First published in Paris, the novel is set in Dublin, Ireland, in post war 1947. Upon its publication, it was banned in the Republic of Ireland and the United States of America for obscenity.
It follows the often racy misadventures of Sebastian Dangerfield, a young American living in Dublin with his English wife and infant daughter and studying law at Trinity College.
This book may be considered part of the fictionalised roar of the end of the Second World War hiatus, also represented by the colossi of American literature: John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. Dangerfield is an American Protestant of Irish descent, commonly believed to be a thinly fictionalised version of the author, but is more broadly based not only on Donleavy but also some of his contemporaries at Trinity. The hero, Dangerfield, is a portrayal of lifelong bohemian and friend of Donleavy, Gainor Stephen Crist, as told by the author in "A History of The Ginger Man".
The book gives us the map of the terra incognita of late 1940s sexual encounters in Dublin. Donleavy's later books spell out the aftermath (particularly A Fairy Tale of New York, which later inspired Shane MacGowan's song "Fairytale of New York", recorded by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl).
About the Author
is an Irish American author, born to Irish immigrants. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II after which he moved to Ireland. In 1946 he began studies at Trinity College, Dublin, but left before taking a degree. He was first published in the Dublin literary periodical, Envoy.
Donleavy gained critical acclaim with his first novel, The Ginger Man, which is one of the Modern Library 100 best novels. Correctly or incorrectly, his initial works are sometimes grouped with the Kitchen Sink artists as well as the Angry young men. Though not in the Beat tradition (while overlapping with it), Donleavy's The Ginger Man is often compared to Jack Kerouac's On the Road in that, just as Kerouac based his central character of Dean Moriarty on Neal Cassady, Donleavy based his central character Sebastian Dangerfield on fellow American emigre in Dublin, Gainor Crist.