(1935–1979) was born with a caul, long considered a sign of good fortune. Academically and athletically gifted, Farrell grew up in England and Ireland. In 1956, during his first term at Oxford, he suffered what seemed a minor injury on the rugby pitch. Within days, however, he was diagnosed with polio, which nearly killed him and left him permanently weakened. Farrell’s early novels, which include The Lung
and A Girl in the Head,
have been overshadowed by his Empire Trilogy—Troubles
, the Booker Prize–winning Siege of Krishnapur,
and The Singapore Grip
(all three are published by NYRB Classics). In early 1979, Farrell bought a farmhouse in Bantry Bay on the Irish coast. “I’ve been trying to write,” he admitted, “but there are so many competing interests—the prime one at the moment is fishing off the rocks… . Then a colony of bees has come to live above my back door and I’m thinking of turning them into my feudal retainers.” On August 11, Farrell was hit by a wave while fishing and was washed out to sea. His body was found a month later. A biography of J.G. Farrell, J.G. Farrell: The Making of a Writer
by Lavinia Greacen, was published by Bloomsbury in 1999.
Derek Mahon was born in Belfast in 1941, studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and the Sorbonne, and has held journalistic and academic appointments in London and New York. He has received numerous awards, including the Irish Times/Aer Lingus Poetry Prize, the Irish Academy of Letters Award, the Scott Moncrieff and Aristeion translation prizes, and Lannan and Guggenheim fellowships. His Collected Poems were published in 1999 and Harbour Lights, a volume of new poetry, was published in 2006.