Celebrated author Aidan Higgins dies, aged 88

Aidan Higgins: Counted Samuel Beckett among his admirers.

The author Aidan Higgins died on Sunday, aged 88.

His work won international recognition but not to the degree that many admirers believed he deserved, despite the acknowledgement of his talent by Samuel Beckett among others.

Higgins was born in Celbridge, Co Kildare in 1927, and went to school at nearby Clongowes Wood College. He spent many years of his early life in Spain, South Africa, North and South Rhodesia, Berlin and London, but had lived in Kinsale, Co Cork since 1986.

He was married to writer Alannah Hopkin, and is also survived by three children Carl, Julien and Elwin.

His first novel, Langrishe, Go Down in 1966, won acclaim and awards, as well as being adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter. The 1978 film starred Judi Dench and Jeremy Irons but its nude scenes meant it fell foul of the Irish censor.

The story, like many of his works, was said to mix fiction and autobiography, telling of life in a big Irish country house.

His first collection of stories, Felo de Se, was recommended by Beckett to his London publisher, after he became aware of his work when both were in South Africa in the late 1950s. Higgins’s 1972 novel Balcony of Europe was short-listed for the Booker Prize, but his dissatisfaction with the structure saw him remove it from sale for a period.

His later works include Scenes from a Receding Past (1977), Bornholm Night-Ferry (1983), Lions of the Grunewald (1993), and a 1996 collection of his stories, Flotsam and Jetsam. His memoirs were published as Donkey’s Years (1995), Dog Days (1998), and The Whole Hog (2000).

Ahead of a 2013 tribute to his work at the Cork World Book Festival, he dismissed an Irish Examiner interviewer’s praise for his latest collection Blind Man’s Bluff.

“‘It’s too small’, he says crossly, pushing it away. ‘The next one is going to be bigger, longer’,” she wrote of Higgins’s reaction.

He was a member of the Arts Council’s creative artists’ group Aosdána and received an honorary doctorate of literature from UCC in 2001.

A farewell service takes place tomorrow at 2pm at the Island Crematorium, in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork.


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