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


Ó Faoláin was born as John Francis Whelan in Cork City, County Cork, Ireland. He 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. He was a Commonwealth Fellow from 1926 to 1928; and was a Harvard Fellow from 1928 to 1929.

He wrote his first stories in the 1920s, eventually completing 90 stories over a period of 60 years. From 1929 to 1933 he lectured at the Catholic college, St Mary's College, at Strawberry Hill in Middlesex, England, during which period he wrote his first two books. His first book, "Midsummer Night Madness," was published in 1932: it was a collection of stories partly based on his Civil War experiences. He afterwards returned to his native Ireland. He 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 1946 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.

His Collected Stories were published in 1983 He died on 20 April 1991 in Dublin.

Personal lifeEdit

Ó Faoláin married Eileen Gould, a children's writer, in 1929. Eileen published several books of Irish folk-tales. They had two children: Julia (b. 1932), who became a Booker-nominated novelist and short-story writer; and Stephen (b. 1938).


  • Midsummer Night Madness and Other Stories (1932, short stories)
  • A Nest of Simple Folk (1933, novel)
  • The Average Revolutionary (1934, biography)
  • Constance Markievicz (1934, biography)
  • 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 Story of Ireland (1943, Collins series 'Britain in Pictures')
  • The Irish: A Character Study (1947)[1]
  • The Man Who Invented Sin (1948, short stories)
  • The Short Story (1948, literary criticism)
  • A Summer In Italy (1949, travel)
  • The Story of the Irish People (1949)[2]
  • Newman's Way: The Odyssey of John Henry Newman (1952)
  • An Autumn in Italy (1953, travel)
  • With the Gaels of Wexford (Enniscorthy, 1955, gaelic games)[3]
  • The Vanishing Hero - Studies in Novelists of the Twenties (1956)
  • Vive moi! (1964, memoir)
  • the center of the earth (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)
  • The Trout

Further readingEdit

  • Häberlin, Ernst (1975). Sean O'Faolain. ISBN 9783260039454. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  • 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, New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1980.
  • Register of the Seán O'Faoláin papers, 1926-1969


  1. ^ Ó Faoláin, Seán (1949). The Irish: A Character Study. The Devin-Adair Company. ASIN B0016FYALS.
  2. ^ Ó Faoláin, Seán. The Story of the Irish People. Random House Value Publishing. ISBN 978-0517379899.
  3. ^ Arndt, Marie (2001). A Critical Study of Sean O’Faolain’s Life and Work. New York and Lampeter, Wales: Edwin Mellen Press.