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International Socialist Review, Fall 1966


Constance Weissman

Confessions of an Irish Rebel


From International Socialist Review, Vol.27 No.4, Fall 1966, pp.160-161.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Confessions of an Irish Rebel: The Sequel to Borstal Boy
by Brendan Behan
Bernard Geis Associates. 245 pp. $4.95.

Confessions of an Irish Rebel does not compare with its predecessor, Borstal Boy. The latter book told of Behan’s experiences in an English jail where he was sentenced for terrorist activities at the age of 16. This new book starts with his trip to Ireland after three years in Borstal.

The trouble is Confessions is not really written by Behan. It is a recording of conversations he had with Rae Jeffs, an editor from his London publishers. Although the characterizations are interesting, they lack the depth which distinguished the earlier book. Behan is sent to prison again, this time for fighting the police in defense of IRA leaders, who have come out from underground to commemorate the Easter Uprising. The police surround them in the cemetery. Behan is sentenced for 14 years. But his account of his flight and capture are as sketchy as his prison stay.

As the Irish revolution subsided, so did Behan become more and more Bohemian. His craving for excitement and alcohol dominated his life and brought about his early death at the age of 41.

In spite of its shortcomings, there are some fascinating anecdotes with which he must have delighted his audiences in the pubs where he was lionized by both workers and intellectuals. He was always a class-conscious participant in life, with a gift for articulating the struggles of the poor, especially the soldiers and workers whose lives are held so cheap by the civil authorities.

He was immensely proud of his heritage – his parents who worked actively in the IRA, his uncle who wrote the Irish national anthem and the Irish revolutionary tradition of which he felt himself an integral part.

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