Colum McCann was born in suburban Dublin in 1965. Following in his father’s footsteps, he too became a journalist. After a period working as a reporter in New York, he moved back to Dublin and wrote for different newspapers. In 1986 he returned to the USA and began a two-year-long bicycle trip through 40 of the American states, earning money as a taxi driver, painter, mechanic, bartender and social worker helping delinquent youths. Subsequently he studied English and History at the University of Texas. He married an American and travelled with her to Japan, where he com – pleted his first literary work, the prize-winning collection of short stories »Fishing the Sloe- Black River« (1994) and began work on the novel »Songdogs« (1995). He eventually settled in New York. His journalistic work has been published in such prestigious newspapers and magazines as »The New Yorker«, »Esquire«, »GQ«, »The New York Times«, »The Irish Times«, »The Guardian«, »Le Figaro «, »Le Monde«, »Die Zeit«, and »La Repubblica«.
McCann is a collector of stories. He portrays diverse worlds without unnecessary frills and with self-assured empathy, focussing his attention on minor characters and narrating from the perspective of the overlooked and unimportant. In his bestseller »The Side of Brightness« (1998), the history of New York and America is the background for the fate and fortune of an African-American skyscraper construction worker who later becomes homeless and lives in a tunnel under the East River. The biographical novel »Dancer« (2003) also became a bestseller and portrays the ballet icon Rudolf Nurejew from the perspective of some of his companions. The plot of »Zoli« (2006) is also based on a historical character: the Polish-Romani poet Bronisława Wajs. Wajs was literate, unusual for Romani people at the time – her writing was frowned upon by her family and eventually led to her being cast out from the Roma world. The portrayal of the adversity experienced by the protagonist has a forgiving tone, a characteristic of a number of McCann’s works. »I don’t believe the world’s a particularly beautiful place, but I do believe in redemption. There are those moments when the world comes together and we are home«.
McCann’s newest novel is said to be his magnum opus. »Let the Great World Spin« (2009) is set against the background of the factual event of 1974 when Philippe Petit walked a tightrope be – tween the towers of the World Trade Centre. In the streets below, a web of very different, but ordin – ary lives is woven to create a prelude to the events of September 11th.
The author has been awarded with many prizes, notably the Hennessy Award, the Rooney Prize, the Pushcart Prize and the Irish Novel of the Year Award. He also writes screenplays, often using his novels as starting-points. The film adaptation of the short story »Everything in This Country Must« (2000) was nominated for an Oscar. McCann teaches at the MFA program at Hunter College in New York, where he currently lives.
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