Frank O'Connor : biography
Frank O'Connor (born Michael Francis O'Connor O'Donovan) (17 September 1903 – 10 March 1966) was an Irish writer of over 150 works, best known for his short stories and memoirs. The Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award is named in his honour.
Frank O'Connor had a stroke while teaching at Stanford University in 1961, and later died from a heart attack in Dublin, Ireland on 10 March 1966. He was buried in Deans Grange Cemetery on 12 March 1966.
O'Connor was perhaps best known for his varied and comprehensive short stories but also for his work as a literary critic, essayist, travel writer, translator and biographer. He was also a novelist, poet and dramatist.Frank O'Connor's Collected Stories, Introduction, Knopf, N.Y., 1981. p. xii
From the 1930s to the 1960s he was a prolific writer of short stories, poems, plays, and novellas. His work as an Irish teacher complemented his plethora of translations into English of Irish poetry, including his initially banned translation of Brian Merriman's Cúirt an Mheán Oíche ("The Midnight Court"). Many of O'Connor's writings were based on his own life experiences — notably his well-known The Man of the House in which he reveals childhood details concerning his early life in County Cork. The Sullivan family in this short story, like his own boyhood family, is lacking a proper father figure. Also, evocative descriptions of the Irish countryside are featured in this bitter-sweet tale. In other stories, his character Larry Delaney, in particular, is reminiscent of events in O'Connor's own life. O'Connor's experiences in the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War are reflected in The Big Fellow, his biography of Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins, published in 1937, and one of his best-known short stories, Guests of the Nation (1931), published in various forms during O'Connor's lifetime and included in Frank O'Connor — Collected Stories, published in 1981.
O'Connor's early years are recounted in An Only Child, a memoir published in 1961 which has the immediacy of a precocious diary. U.S. President John F. Kennedy remarked anecdotally from An Only Child at the conclusion of his speech at the dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center in San Antonio on November 21, 1963: "Frank O'Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall--and then they had no choice but to follow them. This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space and we have no choice but to follow it."The Kennedy Library, Boston, Mass., Speech of Nov. 21, 1963, Dedication of Aerospace Medical Health Center, San Antonio, Tex.
O'Connor continued his autobiography through his time with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, which ended in 1939, in his book, My Father's Son, which was published in 1968, after O'Connor's death,
In 1918 O'Connor joined the First Brigade of the Irish Republican Army and served in combat during the Irish War of Independence. He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and joined the Anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War, working in a small propaganda unit in Cork City. He was one of twelve thousand Anti-Treaty combatants who were interned by the government of the new Irish Free State, O'Connor's imprisonment being in Gormanston, County Meath between 1922 and 1923.
Following his release, O'Connor took various positions including that of teacher of Irish, theatre director, and librarian. In 1935, O'Connor became a member of the Board of Directors of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, founded by W. B. Yeats and other members of the Irish National Theatre Society.My Father's Son, by Frank O'Connor, Black Staff Press, Belfast, 1968, p. 153. In 1937, he became managing director of the Abbey. Following Yeats's death in 1939, O'Connor's long-standing conflict with other board members came to a head and he left the Abbey later that year.My Father's Son, p. 199. In 1950, he accepted invitations to teach in the United States, where many of his short stories had been published in The New Yorker and won great acclaim.My Father's Son, note on the author, unnumbered
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