Academic journal article The Review of Contemporary Fiction

Timothy O'Keefe: 1926-1994

Academic journal article The Review of Contemporary Fiction

Timothy O'Keefe: 1926-1994

Article excerpt

TIMOTHY O'KEEFFE, among the most important publishing editors of the century, died in London on January 11. He was responsible, among other accomplishments, for resurrecting the career of Flann O'Brien and for publishing William Gaddis's The Recognitions in Britain.

O'Keeffe was born in Kinsale, County Cork, and read English at Saint Edmund Hall, Oxford. After doing his national service with the British Army in Egypt, he entered publishing in London at the house of Hutchinson, and was involved with its famous New Authors series. He developed a reputation as someone able to deal with difficult authors as editor of Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy. He also played a role in publishing the English translation of Lampedusa's The Leopard.

In 1959, O'Keeffe became editor-in-chief of the firm of MacGibbon and Kee, founded by James MacGibbon and Robert Kee, which published the early work of Doris Lessing and Colin MacInnes. One of O'Keeffe's first deeds at MacGibbon and Kee was to bring back into print Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds, originally published by Longmans in 1939. Despite praise from Graham Greene and James Joyce, the book had disappeared in the tumult of World War II.

While at Hutchinson O'Keeffe had lobbied to have At Swim-Two-Birds reprinted but was unsuccessful. With the republication by MacGibbon and Kee and a series of good reviews, O'Keeffe was able to cajole O'Brien into taking up fiction again. MacGibbon and Kee published The Hard Life: An Exegesis of Squalor in 1962 and The Dalkey Archive in 1964.

After O'Brien's death in 1966, O'Keeffe was going through O'Brien's papers with the novelist's widow when he discovered the typescript of The Third Policeman. O'Brien had submitted the book to Hutchinson in the wake of its publication of At Swim-Two-Birds, but it had been rejected, partly because of the war. In disgust, O'Brien put the book away, and it had long been thought to be lost. MacGibbon and Kee brought it out in 1966.

O'Keeffe also gathereded the wonderful collection of columns that O'Brien (that was the name he used for fiction; his real name was Brian O'Nolan) wrote under the journalistic pen name of Myles na Gopaleen for the Irish Times. Called The Best of Myles, it was issued in 1968, edited by the author's son, Kevin O Nolan.

In 1962, O'Keeffe published William Gaddis's The Recognitions. …

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