Liam O'Flaherty (August 28, 1896 – September 7, 1984) was a significant Irish novelist and short story writer and a major figure in the Irish Renaissance. Liam was born in the remote village of Gort na gCapall, on Inishmore (one of the Aran Islands), county Galway. Like many people in Ireland at that time, Liam was also born into poverty. Growing up, Liam spoke the Irish language. However, he was not encouraged to do so by members of his family.
In 1908 at the age of twelve, he attended one of three different colleges. The first, Rockwell was followed by enrollments to Holy Cross and University College, Dublin. According to The Sunday Times, it was said he also attended Belvedere College and Blackrock College. He never attended any of the earlier two schools for long. Among his studies, he took up the study of religion and had intended on joining the priesthood. In 1917, he left school and joined the Irish Guards regiment of the British Army. During this time, he fought in World War I and was injured. He also suffered from a barrage of attacks by the enemy which led to a battle with shell shock. In 1933 he suffered from mental illness which most believe to be a result of the shock suffered in World War I.
O'Flaherty made changes after the war. One of these changes was that he left Ireland and moved to the United States, where he lived in Hollywood for a short period of time. A cousin was the famous director John Ford, who later turned Flaherty's novel, The Informer, into a movie.
In 1923, Liam O'Flaherty published his first novel, Thy Neighbour's Wife. This piece of work is thought to be one of his best. Many of his works have the common theme of nature and Ireland. In fact, some of his work was written in his native language, Irish, the very language his father did not want him to utter. In later years, in a letter to The Sunday Times, he confessed that writing in his native tongue of Irish never truly amounted to much. In fact, in the letter he spoke of other Irish writers who received little accolades for their writing in Irish. This led to some attacks on his character.
In 1935, his novel The Informer (for which he had been awarded the 1925 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction) was turned into a movie again, but this time by his cousin, John Ford. Over the next couple of years, he published other novels as well as short stories. In 1933, at this time in his life, he suffered from the first of two mental breakdowns. Between 1923 and 1950, he published many works. He also travelled the United States as well as Europe. Posthumously, many letters he wrote while on these trips were published. It is documented that he had a love of French and Russian culture. This is one of the possible reasons why he may have turned to communism. Before his death he left the Communist Party and returned to the Roman Catholic faith.
He was married to Katie Pigton from 1949 until her death five years later.
On September 7, 1984, in Dublin, Liam O'Flaherty died. After his death, many of his works were re-released as well as some of his letters. Today, Liam O'Flaherty is remembered as a profound writer of the twentieth century by those who have been exposed to him and his work. Liam O'Flaherty is also remembered as a strong voice in Irish culture.