Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in 1955. He studied at University College Dublin and lived in Barcelona between 1975 and 1978. Out of his experience in Barcelona be produced two books, the novel ‘The South’ (shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and winner of the Irish Times/ Aer Lingus First Fiction Award) and ‘Homage to Barcelona’, both published in 1990. When he returned to Ireland in 1978 he worked as a journalist for ‘In Dublin’, ‘Hibernia’ and ‘The Sunday Tribune’, becoming features editor of ‘In Dublin’ in 1981 and editor of Magill, Ireland’s current affairs magazine, in 1982.
He left Magill in 1985 and travelled in Africa and South America. His journalism from the 1980s was collected in ‘The Trial of the Generals’ (1990). His other work as a journalist and travel writer includes ‘Bad Blood: A Walk Along the Irish Border’ (1987) and ‘The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe’ (1994). His other novels are: ‘The Heather Blazing (1992, winner of the Encore Award); ‘The Story of the Night’ (1996, winner of the Ferro-Grumley Prize); ‘The Blackwater Lightship’ (1999, shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Prize and the Booker Prize and made into a film starring Angela Lansbury); ‘The Master’ (2004, winner of the Dublin IMPAC Prize; the Prix du Meilleur Livre; the LA Times Novel of the Year; and shortlisted for the Booker Prize); ‘Brooklyn’ (2009, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year).
His short story collections are ‘Mothers and Sons’ (2006, winner of the Edge Hill Prize) and ‘The Empty Family (2010). His play ‘Beauty in a Broken Place’ was performed at the Peacock Theatre in Dublin in 2004. His other books include: ‘The Modern Library: the 200 Best Novels Since 1950’ (with Carmen Callil); ‘Lady Gregory’s Toothbrush’ (2002); ‘Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodovar’ (2002) and ‘All a Novelist Needs: Essays on Henry James’ (2010). He has edited ‘The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction’. His work has been translated into thirty languages. In 2008, a book of essays on his work ‘Reading Colm Toibin’, edited by Paul Delaney, was published. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Ulster and from University College Dublin.
He is a regular contributor to the Dublin Review, the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. In 2006 he was appointed to the Arts Council in Ireland. He has twice been Stein Visiting Writer at Stanford University and also been a visiting writer at the Michener Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently Leonard Milberg Lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University.