Aidan Higgins, a writer, has died at the age of 88. He has called Kinsale, Co. Cork, home since 1986 and was an active member of the Aosdána.
He was born in March of 1927 in Celbridge, Co. Kildare, to affluent Catholic parents, where he would later go on to study at Clongowes Wood College and find work as a copywriter for a Dublin advertising business.
In the middle of the 1950s, he uprooted his life and settled in London, where he held a number of jobs before embarking on a series of trips that took him to Spain, South Africa, Berlin, and Rhodesia.
He had an office job at an advertising agency in Johannesburg between the years 1960 and 1961. A “great modern Irish classic,” his novel Langrishe Go Down (1966) follows the lives of four spinster sisters who share a crumbling Big House in Celbridge.
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The screenplay for the television adaptation was written by renowned British playwright Harold Pinter, and it earned the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Irish Academy of Letters Award. According to Higgins, the Big House in question was actually his childhood home in Springfield, and the four Langrishes sisters were actually “my brothers and myself in drag.”
In 1972, a new novel titled Balcony of Europe came out. Scenes from a Receding Past was released in 1977 and was followed by Bornholm Night-Ferry in 1983 and Lions of the Grunewald in 1993.
Samuel Beckett suggested that John Calder, a London publisher, publish his first collection of short tales, Felo de Se, in 1960, and Calder did so through Beckett’s Parisian publisher. From 1978’s Asylum and Other Stories to 1989’s Helsingor Station & Other Departures and 1993’s Selected Fictions, the author has kept readers well-satisfied with his work.
Among the many travel books published in 1971 were Images of Africa and Ronda Gorge and Other Precipices ( 1989). Plays he composed for BBC Radio 3 and RTÉ Radio 1 are collected in his book Darkling Plain: Texts for the Air ( 2010). He wrote three autobiographies, Donkey’s Years (1996), Dog Days (1998) and The Whole Hog (2000).
Writing about him in 2010 for The Irish Times, poet Derek Mahon said:
“He was never an ivory tower man, not even in Langrishe, Go Down, though perhaps he is something of a ‘elitist’ – a designation he would, I suspect, be proud to endorse, so long as we recognise the radical nature of this elitism. He has been called the ‘missing link’ between high modernism and the present. His reputation for much of his working life has been a fugitive one, a thing of hearsay among initiates…”