From James Joyce to Oscar Wilde, top ten Irish novelists in history

Brendan Behan (1923 - 1964), a Dubliner through and through.

Notable Works: Amongst Women, The Dark

7. Flann O’Brien

Although one of his most famous works was recognized after his death, today Brian O’Nolan (writing under the pseudonym Flann O’Brien) is considered to be a master of metafiction and satire. O’Brien specialized in writing his works in a confusing, out-of-this world manner, as a way to rebel against  the Irish society he believed to be a bit too uptight. Although O’Brien wrote short stories, essays, Letters to the Editors, and had many columns for the Irish times under the pseudonym Myles na gCopaleen, he was most famous for At Swim Two Birds and The Third Policeman (published post humorously) and the bizarre humor that accompanied the works. His character choice is notable and equally as bizarre; he is said to have borrowed characters from folklores and legends for At Swim Two Birds, and the characters in The Third Policeman consist of a murderer in a new dimension/hellish world and two policemen who are enthralled by a philosopher and his atomic theory on bicycles.

Notable Works: At Swim Two Birds, The Third Policeman, The Hard Life, The Dalkey Archive

8. Bram Stoker

Abraham Stoker (1847-1912) was a novelist and short story writer best known for his Gothic thriller, Dracula (1897). Dracula is amongst the best selling books of all time (after the Bible) and had influenced over 1,000 vampire-based films throughout the world. The book’s Irish connection is undeniable. In Gaelic, the phrase “Droch Ola” (think: Dracula) means bad blood. Stoker spend years researching mythical stories of vampires before writing the novel in an epistolary style, as letters, diary entries, telegrams, ships’ logs, and newspaper clippings. The original, 541-page manuscript was found in a barn in Pennsylvania during the 1980’s after it was believed to be lost. The original title was “The Un-Dead.” Although Stoker was bedridden and not able to walk until aged 7, he later excelled as an athlete at Trinity College, Dublin. He was also a co-founder of the Dublin Sketching Club in 1874.

Notable Work: Dracula, The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland

9. Jonathan Swift

Like O’Brien, Swift, too, wrote in a very particular, satirist manner; every word Swift picked was chosen to express the opinionated sarcasm in his works. In A Modest Proposal, for example, Swift suggests that the Irish people start eating their own babies to curb the famine; the sarcasm there is hard to miss. “His own style was colloquial, bold, terse, intense, often concealing rage and indignation beneath mild-sounding irony, fiercely comic, yet subtle, at times crude and obscene, lyrical, playful, and liable at any moment to launch into flights of self-consciously mad hyperbole,” explains Professor Peter Heinegg. Tale of a Tub was Swift’s first major published work in 1704; It’s divided into three different “digressions” and a tale of three brothers, which stand for the three main branches of Christianity. Gulliver’s Travels, the story for which he is best known for, tells the story of a shipwrecked man who encounters different species of people every place he goes to. Each group of people represent a part of society that Swift didn’t like: politicians, religious fanatics, etc.

Notable Works: Gulliver’s Travels, Tale of a Tub, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, Drapier’s Letters, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift

10. Oscar Wilde

Wilde’s short stories, plays, and poems truly embody a "rich and dramatic portrayals of the human condition." Perhaps getting the creative bug from his mother, who wrote revolutionary poems for a local Irish newspaper, Wilde excelled in literature and arts all throughout his schooling. After he met his wife Constance Lloyd and had a family, his creativity peaked and he published most of his most famous works: A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest, along with various other children’s stories. Although he was still married, Oscar met Lord Alfred “Bosie Douglas” in 1891 and the two became lovers for four years until Wilde was arrested and convicted of gross indecency. He was sentences to two years of hard labor and fully recovered. After publishing “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” describing his agonizing prison experiences, Wilde lost his creative spark and died in 1900 from meningitis.

Notable Works: The Picture of Dorian Grey, The Importance of Being Earnest (play), Poems, The Happy Prince and Other Tales (children’s book), A Woman of No Importance (play)

Other Notables:

Elizabeth Bowen- The Last September, The House in Paris

Roddy Doyle- The Commitments

JG Farrell- Trouble

Michael Farrell- Thy Tears Might Cease