Nuala O'Faolain

On this date in 1940, Irish journalist, memoirist and feminist Nuala O’Faolain (pronounced oh-FWAY-lawn) was born in Dublin, the second of nine children. Her unhappy childhood, lacking in love, inspired much of her later writing. Her father wrote a newspaper column for the Dublin Evening Press and, according to O’Faolain, spent many nights out in Dublin, with little regard for his family. Her mother “sank into despair and alcoholism” as a result (in O’Faolain’s New York Times obituary by William Grimes, May 11, 2008). O’Faolain attended a Catholic convent school in the north of Ireland but was expelled for unruly behavior. She studied English at the University College in Dublin and Medieval English Literature at the University of Hull in England. She earned a BPhil in English from Oxford in the 1960s. After her studies, she lectured in the English department at University College and then moved to London where she established a broadcasting producer career with BBC. In 1977, she returned to Ireland to produce television programs, often with feminist content and regarding Irish women. In 1986, she began writing a weekly column for the Irish Times, for which she became well-known. Her first memoir, Are You Somebody? (1996), won her international recognition. Following were successful novels, My Dream of You (2001) and The Story of Chicago May (2006). In 2003, Almost There, a sequel to her first memoir, was published. Her obituary in The Telegraph (U.K.) said that O’Faolain learned to drive at age 40 and to swim at age 50 (May 11, 2008). O’Faolain had a 15-year relationship with the feminist journalist and playwright Nell McCafferty. She died in Dublin from lung cancer at age 68. In a final interview after her terminal diagnosis, she stated she did not believe in an afterlife (The Independent, interview with Marian Finucane, April 13, 2008). Her obituary in The Guardian states: “The very pure strain of patriarchy that evolved in post-independence Ireland, where church and state were often indistinguishable, produced a noble tradition of female dissent. The long and illustrious list of women who challenged the status quo - and changed Irish society in the process — had no more eloquent an exponent than Nuala O'Faolain . . .” (by Luke Dodd, May 11, 2008). D. 2008.

Nuala O’Faolain: I have done that for years, looked up at it (the stars) and given it a wink and thought 'I don't know what's going on' and I still don't know what's going on, but I can't be consoled by mention of god. I can't.

Marian Finucane: Would you like it?

NO'F: No. Oh no I wouldn't. If I start doing that something really bad is happening to my brain . . . And though I respect and adore the art that arises from the love of god and though nearly everybody I love and respect themselves believe in god, it is meaningless to me, really meaningless.

MF: The reason I asked you is because it is a source of comfort for many people?

NO'F: Well, I wish them every comfort, but it is not even bothering me. I don't even think about it. I have never believed in the Christian version of the individual creator . . .

—Nuala O’Faolain interview with Marian Finucane in “Nuala O' Faolain interview: ‘I don’t want more time. As soon as I heard I was going to die, the goodness went from life,’ ” April 13, 2008

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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