Born as John Francis Whelan in Cork City, County Cork, Ireland, Sean Ó Faoláin wrote his first stories in the 1920s. Through 90 stories, written over a period of 60 years, Ó Faoláin charts the development of modern Ireland. His Collected Stories were published in 1983, eight years before his death on 20 April 1991, in Dublin.
Ó Faoláin was educated at the Presentation Brothers Secondary School in Cork. He came under the influence of Daniel Corkery, joining the Cork Dramatic Society, and increasing his knowledge of the Irish language, which he had begun in school. Shortly after entering University College, Cork, he joined the Irish Volunteers. He fought in the War of Independence. During the Irish Civil War he served as Censor for the Cork Examiner and as publicity director for the IRA. After the Republican loss, he received M.A. degrees from the National University of Ireland and from Harvard University where he studied for 3 years. O'Faolain was a Commonwealth Fellow from 1926 to 1928; and was a Harvard Fellow from 1928 to 1929.
From 1929 to 1933 Ó Faoláin lectured at the Catholic college St Mary's College, at Strawberry Hill in SW London, England.], during which period he wrote his first two books.
He published in 1932 his first book, "Midsummer Night Madness," a collection of stories partly based on his Civil War experiences. He returned to his native Ireland. He has published novels; short stories; biographies; travel books; translations; literary criticism—including one of the rare full-length studies of the short story: the Short Story, 1948. He also wrote a cultural history, "The Irish," in 1947.
He served as director of the Arts Council of Ireland from 1956 to 1959, and from 1940 to 1990 he was a founder member and editor of the Irish literary periodical The Bell. The list of contributors to The Bell included many of Ireland's foremost writers, among them Patrick Kavanagh, Patrick Swift, Flann O'Brien, Frank O'Connor and Brendan Behan.Click here to hide this biography