Downfall of Brendan Behan
REVIEWING Behan's "Confessions . . ." OTaolain said: "Somebody . . . may record his last nine years, largely unfruitful, mainly frightening." This has here been done by Mrs. Jeffs who helped Behan tape-record that and other honks when he was no longer able to think with a pen in his hand.
Should she have written Brendan Behan: Man and Showman (Hutchinson 35s.)? I'm not at all sure; though she has done it well, Some of her inaccuracies, due to ignorance of Gaelic, irritate. and she doesn't know Dublin well if she thinks it possible to die of old age in the Rotunda.
But apart from these minor errors the hook was probably inevitable and could have been worse.
She rightly marks as the first step on his dreadful downward path the day when he had to choose between renouncing his I.R.A. membership or his faith and made the wrong choice with his heartbroken "Never, never no more." Lesser factors in his dissolution were his grandmother's lessons in tippling and the latent streak of sadism that made him turn with foulmouthed and often public viciousness on people illequipped to retaliate or defend themselves.
All this and the horrible physical disintegration Mrs. Jeffs saw and mourns, but the man who wrote "Borstal Boy" was a great and pity-full man even though he so determinedly accomplished his own early and pitiful end. This book will not give much comfort to his parents, his widow and his little daughter but. if it had to he written, better by someone who was truly a friend than by a Phd-chasing outsider.