernacular. In 1952 he was deported to France. Later he lived in Paris and Dublin, writing for Radio Telefis and for the Irish Press. Behan's best-known novel, BORSTAL BOY (1958), drew its material from his experiences in the Liverpool jail and Borstal school (reform school). The young narrator moves from rebellious bravado to greater understanding of himself and the world: "There were few Catholics in this part of the world and the priest had a forlorn sort of a job but Walton had cured me of any idea that religion of any description had anything to do with mercy or pity or love." .

    Behan also sailed intermittently on ships - he had become a certified seaman in 1949. Behan's first play, THE QUARE FELLOW, was based on his prison experiences. It was presented at an avant-garde club in 1956 and gained critical success. The events were set during the twenty-four hours preceding an execution. Behan attacked capital punishment, but also false piety behind public attitudes toward such matters as sex, politics, and religion. His other plays include THE BIG HOUSE (1957) and THE HOSTAGE (1958), written in Gaelic under the title An Giall and set in a disreputable Dublin lodging house - or a brothel - owned by a former IRA commander. The play was acclaimed in London, Paris, and New York. It depicts events that surround the execution of an eighteen-year-old IRA member in a Belfast jail. The audience never sees him - he has been accused of killing an Ulster policeman and sentenced to be hanged. A young British soldier, Leslie Williams, is held hostage in the brothel. After the IRA prisoner has been executed Leslie is eventually killed in a gunfire, when the police attack the place. Before it a love story develops between Leslie and Teresa, a young girl, who promises never to forget him. In the finale Leslie's corpse rises and sings:

    The bells of hell
    Go ting-a-ling-a-ling
    For you but not for me.
    Oh death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling
    Or grave thy victory?
    In his dramas Behan used song, dance, and direct addresses to the audience, which showed the influence of Bertold Brech. These methods were typical of the style of Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, which staged several of his Behan's. Littlewood viewed the theater as a collective and revised much of his script for The Hostage - the author himself approved all changes. Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, which gained a huge success and left deep impact on modern theatrical style, disbanded in 1973.

    Notoriety and critical attention came to Behan in the mid-1950s and contributed to his downfall and death. "Critics are like eunuchs in a harem: they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves." His irresolute discipline collapsed into prolonged drinking bouts, and self-destructive incidents. The Hostage was Behan's last major drama - his last books were compilations of anecdotes transcribed from tape recordings. Like Dylan Thomas, he was lionized to death in the United States. A lifelong battle with alcoholism ended Behan's career in a Dublin hospital on March 20, in 1964, at the age of 41. - Behan's works have been translated into several languages, among them Stücke fürs Theater (1962) by Heinrich Böll. ''

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    My all-time favourite Brendan Behan quote:

    ''My name Is Brendan Behan. I came over here to fight for the Irish Workers' and Small Farmers' Republic, for a full and free life, for my fellow countrymen, North and South, and for the removal of the baneful influence of British Imperialism from Irish affairs. God save Ireland.''

    He had just been arrested in England for complicity in acts of terrorism at the time of this statement - he was also 16 years old.

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    Brendan Behan
    Quotations
    One drink is too many for me and a thousand not enough.


    The English and Americans dislike only some Irish--the same Irish that the Irish themselves detest, Irish writers--the ones that think.


    I am a daylight atheist.


    When I came back to Dublin I was courtmartialled in my absence and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence.


    All publicity is good, except an obituary notice.


    Critics are like eunuchs in a harem: they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.


    Pound notes are the best religion in the world.


    Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis.

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    His incarceration after attempting to help a prisoner escape, was that anything to do with the "Manchester Martyrs" immortalised in the song - "God Save Ireland"?

    He certainly seems quite a character although his quote of "I came over here to fight for the Irish Workers' and Small Farmers' Republic",
    does that imply socialist leanings?

    "When I came back to Dublin I was courtmartialled in my absence and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence. " - classic that one

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    You could take it that way alright ,many men had socialist leanings in those times -and since things were so bad at the time its understanable socialism at a glance seems idyllic..

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scathach
    You could take it that way alright ,many men had socialist leanings in those times -and since things were so bad at the time its understanable socialism at a glance seems idyllic..
    True, it is very appealing on the surface. All heresies are, which is what makes them so dangerous (Yes, Socialism is officaly a heresy in the Church).
    Still, lets not delve into my deep, shady past

    The Pearse documentary on Discovery was very good.
    It reffered to him as "Quasi-Fascist" which I have always believed and it mentioned he had his misgivings about James Connolly as he believed that Socialism had no place in a United Ireland.

    A great man was Pearse. I wonder if we shall ever see his like again. For me he was without question, THE greatest Irishman of the 20th century.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Milesian
    True, it is very appealing on the surface. All heresies are, which is what makes them so dangerous (Yes, Socialism is officaly a heresy in the Church).
    Yet Catholic social teaching and the Catholic (later: Christian) trade union movement are pure socialism.
    And all my youth passed by sad-hearted,
    the joy of Spring was never mine;
    Autumn blows through me dread of parting,
    and my heart dreams and longs to die.

    - Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850)

    Real misanthropes are not found in solitude, but in the world; since it is experience of life, and not philosophy, which produces real hatred of mankind.

    - Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phlegethon
    Yet Catholic social teaching and the Catholic (later: Christian) trade union movement are pure socialism.
    Is Catholic Social teaching a product of the Modernist Church?
    If not it would seem strange that the Church repeatedly condemned Socialism and Communism as heresy and yet teach a form of Socialism themselves.
    Of course if it is a more modern phenomenon then it is understandable.

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    Senior Member Phlegethon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Milesian
    Is Catholic Social teaching a product of the Modernist Church?
    No. It is as old as industrialization and Manchester capitalism.
    And all my youth passed by sad-hearted,
    the joy of Spring was never mine;
    Autumn blows through me dread of parting,
    and my heart dreams and longs to die.

    - Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850)

    Real misanthropes are not found in solitude, but in the world; since it is experience of life, and not philosophy, which produces real hatred of mankind.

    - Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phlegethon
    No. It is as old as industrialization and Manchester capitalism.
    Hmm...then what do you make of this apparant contradiction?

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