Acclaimed Irish writer Aidan Higgins dies aged 88

Author described as ‘the missing link between high modernism and the present’

Author Aidan Higgins: his novel Langrishe Go Down (1966), about four spinster sisters living in a decaying Big House at Celbridge, has been described as “a great modern Irish classic”.

Author Aidan Higgins: his novel Langrishe Go Down (1966), about four spinster sisters living in a decaying Big House at Celbridge, has been described as “a great modern Irish classic”.

 

The writer Aidan Higgins has died aged 88. A member of Aosdána, he had lived in Kinsale, Co Cork since 1986.

Born in Celbridge, Co Kildare, in March 1927 he was from a well-off Catholic background and attended Clongowes Wood College before beginning work as a copywriter for an advertising agency in Dublin.

He moved to London in the mid 1950s where he worked at an assortment of jobs before setting out on travels which included Spain, South Africa, Berlin and Rhodesia. In 1960 and 1961 he worked for an advertising firm in Johannesburg.

His novel Langrishe Go Down (1966), about four spinster sisters living in a decaying Big House at Celbridge, has been described as “a great modern Irish classic”. It won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Irish Academy of Letters Award, and was filmed for television with a screenplay by leading UK playwright Harold Pinter. Higgins himself said the Big House concerned was Springfield, where he grew up, and that the four Langrishes sisters in the novel were “my brothers and myself in drag”.

Another novel Balcony of Europe was published in 1972. In 1977, Scenes from a Receding Past was published followed by Bornholm Night-Ferry in 1983 and Lions of the Grunewald in 1993.

His first collection of stories, Felo de Se, published in 1960 was recommended by Samuel Beckett to his London publisher John Calder, and subsequently published by Beckett’s own publisher in Paris. The collection Asylum and Other Stories was published in 1978, while Helsingor Station & Other Departures was published in 1989, and Selected Fictions in 1993.

Travel books included Images of Africa (1971); Ronda Gorge & Other Precipices ( 1989). He wrote plays for for BBC Radio 3, and RTÉ Radio 1, collected as 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 an ‘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...”