A history of Brendan Behan in 20 quotations

A new book celebrates the greatest Irish wit since Oscar Wilde,who died on March 20th, 1964. Here is a selection of his sayings

 Pigeons compete for breadcrumbs around the sculpture of playwright Brendan Behan on the Royal Canal in Drumcondra, Dublin. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Pigeons compete for breadcrumbs around the sculpture of playwright Brendan Behan on the Royal Canal in Drumcondra, Dublin. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

People who say manual labour is a good thing have never done any.

The politician who introduced the Holy Hour to the Dáil was shot dead an hour afterwards.

The first duty of a writer is to let his country down.

The Hebrews and the Gaels have much in common. Both are exotic enough to be interesting and foreign enough to be alarming.

I’m a drinker with writing problems.

Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves.

Since I was a child I’ve had a pathological horror of country people.

Limerick girls are very careful about keeping their legs shut, if not their mouths.

The Irish are a very popular race – with themselves.

The English are even more subtle liars than we are.

I took up writing because it’s easier than house painting.

The key to reading Ulysses is to treat it like a comedian – as a sort of gag book.

The number of people who buy books in Ireland would not keep me in drink for the duration of the Sunday opening time.

You wouldn’t want to be minding them poet fellows, they’re a dangerous clique be the best of times.

I am accused of being blasphemous. But blasphemy is the comic verse of belief.

I enjoy smoking expensive cigars made in Cuba by Castro. You can feel radical and bourgeois at the same time.

Dublin is a city where there’s familiarity without friendship, loneliness without solitude.

If you fight for the liberty and unity of a small country – you’re an anarchist: but if you go bombing for a great power, you’re a patriot. It all depends on the size of the country in question.

I have never seen a situation so bad that a policeman could not make it worse.

There’s no bad publicity except an obituary.

The Brendan Behan Quotation Book (Somerville Press, £6.99) is a new collection of Brendan Behan’s best quotations compiled by Andrew Russell and published to mark the anniversary of the author’s death on March 20th, 1964

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