Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in 1955. He studied at University College Dublin and lived in Barcelona between 1975 and 1978. Out of his experience in Barcelona be produced two books, the novel The South (shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and winner of the Irish Times/ Aer Lingus First Fiction Award) and Homage to Barcelona, both published in 1990. When he returned to Ireland in 1978 he worked as a journalist for In Dublin, Hibernia and The Sunday Tribune, before becoming editor of Magill in 1982. His journalism from the 1980s was collected in The Trial of the Generals (1990). His other work as a journalist and travel writer includes Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border (1987) and The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe (1994). Tóibín’s other novels from this period include The Heather Blazing (1992, winner of the Encore Award); The Story of the Night (1996, winner of the Ferro-Grumley Prize); The Blackwater Lightship (1999, shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Prize and the Booker Prize); The Master (2004, winner of the Dublin IMPAC Prize; the Prix du Meilleur Livre; the LA Times Novel of the Year; and shortlisted for the Booker Prize); Brooklyn (2009, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year). His short story collections are Mothers and Sons (2006, winner of the Edge Hill Prize) and The Empty Family (2010). His play Beauty in a Broken Place was performed at the Peacock Theatre in 2004. His other books include: The Modern Library: The 200 Best Novels Since 1950 (with Carmen Callil); Lady Gregory’s Toothbrush (2002); Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodovar (2002) and All a Novelist Needs: Essays on Henry James (2010). He also edited The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages.
He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Ulster, University College Dublin, the University of East Anglia and the Open University. He is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and a contributing editor at the London Review of Books. Between 2006 and 2013 he was a member of the Irish Arts Council. He has twice been Visiting Stein Writer at Stanford University and has also been a visiting writer at the University of Texas at Austin. He taught at Princeton from 2009 to 2011 and was Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Manchester in 2011. He is the Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia and Chancellor of Liverpool University. He is President of Listowel Writers Week and a member of the Board of Druid Theatre.
In 2011, his play ‘Testament’ was performed at the Dublin Theatre Festival and his memoir, A Guest at the Feast, was published by Penguin UK as a Kindle original. In 2012, New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers & Their Families was published as was his novel The Testament of Mary (short-listed for the Man Booker Prize). In 2013, The Testament of Mary was performed on Broadway, with Fiona Shaw, and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play.
Tóibín’s novel Nora Webster, published in 2014, won the Hawthornden Prize, and his On Elizabeth Bishop, published in 2015, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. His ninth novel House of Names appeared in 2017.
Colm has been a long time visitor to Trieste and was the guest writer at the very first Trieste Joyce School back in 1997. He has recently played a prominent role in the campaign to save the house of ‘The Dead’ at Usher’s Island. In 2019, he published Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know: The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce (May 2019), an illuminating, intimate study of Irish culture, history, and literature told through the lives and work of William Wilde, John Butler Yeats, and John Stanislaus Joyce – and the complicated, influential relationships they had with their complicated sons.