Saturday 21 September 2019

JP Donleavy's archive donated to National Library

Notes by Behan on early draft of 'The Ginger Man'

Role play: Rory Dignam as Sebastian Dangerfield, the main protagonist of ‘The Ginger Man’, with National Library of Ireland director Dr Sandra Collins. Photo: Julien Behal
Role play: Rory Dignam as Sebastian Dangerfield, the main protagonist of ‘The Ginger Man’, with National Library of Ireland director Dr Sandra Collins. Photo: Julien Behal
Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

The best-selling author of 'The Ginger Man', JP Donleavy, has left his archive to the National Library of Ireland - including a draft of the novel annotated by Brendan Behan.

The library announced receipt of a treasure trove of notebooks, manuscripts, playscripts, letters, theatrical posters and programmes, as well as first editions of the author's work.

Spanning 300 boxes, the donated archive reveals a fascinating career that has spanned decades.

Highlights include a typescript draft of his best-known work 'The Ginger Man' from 1951, with various notes by Behan.

It also features a notebook with diary entries, including a note of a meeting with author Muriel Spark; and a programme for the 1959 Gaiety production of 'The Ginger Man', starring Richard Harris.

The archive is packed with correspondence from a wide range of friends and acquaintances, dating back to his schooldays in New York.

These letters progress through his years in Trinity College, Dublin, into the worlds of literature and art, and theatre and film with well-known names such as Billy Connolly and Pamela Stephenson, Susan Hampshire, George Roy Hill, Malcolm McDowell, Sam Wanamaker and Susannah York.

"JP Donleavy's work made him a major figure of 20th century Irish writing, with a fascinating circle of literary and artistic friends," said director of the National Library of Ireland (NLI), Dr Sandra Collins.

"In the draft of 'The Ginger Man' you can see handwritten notes by his friend Brendan Behan.

"We are delighted that this archive, which reveals the writer's work and life over many decades, is joining the National Library's extensive literary collections. It will be a wonderful resource for all those interested in 20th century Irish writing and in JP Donleavy - the writer and his world."

The chairman of the Board of the NLI, Paul Shovlin, said: "JP Donleavy's legacy is evident in the sustained popularity of his work worldwide, and we are grateful to the Donleavy family for donating his papers to the National Library of Ireland under Section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

"Irish literary collections are of major international interest, so it is extremely important that Section 1003 makes it possible to add significant heritage materials like this archive to the Irish national collections, where they are preserved and protected now and for future generations."

A son of Irish immigrants, Donleavy was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1926, before moving to Ireland in 1946, having served in the US navy during World War II.

Following time spent studying at Trinity in Dublin, he turned to writing full-time.

Donleavy became an Irish citizen at the end of the 1960s and lived in Westmeath until his death in 2017.

Donleavy is best known for his novel 'The Ginger Man', which was first published in France in 1955. Banned in Ireland on the grounds of obscenity, the book went on to be published in two dozen languages, selling in the region of 50 million copies.

Irish Independent

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