“The things I like to find in a story are punch and poetry.”—Irish man of letters Sean O'Faolain (1900–91), foreword to The Short Story (1948)
If you read almost any major anthology of Irish short stories, then you are bound to believe that Sean O'Faolain—who died on this day 25 years ago in Dublin—packed quite a bit of “punch and poetry.” William Trevor, himself a significant short-story writer, ranked him with Liam O’Flaherty and Frank O’Connor as "the three most influential Irish writers in the genre since Joyce and Elizabeth Bowen established Ireland at the forefront of the modern short story."
In each of four decades, O'Faolain produced at least one major story collection, as well as four novels, biography, criticism and travel books. A soldier in the struggle for Irish independence (and radicalized enough by that experience to change his baptismal name, John Whelan, to its more Gaelic form), he would later criticize conservative aspects of the republic born from the conflict, including censorship, Church restrictions and the narrowness of middle-class life. His life was chronicled in a memoir by his novelist daughter Julia.