August 2, 2021

drink a pint with Brendan Behan

“Confessions d’un rebelle irlandais” (Confessions of an Irish Rebel), by Brendan Behan, translated from English (Ireland) by Mélusine de Haulleville, L’Echappée, 326 p., € 22.

As loud in mouth as resistant to throat, the Dublin playwright and poet Brendan Behan (1923-1964) lived his life to the rhythm of the turmoil of Irish political struggles and the glasses of alcohol that untied his tongue. It was in the pubs that he fraternized, declaimed verses, sang ballads in Gaelic and indulged in recounting some of his exploits. Suffering from diabetes, alcoholic, Brendan Behan died at age 41. His work, translated around the world, survives him.

The first volume of his autobiography, Borstal Boy, translated by Gallimard in 1960 under the title A resistant people, was banned in his own country until 1970 for obscenity. Behan had time to dictate the second part on tape before he died. Which gives these Confessions of an Irish rebel – published by Gallimard in 1986 and republished today at L’Echappée -, an account of his conflicts with the police, a delightful freedom of tone, a lightness tinged with humor.

Devoid of the spirit of sacrifice

Born into a family of IRA militants, Brendan Behan enlisted at the age of 16 in the campaign of sabotage and bombings known as “Plan-S”, transporting explosive material to ‘in Liverpool, in order to blow up the shipyards there. Arrested at his landlady’s house before taking action, he was sent to a reformatory. For another attack planned in Dublin, in 1942, he spent a few years in prison and then in a detention camp. Provocative by nature, although devoid of the spirit of sacrifice to the cause, he landed in British jails the year after his release, after a fight with the police.

After which he took the ferry, spent four months in Paris, plunged into the Seine from the Pont Notre-Dame. He met Samuel Beckett and Albert Camus in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, then met the American boxer Sugar Ray Robinson in a dance hall on the Côte d’Azur.

Read also (1987): Brendan Behan’s Ireland

France, which he often visited, more precisely the Latin Quarter he loved, occupies a large part of his Memoirs. As well as some of his drinks: “We emerged from a cafe facing the hospice for the dying at 8 o’clock in the evening, having left our native northeast neighborhood at 10 o’clock in the morning and I was all worked up, as they say, both physically. than otherwise; my head had fallen on my left shoulder. “

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