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Edna O'Brien

Academy of Achievement

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Edna O'Brien
Edna O'Brien

Edna O'Brien

Academy of Achievement

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Born and raised in a small town in rural Ireland, Edna O'Brien came to Dublin as a teenager to become a pharmacist, but a chance encounter with James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man helped her find her own voice as a writer. She completed her first novel, The Country Girls, in only a month when she was 23 years old. The book was banned in her native Ireland (the censor called it a libel on Irish womanhood), and a priest in her parish had the book burned, but thoughtful critics in Ireland and elsewhere reveled in her rich, forceful prose and she is now recognized as one of Ireland's greatest living storytellers. Although she has spent most of her life in London, the people and landscapes of Ireland continue to fill her fiction. The Country Girl trilogy was followed by A Pagan Place, Night, Johnny I Hardly Kew You, The high Road, Time and Tide, and second trilogy: House of Splendid Isolation, Down By the River and Wild Decembers. Her short story collections include A Scandalous Woman, A Fanatic Heart, and Lantern Slides. In addition to her novels Edna O'Brien has written plays and screenplays, and biographies of James Joyce and Lord Byron, as well as numerous books of short stories, including her 2011 collection, Saints and Sinners. Addressing the 2002 International Achievement Summit in Dublin, Ireland, she tells the grim real-life tale that inspired her novel In the Forest, reads a passage from the book, and discusses the controversy that followed its publication.

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