Hugo Hamilton was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1953. The child of a German mother and an Irish father, Hamilton grew up in Dublin and attended schools where Gaelic, his father’s native language, was spoken exclusively. He spoke German with his mother. As he was forbidden to speak English with his family, Hamilton learned the language he now writes in on the streets. Before he started writing short stories and novels, he worked as a journalist and travelled widely in Europe. He received numerous awards and grants. In 1992 he was presented with the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.
“My heroes don’t really make a sound, but I follow the German tradition, which discusses everything”, says Hamilton. His books continue to reflect the position of the outsider at odds with the surrounding cultural landscape. The death of his mother prompted the author to come to terms with his ‘dual identity’ and his own “almost-fictional” German identity in ‘The Last Shot’. Three of his five novels are set in Germany.
The central figure of his two Ireland-based novels, the manic guardian of the law, Pat Coyne, is regarded as one of the most original characters in contemporary Irish literature. Reviewing the black-humour detective story ‘Headbanger’, ‘The Times’ wrote, “If Flann O’Brien’s lunatic Professor De Selby had genetically engeneered a cross between the novels of Raymond Chandler and those of Patrick MacCabe, this is what the progeny might well have looked like.”
Hamilton wrote about his German-Irish childhood in ‘The Speckled People’ (2003) and continued his memoirs with ‘The Sailor in the Wardrobe’ (2006). He lives in Dublin.
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