After the Wake (Classic Irish Fiction) by Brendan Behan Paperback


From the song's of Shane McGowan to the wall's of any Irish theme pub across the world, Behan is quite literally plastered into the Celtic myth, as a hell raising boozer who drank himself to death at the age of 41. Just as Dylan Thomas's litarary acheivements have been marred by the hell raising reputation he left behind him, Behan's work has to a large extent been summed up by 'quotes' and anecdotes of a baroomesque kind. In 'After the Wake', edited by Peter Fallon it's a rare treat to find some of Behan's fiction gathered together, short stories of an autobiographical nature, charting the politics and ritual of Irish life in the 30's and 40's. Behan's sharp wit, ear for dialogue and skill at putting down vernacular speech, as well as his masterey at blancing dramatic tension, all culminate in some short sharp masterpeices. In 'The Last of Mrs Murphy' we follow Behan on his fifth birthday being taken to 'Jimmy the Sports' for his first drink by an elderly neighbour. The way we're forced to wait in line at the snuff shop with Behan as the women in the queue natter, overhearing their dialogue, is Behan subtle and brash at his best. Or when the teenage Behan in "I Become a Borstal Boy', instigates a tribute to fellow terrorist inmates who have just been 'executed' in a neighbouring jail, only escaping the cosh because he's up in the magistrates court that day. Behan was all that Yeats or Joyce were not. While Yeats conjured visions of Cuchalainn and Joyce abhorred the Irish heroics, Behan lived it and wrote it with a skill averev born from experience.

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