This miracle of autobiography and prison literature begins: “Friday, in the evening, the landlady shouted up the stairs: ‘Oh God, oh Jesus, oh Sacred Heart, Boy, there’s two gentlemen here to see you.’ I knew by the screeches of her that the gentlemen were not calling to inquire after my health . . . I grabbed my suitcase, containing Pot. Chlor., Sulph Ac, gelignite, detonators, electrical and ignition, and the rest of my Sinn Fein conjurer’s outfit, and carried it to the window. . . .” The men were, of course, the police, who knew seventeen-year-old Behan for the anti-imperialist terrorist he was and arrested him. He spent three years as a prisoner in England, primarily in Borstal (reform school), and was then expelled to his homeland, a changed but hardly defeated rebel. Once banned in the Irish Republic, Borstal Boy is both a riveting self-portrait and a clear look into the problems, passions, and heartbreak of Ireland.
Without a doubt the most important book of its kind published this century.