Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. The son of Abbey theatre actress Joan O’Hara, he was raised in London and the Irish capital, where he attended the Catholic University School and later studied English and Latin at Trinity College. After completing his studies, he spent several years living abroad in Europe before becoming an Honorary Fellow in Writing at Iowa University in 1984. One year later, he returned to his native Ireland and made a name for himself there as a poet, playwright and novelist.
In Barry’s works, a broad interest in politics and history is intertwined with autobiographical elements. Often, the author draws from his family history as well as his personal experiences and memories in order to shed light on specific aspects of Irish history which have been forgotten or skipped over in the official version of history. In his best-known drama, »The Steward of Christendom« (1995), which has received numerous awards and been performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), turns the spotlight on Barry’s great-grandfather, Thomas Dunne, who suffers through Ireland’s struggle for independence as a senior officer of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Barry also typically uses outsiders as central figures in his works. His first play, »Boss Grady’s Boys« (1988), tells the story of two older, unmarried brothers who run a remote country farm together. In his novel »The Secret Scripture« (2008), Barry tells the story of a nearly 100-year-old woman who has been tucked away in a secluded psychiatric institute for several decades and is recording her life story in a notebook. At the same time, her therapist is creating a notebook of his own about her as he may have to discharge her from the clinic. The two artfully interwoven narratives, which are set in the period leading up to the Irish civil war, create an alternative version of Irish history that is metaphorically detained within the institute. Barry’s award-winning novel »A Long Long Way« (2005) is about the divided loyalties of the Irish towards Ireland and England at the time of the 1916 Easter Rising. His most recent novel »Days Without End« (2017) is set in 1850s America and tells the tale of two men who fight together in the American Civil War, witness the brutal treatment of the Sioux and Yurok, and engage in a homosexual relationship.
Barry has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Costa Book of the Year Award (2008 and 2016) and the Walter Scott Prize (2012 and 2017). His work has been translated into over 27 languages. He lives in County Wicklow, Ireland.