Main content

Colm Toibin

Kirsty Young talks to writer Colm Toibin.

Kirsty Young's castaway is the writer Colm Toibin.

Best-known for his novels "Brooklyn" - now made into a film - "Nora Webster" and "The Master," he has been nominated for the Booker Prize three times.

Born in 1955 in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, the second youngest of five children, Colm's life changed suddenly when his father died after a long illness when he was twelve. He says he has been dealing with the trauma which resulted in his writing ever since. After attending St Peter's College in Wexford and University College Dublin, he spent three years in Barcelona teaching English before returning to Ireland. He worked as a journalist until his books began to get published.

He once told a class he was teaching that "you have to be a terrible monster to write. I said, 'Someone might have told you something they shouldn't have told you, and you have to be prepared to use it because it will make a great story. You have to use it even though the person is identifiable. If you can't do it then writing isn't for you. You've no right to be here. If there is any way I can help you get into law school then I will. Your morality will be more useful in a courtroom.'"

Producer: Christine Pawlowsky.

Available now

38 minutes

Last on

Fri 8 Jan 2016 09:00

Music Played

  • Martin Hayes

    The Lark’'s March

    • Under the Moon.
    • Green Linnet Records.

    • Maighread & Triona Ní Dhomhnaill with Dónal Lunny

      Dónal Óg

      • Idir an Dá Sholas.
      • Hummingbird Records.
  • Joni Mitchell

    The Last Time I Saw Richard

    • Blue.
    • Reprise Records.
  • Michael William Balfe

    I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls (From The Bohemian Girl)

    Performer: Joan Sutherland. Performer: London Symphony Orchestra.
    • Home Sweet Home.
    • Decca.
  • Kathleen Ferrier

    Blow the Wind Southerly

    • Blow the Wind Southerly.
    • Decca.
  • The Johnstons

    Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye

    • Give A Damn.
    • Transatlantic Records.
  • Georges Bizet

    Les pêcheurs de perles Act 1: ‘Au fond du temple saint’

    Performer: John McCormack. Performer: Giuseppe Mario Sammarco.
    • Opera Greats in Duet.
  • Iarla Ó Lionáird

    Casadh an tSúgáin

    • Brooklyn.
    • Bun & Ham Ltd..

    The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James


    Pen and Paper


Role Contributor
Presenter Kirsty Young
Interviewed Guest Colm Toibin
Producer Cathy Drysdale


The Desert Island Discs podcast

The Desert Island Discs podcast

Subscribe or download individual episodes.

Listen to over 2,000 programmes



Read the surprising things we've learned about some stand-out castaways.

The 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs

The 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs

Featuring David Beckham, the funniest and most moving moments, animations and quizzes.

The Lark Ascending – The People’s Desert Island Disc

The Lark Ascending – The People’s Desert Island Disc

Why does Vaughan Williams’s masterpiece appeal to so many castaways?