John Boyne

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John Boyne
John Boyne in Dublin (cropped).JPG
Born (1971-04-30) 30 April 1971 (age 51)
Dublin, Ireland
GenreLiterary fiction
Notable worksThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas The Absolutist

John Boyne (born 30 April 1971) is an Irish novelist.[1] He is the author of fourteen novels for adults, six novels for younger readers, two novellas and one collection of short stories. His novels are published in over 50 languages. His 2006 novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was adapted into a 2008 film of the same name.


Boyne was born in Dublin, where he still lives. His first short story was published by the Sunday Tribune and in 1993 was shortlisted for a Hennessy Literary Award.[2][3] His B.A degree is from Trinity College Dublin in English in 1993,[4][5] and he subsequently obtained an MA degree from the University of East Anglia. In 2015 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia. He chaired the jury for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize.[6]

Boyne is gay, and has spoken about the difficulties he encountered growing up gay in Catholic Ireland.[7][8][9] He has spoken of suffering abuse in Terenure College as a student there.[10]

He regards John Banville as "the world's greatest living writer".[11]

In August 2020, it was noticed that Boyne's latest novel, A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom, which takes place in the real world in the year 1 AD, contained a section in which a seamstress refers to the ingredients used to create dyes. However, the listed ingredients were entirely fictional, being taken from the 2017 videogame The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and included items such as the "silent princess" flower, "octorok eyeballs", and "the tail of the red lizalfos". The error was initially posted on Reddit, and after writer Dana Schwartz highlighted the segment on Twitter, theorizing that Boyne had done an Internet search for 'how to dye clothes red' and used the Zelda results without looking into the context, Boyne admitted his error, saying "I'll leave it as it is. I actually think it's quite funny and you're totally right. I don't remember but I must have just Googled it. Hey, sometimes you just gotta throw your hands up and say 'yup! My bad!'"[12]

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was published in 2006. The book has sold over seven million copies worldwide.[13] A Heyday/Miramax film adaptation, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, was shot in Budapest in mid-2007 and released in late 2008. Directed by Mark Herman, the film stars Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis, Vera Farmiga, Rupert Friend and Sheila Hancock. In January 2020, the book was cited by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, in a set of back and forth tweets between the museum and the author, as a book that should be avoided by those promoting accurate understanding of the Holocaust.[14] In response, Boyne suggested that the Museum's criticism contained inaccurate information.[15]


Boyne's 2019 book My Brother's Name is Jessica, about a young boy coming to terms with his older sibling coming out as a trans girl, was criticised over its portrayal of transgender topics and for misgendering people. In an article in The Irish Times promoting the book, Boyne explained that he was inspired to write it by a transgender friend of his, and had spoken to gender-identity professionals and "several trans people" to ensure he portrayed the book's subject matter authentically. However, he received further criticism for stating in the article that "I reject the word 'cis'... I don’t consider myself a cis man; I consider myself a man." He added that "while I will happily employ any term that a person feels best defines them... I reject the notion that someone can force an unwanted term on to another".[16][17]

Writing in response to Boyne in The Irish Times, Aoife Martin, director of the Trans Equality Network Ireland, asserted that "whether Boyne likes it or not, he is a cis man and he has cis privilege", and stated that "I haven’t read his new book".[18] Boyne deleted his Twitter account, claiming social media harassment, though he would later rejoin the site.[19][20][15] Some writers have supported him.[21][22]

Selected works


Novels for younger readers

  • 2006: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (David Fickling Books)
  • 2010: Noah Barleywater Runs Away (David Fickling Books)
  • 2012: The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket (Doubleday Children's)
  • 2013: Stay Where You Are And Then Leave (Doubleday Children's)
  • 2015: The Boy at the Top of the Mountain (Doubleday Children's)
  • 2019: My Brother's Name is Jessica (Puffin)


  • 2008: The Second Child (New Island Books)
  • 2009: The Dare (Black Swan Books)

Short story collections

  • 2015: Beneath The Earth (Doubleday)


  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas: winner: Irish Book Awards Children's Book of the Year; Irish Book Awards Radio 1 Book of the Year; Qué Leer Award Best International Novel of the Year (Spain); Orange Prize Readers Group: Book of the Year; Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year. Shortlist: Irish Book Award Novel of the Year; British Book Award; the Border's New Voices Award; the Ottar's Children's Book Prize; the Paolo Ungari Literary Award (Italy); Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (Germany). Longlist: The Carnegie Medal; the International IMPAC Literary Award
  • Noah Barleywater Runs Away: shortlisted for Irish Book Awards Children's Book of the Year; Sheffield Children's Book Award, Hull Children's Book Award; Longlist: The Carnegie Medal
  • The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket: shortlisted for Irish Book Awards: Children's Book of the Year; Longlist: The Carnegie Medal
  • The Absolutist: Longlist: International Dublin Literary Award
  • Stay Where You Are And Then Leave: shortlisted for Irish Book Awards Children's Book of the Year; Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (Germany)
  • A History of Loneliness: shortlisted for Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year
  • The Boy At The Top Of The Mountain: shortlisted for Irish Book Awards Children's Book of the Year; Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year
  • The Heart's Invisible Furies: shortlisted for Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year
  • The 'Invisible Furies": 2017 Book of the Year for Book of the Month
  • A Ladder to the Sky: shortlisted for Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year; Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award

Other Awards:


  1. ^ O Conghaile, Pól (23 October 2010). "Wild Child of a Different Stripe". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  2. ^ Philip Casey, "Boyne, John" Archived 2017-05-05 at the Wayback Machine, Irish Writers Online.
  3. ^ "10 Interesting John Boyne Facts", My Interesting facts, 6 May 2014.
  4. ^ Sherlock, D.J.M. (2006). Trinity College Record Volume 2006. Dublin: Trinity College Dublin Press. ISBN 1-871408-07-5.
  5. ^ "Telling tales about Trinity College in the 90s". The Irish Times. 19 December 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2023.
  6. ^ "The Giller Prize expands its jury to five people ", The Globe and Mail, 14 Jan 2015.
  7. ^ Boyne, John (19 July 2017). "At Swim, Two Boys Is a Great Irish Novel, a Gay Love Story but So Much More". The Irish Times. Retrieved 1 February 2019. As a young gay man behind a bookshop counter, I watched the people who bought At Swim, Two Boys—and there were a lot of them—and used it as a tool for flirtation. A reprint of John Boyne's introduction to At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill.
  8. ^ Boyne, John (22 February 2018). "John Boyne on Homosexuality and Changing Attitudes". WHSmith. Retrieved 1 February 2019. [...]not because I had any issue with being gay[...]
  9. ^ Boyne, John (7 November 2014). "John Boyne: 'The Catholic priesthood blighted my youth and the youth of people like me'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 1 February 2019. It's not easy to be a young, gay teenager[...]
  10. ^ Boyne, John. "John Boyne: I was abused at Terenure College, but not by John McClean". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  11. ^ Boyne, John (11 October 2019). "John Banville... the world's greatest living writer, is someone who has a legitimate chance of winning the Nobel Prize". Archived from the original on 11 October 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  12. ^ "John Boyne accidentally includes Zelda video game monsters in novel", The Guardian, Aug. 3, 2020.
  13. ^ McClements, Freya. "Is making a living just from writing books a literary fiction?". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  14. ^ McGreevy, Ronan (5 January 2020). "Avoid John Boyne's Holocaust novel, Auschwitz Museum advises". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  15. ^ a b Flood, Alison (7 January 2020). "The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas author defends work from criticism by Auschwitz memorial". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  16. ^ Boyne, John (13 April 2019). "John Boyne: Why I support trans rights but reject the word 'cis'". The Irish Times. I reject the word "cis" ... I don't consider myself a cis man; I consider myself a man.
  17. ^ Gaden Gilmartin, Cassia (16 April 2019). "Irish Author John Boyne Faces Backlash From Trans Activists Over New Novel". Gay Community News.
  18. ^ Martin, Aoife (15 April 2019). "Whether John Boyne likes it or not he is a cis man with cis privilege".
  19. ^ Lynch, Donal (24 April 2018). "'I was warned not to go out alone' - author John Boyne in gender-label row". Irish Independent.
  20. ^ O'Connor, Amy (16 April 2019). "John Boyne deletes Twitter account after trans article backlash". The Irish Times.
  21. ^ Rickets, Chris (20 April 2019). "John Boyne flying flag for trans people even if he is holding it upside down". The Irish Times.
  22. ^ Whelan, Ella (25 April 2019). "John Boyne is a man, not a 'cis' man". spiked.
  23. ^ "Reviewed by Sheila Hamilton in New York Journal of Books".

External links