Saturday, May 17, 2008
Nuala O’Faolain, 68, Irish Memoirist, Is Dead
Here's another death to report....aren't we cheerful today??? Nuala O’Faolain, 68, Irish Memoirist, Is Dead Nuala O’Faolain, an Irish journalist who mined a rich vein of longing and childhood suffering in two midlife memoirs and an acclaimed first novel, “My Dream of You,” died on Friday night in Dublin. She was 68 and lived in Barrtra, County Clare, Ireland, and Manhattan.
Often seen as a feminine (and feminist) counterpart to Frank McCourt’s “Angela’s Ashes,” Ms. O’Faolain’s first memoir, “Are You Somebody?,” created a sensation on its publication in Ireland in 1996. Her unblinking, unsentimental description of Irish life in the 1940s and ’50s, and her loveless, impoverished home, where she grew up the second of nine children, struck a chord with Irish readers and went on to sell well in Britain and the United States.
Nuala O’Faolain (pronounced oh-FWAY-lawn) grew up in the countryside near Dublin in shabbily bohemian circumstances. Her father, who wrote a newspaper society column under the pen name Terry O’Sullivan, spent his nights on the town in Dublin. “He was a dapper, clever, reticent man and he treated the family as if he had met them at a cocktail party,” Ms. O’Faolain wrote. Her mother, a voracious reader and a romantic who never wanted children, sank into despair and alcoholism, to which her mostly absent husband turned a blind eye.
Two of her brothers eventually died of alcoholism. She is survived by six brothers and sisters, Grainne O’Broin, Deirdre Brady and Terry O’Faolain, all of Dublin; Noreen, of London; Marian, of Westport, Ireland; and Niamh, of Tarbert, Ireland. She is also survived by her partner, John Low-Beer of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Ms. O’Faolain inherited her mother’s hunger for love and her father’s flair for journalism. After attending a convent school in the north of Ireland — she had been expelled from her first school for sneaking off to dances to meet boys — she studied English at University College, Dublin, and medieval English literature at the University of Hull before earning a postgraduate degree in English from Oxford.
She then returned to University College as a lecturer in the English department. “I had no sense of being at the start of a career,” she later wrote. “My aim in life was something to do with loving and being loved.”
Shortly before her death, Ms. O’Faolain gave a spirited, tearful interview on Ireland’s most popular radio program in which she reflected on life, love and her impending death. “I thought there would be me and the world, but the world turned its back on me,” she said. “The world said to me, ‘That’s enough of you now, and what’s more, we’re not going to give you any little treats at the end.’ ”