Books by Colm Tóibín

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2017 Richard C. Holbrooke
Distinguished Achievement Award

Colm Tóibín, 2017 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award Winner

Colm Tóibín

"Our task as writers is to work on our sentences, pay close attention to the rhythm, texture and tone of prose. Mostly, our books will be read silently, as they are written silently. Our aim is to reach the reader’s imagination, have an effect on the nervous systems of other people. In ways that are both powerful and mysterious a book or a story can deepen the complexity of who we are in the world, how we feel, offering no easy resolutions, no simple images. Through fiction, we learn to see others. The page is not a mirror. It is blank when I start to write, but it contains a version of the world when I finish. It is there for others to be inspired by. Slowly then, a sentence or set of sentences that have their own integrity, their own sense of balance, their own striving towards worth, can become a sonorous metaphor for much else, including for how we might live in the world, how we might see others, what we might do. Good writing thus has elements and undercurrents that are moral as much as aesthetic. Good sentences offer us a way to imagine life in all its strangeness and ambiguity and possibility, alert us to the power of the imagination to transform and transcend our nature, offer us a blueprint not only for who we are but for who we might be, who we might become."

                            - Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín was born in Ireland in 1955. He studied at University College Dublin. On graduation, he lived in Spain, studying Catalan and Spanish, and witnessing the transformation of the country to democracy. His time in Spain inspired his first novel ‘The South’ (1990) and his ‘Homage to Barcelona’ (1990).

On returning to Dublin, he worked as a journalist, becoming editor of ‘Magill’, Ireland’s main current affairs magazine. Later, he traveled in South America and Africa, covering the trial of the generals in Buenos Aires in 1985. The atmosphere in Buenos Aires in the aftermath of the dictatorship is captured in his novel ‘The Story of the Night’ (1996). In 1986 he walked along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. His account of that journey was called ‘Bad Blood’ (1987).

Three of his novels have been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize – ‘The Blackwater Lightship’ (1999), ‘The Master’ (2004), ‘The Testament of Mary’ (2012). ‘The Master’ also won the LA Times Novel of the Year, and the stage version of ‘The Testament of Mary’ was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. His other novels are ‘Brooklyn’ (2009), ‘Nora Webster’ (2014) and ‘House of Names’ (2017). His essay collections are: ‘The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe’ (1994), ‘Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodovar’ (2002) and ‘New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and their Families’ (2012).

He has taught at Stanford, Princeton and the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, a contributing editor at the London Review of Books and Chancellor of the University of Liverpool.

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