Brendan Behan quotes

Brendan Behan was a working class writer from Dublin with strong nationalist beliefs and an over fondness for drink. He once joked: “I only drink on two occasions: when I’m thirsty and when I’m not.”

The trouble for Behan is that it wasn’t so much a joke as a way of life.

He left school when he was only 13 to work as a painter and decorator but soon started to make an impression as a writer.

His two plays The Quare Fellow and The Hostage brought him international acclaim, as did his novel, The Borstal Boy. But Behan found it difficult to deal with success and the pressure it brought often led to him being drunk in public.
Brendan Behan quote. There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary. Image copyright Ireland Calling
In 1956, he appeared alongside American actor Jackie Gleason on a British TV chat show while drunk. Surprisingly, perhaps, the British liked his style and he gained a lot of valuable publicity for his writing. Gleeson described the incident saying: “It wasn’t an act of God, it was an act of Guinness.

There’s a story that Behan offered to write a slogan for Guinness if they would send him a few crates. When company officials came to check on his progress, they found the crates empty and Behan on the floor surrounded by bits of discarded note paper. Behan looked up at them and said: “I’ve got it, Guinness makes you drunk.”

Brendan Behan quote. I'm a drinker with writing problems. Image copyright Ireland Calling.

But the drink continued to take its toll on Behan, who was a diabetic. He died in 1964 at the age of 41 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. When writing the obituary, the critic Renee McCall said of Behan: Too young to die: too drunk to live.

Top quotes Brendan Behan It's not that the Irish are cynical

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Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves.

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I am a daylight atheist.

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Brendan Behan quote. Ah bless you sister, may all your sons be bishops. Image copyright Ireland Calling
Shamrocks. Image Copyright - Ireland Calling

I have never seen a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn’t make it worse.

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It is a good deed to forget a poor joke.

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I saw a notice which said, ‘Drink Canada Dry’ and I’ve just started.

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I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.

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Brendan Behan quote. If it was raining soup the Irish would go out with forks. Image copyright Ireland Calling
Shamrocks. Image Copyright - Ireland Calling

I say myself no depressed words just depressed minds.

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New York is my Lourdes, where I go for spiritual refreshment… a place where you’re least likely to be bitten by a wild goat.

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Brendan Behan quote. The most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink and somebody to love you. Image copyright Ireland Calling.

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Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis.

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Shakespeare said pretty well everything and what he left out, James Joyce, with a nudge from myself, put in.

Brendan Behan quote. When I came back to Dublin I was court martialed in my absence and sentenced to death in my absence, so I said they could shoot me in my absence. Image copyright Ireland Calling

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The Irish are a very popular race… with themselves.

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To get enough to eat was regarded as an achievement. To get drunk was a victory.

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The Bible was a consolation to a fellow alone in the old cell. The lovely thin paper with a bit of mattress stuffing in it, if you could get a match, was as good a smoke as I ever tasted.

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Brendan Behan quote. They took away our land, our language, and our religion; but they could never harness our tongues. Image copyright Ireland Calling.

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The big difference between sex for money and sex for free is that sex for money usually costs a lot less.

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It’s not that the Irish are cynical. It’s rather that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody.

* * *Brendan Behan quote. One drink is too many for me and a thousand not enough. Image copyright Ireland Calling
Quotes Cartoon illustration of shamrocks. Image copyright Ireland Calling

All images copyright Ireland Calling

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