Joseph O'Neill (writer)

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Joseph O'Neill
Joseph oneill 2010.jpg
O'Neill at the 2010 Texas Book Festival
Born 1964 (age 51–52)
Cork, Ireland
Occupation lawyer, fiction writer, cultural critic
Period 1991–present

Joseph O'Neill (born 1964) is an Irish novelist and non-fiction writer. O'Neill's novel Netherland was awarded the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.[1]

Early life[edit]

Joseph O'Neill was born in Cork Ireland, in 1964.[2] He is of half-Irish and half-Turkish ancestry.[3]

O'Neill's parents moved around much in O'Neill's youth: O'Neill spent time in Mozambique as a toddler and in Turkey until the age of four, and he also lived in Iran.[2] From the age of six, O'Neill lived in the Netherlands, where he attended the Lycée français de La Haye and the British School in the Netherlands. He read law at Girton College, Cambridge, preferring it over English because "literature was too precious" and he wanted it to remain a hobby. O'Neill started off his literary career in poetry but had turned away from it by the age of 24.[2] After a year off to write his first novel, O'Neill became a barrister at the English Bar, where he practised for ten years at a barristers chambers in the Temple, principally in the field of business law. Since 1998 he has lived in New York City.



O'Neill is the author of four novels. Netherland was published in May 2008 and was featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, where it was called "the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we've yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell".[4] It was also included in the New York Times list of the 10 Best Books of 2008.[5] Literary critic James Wood called it "one of the most remarkable postcolonial books I have ever read". In an interview with the BBC in June 2009 US President Barack Obama revealed that he was reading it, describing it as "an excellent novel."[6]

Among the books on the longlist, it was the favourite to win the Man Booker Prize.[7] However, on 9 September 2008, the Booker nominee shortlist was announced, and the novel failed to make the list.[8] The book was also nominated for the Warwick Prize for Writing (2008/9) and made it to the long list of that prize announced in November 2008.

He is also the author of a non-fiction book, Blood-Dark Track: A Family History, which was a New York Times Notable Book for 2002 and a book of the year for the Economist and the Irish Times.

Additionally, O'Neill writes literary and cultural criticism, most regularly for the Atlantic Monthly.

His latest novel, The Dog, released in September 2014, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.[9]


He teaches at Bard College.[10]

Personal life[edit]

O'Neill speaks English, French and Dutch.[2] He played club cricket in the Netherlands and the UK, and has played for many years at the Staten Island Cricket Club, much like his Netherland protagonist Hans.[11] His love of cricket continues and he is an active player (as of 2015).[12] In an interview with The Paris Review in 2014 O'Neill said, explaining his interest in writing about Dubai in The Dog, "I’ve moved around so much and lived in so many different places that I don’t really belong to a particular place, and so I have little option but to seek out dramatic situations that I might have a chance of understanding."[13]



  • This Is the Life (Faber & Faber; Farrar Straus & Giroux) (1991)
  • The Breezes (Faber & Faber) (1996)
  • Netherland (Pantheon; Fourth Estate) (2008)
  • The Dog (Pantheon; Fourth Estate) (2014)


  • Blood-Dark Track: A Family History (Granta Books) (2001)

Short fiction[edit]

  • "The world of cheese". Harper's 318 (1905): 61–68. Feb 2009. 

Anthologized in:

  • Phoenix Irish Short Stories (ed. David Marcus) (1999)
  • Dislocation: Stories from a New Ireland (ed. Caroline Walsh) (Carroll & Graf) (2003)
  • Faber Book of Best New Irish Short Stories (ed. David Marcus) (Faber & Faber) (2007)



  1. ^ PEN/Faulkner Award Goes to Joseph O'Neill, The Washington Post, 26 February 2009
  2. ^ a b c d Mark Sarvas (July 2009). "The Elegant Variation – The Joseph O'Neill Interview". The Elegant Variation. Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  3. ^ "Joseph O'Neill, The New Immigrant Experience". NPR. 26 November 2008. 
  4. ^ Garner, Dwight (18 May 2008). "The Ashes". New York Times. 
  5. ^ "The 10 Best Books of 2008". New York Times. 3 December 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  6. ^ Webb, Justin (2 June 2009). "Obama Interview: the transcript". BBC. 
  7. ^ Anthony, Andrew (7 September 2008). "Perfect delivery". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  8. ^ Bosman, Julie (9 September 2008). "Booker Prize Shortlist Is Announced". New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Bard College – Faculty – Joseph O'Neill". Bard College. Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  11. ^ Leonard, Tom (Feb 9, 2009). "Joseph O'Neill: 'I wasn't disappointed'". The Telegraph. Retrieved June 16, 2015. 
  12. ^ "The Essentials. Go, Ireland". The Cricket Monthly ESPN Cricinfo. June 2015. 
  13. ^ Lee, Jonathan (2014-10-03). "Nothing Happened: An Interview with Joseph O’Neill". Paris Review Daily. Retrieved 2016-01-10. 

External links[edit]