Aidan Higgins in September 2011
3 March 1927|
Celbridge, County Kildare, Ireland
Aidan Higgins (born 3 March 1927) is an Irish writer. He has written short stories, travel pieces, radio drama and novels. Among his published works are Langrishe, Go Down (1966), Balcony of Europe (1972) and a more recent biographical work Dog Days (1998). His writing is characterised by non-conventional foreign settings and a stream of consciousness narrative mode. Most of his early fiction is autobiographical - "like slug trails, all the fiction happened.".
Aidan Higgins was born in Celbridge, County Kildare, Ireland. He attended local schools and Clongowes Wood College, a private boarding school. In the early 1950s he worked in Dublin as a copywriter for the Domas Advertising Agency. He then moved to London and worked as a labourer for about two years. He married Jill Damaris Anders in London on 25 November 1955. From 1960, Higgins sojourned in Southern Spain, South Africa, Berlin and Rhodesia. In 1960 and 1961 he worked as scriptwriter for Filmlets, an advertising firm in Johannesburg. These journeys provided material for much of his later work, including his three autobiographies, Donkey's Years(1996), Dog Days(1998) and The Whole Hog(2000).
His upbringing in a landed Catholic family provided material for his first experimental novel, Langrishe, Go Down (1966). The plot revolves around the story of four spinster sisters living in the west of Ireland. The book was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and was later adapted as a BBC television film by British playwright Harold Pinter, in association with RTÉ. Langrishe also received the Irish Academy of Letters Award.
His second major novel, Balcony of Europe, taking its name from the village where he lived in Andalusia, utilises Spanish and Irish settings and employs various languages, primarily Spanish and different English dialects including Irish, American, and English. The novel was shortlisted for the 1972 Booker prize. The book has divided critics with some regarding the book as illusive and odd fitting in the canon of Higgins' major work.
Later major novels include widely acclaimed "Bornholm Night Ferry" and "Lions of the Grunwald". Various writings have been collected and reprinted by the Dalkey Archive Press, including his three-volume autobiography, A Bestiary, and a collection of fiction, Flotsam and Jetsam, both of which demonstrate his wide erudition and his experience of life and travel in South Africa, Germany and London which gives his writing a largely cosmopolitan feel, utilising a range of European languages in turns of phrase.
- Felo de Se – Somin Trust Award, 1963
- Langrishe, Go Down – James Tait Black Memorial Prize, 1967
- Balcony of Europe – Booker Prize shortlist
- DAAD scholarship of Berlin, 1969
- American Irish Foundation grant, 1977
- D.D.L., National University of Ireland, 2001
- Darkling Plains: Texts for the Air. Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2010.
- A Bestiary. Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2004.
- As I was Riding Down Duval Boulevard with Pete La Salle. Dublin: Anam Press, 2003.
- Balcony of Europe. London: Calder & Boyars, 1972; New York: Delacorte, 1972; Illinois, Dalkey Archive Press, 2010.
- Bornholm Night-Ferry. London: Allison & Busby; Ireland: Brandon Books, 1983; London: Abacus, 1985; Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2006.
- Dog Days: A Sequel to Donkey’s Years. London: Secker & Warburg, 1998.
- Donkey’s Years: Memories of a Life as Story Told. London: Secker & Warburg, 1995.
- Felo de Se. London: Calder & Boyars, 1960; as Killachter Meadow, New York: Grove Press, 1961; as *Asylum and Other Stories, London: Calder & Boyars, 1978; New York: Riverrun Press, 1979.
- Flotsam & Jetsam. London: Minerva, 1997; Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2002.
- Helsingor Station & Other Departures: Fictions and Autobiographies 1956–1989. London: Secker & Warburg, 1989.
- Images of Africa: Diary (1956–60). London: Calder & Boyars, 1971.
- Langrishe, Go Down. London: Calder & Boyars, 1966; New York: Grove Press, 1966; London: Paladin, 1987; Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2004; Dublin: New Island, 2007.
- Lions of the Grunewald. London: Secker & Warburg, 1993. Also as Weaver’s Women. London: Secker & Warburg, 1993.
- Ronda Gorge & Other Precipices: Travel Writings 1959–1989. London: Secker & Warburg, 1989.
- Scenes from a Receding Past. London: Calder, 1977; Dallas: Riverrun Press, 1977; Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2005.
- The Whole Hog: A Sequel to Donkey’s Years and Dog Days. London: Secker & Warburg, 2000.
- Windy Arbours. Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2005.
- Neil Murphy (Ed.) Aidan Higgins: The Fragility of Form (Essays and Commentary). Dalkey Archive Press, 2010.
Essays and Reviews
- Beja, Morris. “Felons of Our Selves: The Fiction of Aidan Higgins.” Irish University Review 3, 2 (Autumn 1973): 163–78.
- Buckeye, Robert. “Form as the Extension of Content: ‘their existence in my eyes’.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 3.1 (1983): 192–195.
- Wall, Eamonn. “Aidan Higgins’s Balcony of Europe: Stephen Dedalus Hits the Road.” Colby Quarterly Winter 1995: 81–87.
- Golden, Sean. “Parsing Love’s Complainte: Aidan Higgins on the Need to Name.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 3.1 (1983): 210–220.
- Healy, Dermot. “Donkey’s Years: A Review,” Asylum Arts Review Vol. 1, Issue 1, (Autumn 1995): 45–6.
- Healy, Dermot. “Towards Bornholm Night-Ferry and Texts For the Air: A Rereading of Aidan Higgins.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 3.1 (1983): 181–192.
- Imhof, Rüdiger. “Bornholm Night-Ferry and Journal to Stella: Aidan Higgins’s Indebtedness to Jonathan Swift.” The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, X, 2 (December 1984), 5–13.
- Imhof, Rüdiger, and Jürgen Kamm. “Coming to Grips with Aidan Higgins’s Killachter Meadow: An Analysis.” Études Irlandaises (Lillie 1984): 145–60.
- Imhof, Rüdiger. "German Influences on John Banville and Aidan Higgins", in: W. Zach & H. Kosok (eds), Literary Interrelations. Ireland, England and the World, vol. II: Comparison and Impact. Tübingen: Narr, 1987: 335–47.
- Kreilkamp, Vera. “Reinventing a Form: The Big House in Aidan Higgins’s Langrishe Go Down.” The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 11, 2 (1985): 27–38.
- Reprinted in, Kreilkamp, Vera. The Anglo-Irish Novel and the Big House. New York: Syracuse University Press, October 1998: 234–60.
- Lubbers, Klaus. “Balcony of Europe: The Trend towards Internationalisation in Recent Irish Fiction,” in Zach & Kosok (eds), Literary Interrelations. Ireland, England and the World, vol. II: Comparison and Impact. Tübingen: Gunter Narr 1987: 235–47.
- Mahon, Derek. “An anatomy of melancholy”: Review of Dog Days. The Irish Times, 7 March 1998: 67.
- Murphy, Neil. “Aidan Higgins.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction XXIII No. 3 (2003): 49–83.
- Murphy, Neil. “Dreams, Departures, Destinations: A Reassessment of the Work of Aidan Higgins.” Graph: A Journal of Literature & Ideas 1 (1995): 64–71.
- Murphy, Neil. “Aidan Higgins – The Fragility of Form” in Irish Fiction and Postmodern Doubt: An Analysis of the Epistemological Crisis in Modern Irish Fiction. NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2004: 37–101.
- Murphy, Neil. “Review of Lions of the Grunewald.” Irish University Review 25.1 Spring/Summer 1995: 188–190.
- O’Brien, George. “Goodbye to All That,” The Irish Review 7 (Autumn 1989): 89–92.
- O’Brien, George. “Consumed by Memories”: Review of Donkey’s Years. The Irish Times 10 June 1995: W9.
- O’Brien, George. “On the Pig’s Back”: Review of The Whole Hog (2000), in The Irish Times 7 October 2000: 67.
- O’Brien, John. “Scenes From A Receding Past.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 1983 (Spring): 164–166.
- O’Neill, Patrick. “Aidan Higgins” in Rüdiger Imhof, ed., Contemporary Irish Novelists Studies in English and Comparative Literature, ed. Michael Kenneally & Wolfgang Zach Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag 1990: 93–107.
- Proulx, Annie. “Drift and Mastery”: Review of Flotsam & Jetsam. The Washington Post, 16 June 2002 Sunday: T07.
- Rachbauer, Otto. “Aidan Higgins, ‘Killachter Meadow’ und Langrishe, Go Down sowie Harold Pinters Fernsenfilm Langrishe, Go Down: Variationen eines Motivs,” in Siegfried Korninger, ed., A Yearbook of Studies in English and Language and Literature Vol. 3 (Vienna 1986): 135–46.
- Skelton, Robin. “Aidan Higgins and the Total Book,” in Mosaic 19 (1976): pp. 27–37;
- Reprinted as Chap. 13 of Skelton, Robin. Celtic Contraries. NY: Syracuse UP, 1990: pp. 211–23.
- "Aidan Higgins", Irish Writers Online.
- Golden, Sean. "Parsing Love's Complainte: Aidan Higgins on the Need to Name". Retrieved 6 February 2014.
- Murphy, Neil (5 Mar 2010). Aidan Higgins: The Fragility of Form. Columbia University Press. pp. 3–5. ISBN 1564785629.
- Grantham, Bill (1983). "Aidan Higgins (3 March 1927–)". In Halio, Jay L. Dictionary of Literary Biography 14. Detroit, MI: Gale Research. pp. 389–394.
- "Higgins, Aidan, 1927–". Contemporary Authors 148. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale. 2006. pp. 194–198. ISBN 078767902X.
- Hedwig Gorski, "Aidan Higgins Biography"
- O'Farell, Kevin (Sep 22, 2013). "Phenomenological fiction: Aidan Higgins via Edmund Husserl.". Irish University Review. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
- Neil Murphy, Aidan Higgins: The Fragility of Form, Dalkey Archive Press.
- Aidan Higgins fonds at University of Victoria, Special Collections