Sean O'Faoláin

Seán Proinsias Ó Faoláin (22 February 1900– 20 April 1991) was an Irish short story writer. He was elected Saoi of Aosdána in 1986.

Born as John Francis Whelan in Cork City, County Cork, Ireland, Sean Ó Faoláin wrote his first stories in the 1920s. Through 90 stories, written over a period of 60 years, Ó Faoláin charts the development of modern Ireland. His Collected Stories were published in 1983, eight years before his death on 20 April 1991, in Dublin.

Ó Faoláin was educated at the Presentation Brothers Secondary School in Cork. He came under the influence of Daniel Corkery, joining the Cork Dramatic Society, and increasing his knowledge of the Irish language, which he had begun in school. Shortly after entering University College, Cork, he joined the Irish Volunteers. He fought in the War of Independence. During the Irish Civil War he served as Censor for the Cork Examiner and as publicity director for the IRA. After the Republican loss, he received M.A. degrees from the National University of Ireland and from Harvard University where he studied for 3 years. O'Faolain was a Commonwealth Fellow from 1926 to 1928; and was a Harvard Fellow from 1928 to 1929.

From 1929 to 1933 Ó Faoláin lectured at the Catholic college St Mary's College, at Strawberry Hill in SW London, England.], during which period he wrote his first two books.

He published in 1932 his first book, "Midsummer Night Madness," a collection of stories partly based on his Civil War experiences. He returned to his native Ireland. He has published novels; short stories; biographies; travel books; translations; literary criticism --including one of the rare full-length studies of the short story: the Short Story, 1948. He also wrote a cultural history, "The Irish," in 1947.

He served as director of the Arts Council of Ireland from 1956 to 1959, and from 1940 to 1990 he was a founder member and editor of the Irish literary periodical The Bell. The list of contributors to The Bell included many of Ireland's foremost writers, among them Patrick Kavanagh, Patrick Swift, Flann O'Brien, Frank O'Connor and Brendan Behan.

Family life

Ó Faoláin married Eileen Gould, a children's writer, in 1929. Eileen has written several books of Irish folk-tales. Their daughter Julia O'Faolain (b. 1932) is a Booker-nominated novelist and short-story writer. Their son Stephen was born in 1938.


  • Midsummer Night Madness and Other Stories (1932, short stories)
  • A Nest of Simple Folk (1933, novel)
  • Bird Alone (1936, novel)
  • The Autobiography of Theobald Wolfe Tone (1937, biography)
  • A Life of Daniel O'Connell (1938, biography)
  • A New Ireland (1938, magazine article)
  • An Irish Journey (1940)
  • Come Back to Erin (1940, novel)
  • The Great O'Neill (1942, biography, of Hugh O'Neill)
  • The Irish: A Character Study (1947)
  • The Man Who Invented Sin (1948, short stories)
  • The Short Story (1948, literary criticism)
  • Newman's Way: The Odyssey of John Henry Newman (1952)
  • An Autumn in Italy (1953, travel)
  • The Vanishing Hero - Studies in Novelists of the Twenties(1956)
  • Vive moi! (1964, memoir)
  • The Heat of the Sun, Stories and Tales (1966, short stories)
  • The Talking Trees (1971, short stories)
  • Foreign Affairs, and Other Stories (1976, short stories)
  • Selected Stories (1978, short stories)
  • And Again? (1979, novel)
  • Collected Stories of Sean O'Faolain I (1980, short stories)


  • Register of the Seán O'Faoláin papers, 1926-1969
  • Princess Grace Irish Library

"Modern Irish Short Stories," ed. by Ben Forkner, NY, NY: Penguin Books, 1980. pp:278-9. Biographic notes in "The Irish," by Sean O'Faolain, NY, NY: Penguin Books, 1980.

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