Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland. Born in 1955, he was the second youngest of five children. He graduated from University College Dublin in 1975 and promptly moved to Barcelona for three years. His experiences in Spain informed his first novel The South (1990). Tóibín returned to Ireland to pursue a masters but never matriculated. He left academia for a career in journalism, and was editor of the prominent Irish news magazine Macgill from 1982 to 1985. He has taught literature and creative writing at Princeton and Stanford Universities, among others, and currently lives in Dublin.
Along with writing a number of critically-acclaimed novels, Tóibín has also worked as a critic and editor of a variety of anthologies, like The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction in 1999. He has twice been short-listed for the Mann Booker Prize, for The Blackwater Lightship (1999) and The Master (2004), and won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for The Master. He is also the author of the novels The Heather Blazing (1992) and The Story of the Night (1996); a short story collection, Mothers & Sons (2006); a play, Beauty in a Broken Place (2004); and a novella, The Use of Reason (2006).
Tóibín's books tend to revolve around a number of repeating themes – depiction of Irish society; the experience of the immigrant; and creativity and the preservation of personal identity, both in the face of loss and in the experience of homosexuality. The Heather Blazing, The Blackwater Lightship and Brooklyn use the town of Enniscorthy as literary material, while others, like The Master, deal with homosexual identity and take place, for the most part, outside of Ireland.