Patrick O'Brian was a celebraited Engilish novelist and translator, best known for his Aubrey–Maturin series of novels set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and centered on the friendship of Captain Jack Aubrey and the Irish–Catalan physician Stephen Maturin. The 20-novel series is known for its well-researched and highly detailed portrayal of early 19th century life, as well as its authentic and evocative language. A partially-finished twenty-first novel in the series was published posthumously containing facing pages of handwriting and typescript.
O'Brian was born Richard Patrick Russ, in Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire. He was the son of a physician. O'Brian is of German and Irish descent. He changed his name legally to Patrick O'Brian in August 1945. Although he never claimed to have been born in Ireland, his original name and ancestry were revealed following increased media attention.
From 1949 to his death, O'Brian lived with his second wife, Mary, at Collioure, a Catalan town in southern France, where he was buried.
Dean King's life of O'Brian, Patrick O'Brian: A Life Revealed, was the first biography to document O'Brian's early life under his original name.
In November 2004, historian Nikolai Tolstoy, O'Brian's stepson, published the book Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist, the first volume in a two-part biography of O'Brian using material from the Russ and Tolstoy families and sources, including O'Brian's personal papers and library, which Tolstoy inherited on O'Brian's death.
O'Brian had an interest in nature and birdwatching, which is reflected through the character of Dr. Maturin in the Aubrey-Maturin series. O'Brian published two novels, a collection of stories and several uncollected stories under his original name, Richard Patrick Russ. His first book, Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda-Leopard, was written at the age of 12 (and published tAs well as his historical novels, O'Brian wrote three adult mainstream novels, six story collections, and a history of the Royal Navy aimed at young readers. He also was a respected translator, responsible for more than 30 translations from the French, including Henri Charrière's Papillon into English, Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle, as well as many of Simone de Beauvoir's later works.
O'Brian also wrote detailed biographies of Sir Joseph Banks (an English naturalist who took part in Cook's first voyage) and Pablo Picasso. His biography of Picasso is a massive and comprehensive study of the artist. Picasso lived for a time in Collioure, the same French village where O'Brian resided, and the two became acquainted there.
- Dean H. King (2001). Patrick O'Brian - A life revealed. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd. ISBN 0-340-79256-6.
- Dean H. King (2001). In Search of Patrick O'Brian. Holt (Henry) & Co ,U.S.. ISBN 0-8050-5977-6. (US edition of the above book)
- Nikolai Tolstoy (2004). Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist. Century. ISBN 0-7126-7025-4.
- Nikolai Tolstoy (2005). Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist 1914-1949. W W Norton & Co Ltd. ISBN 0-393-06130-2. (US edition of the above book)
Also of importance when studying O'Brian:
- A. E. Cunningham (Editor) (1994). Patrick O'Brian: Critical appreciations and a bibliography. British Library. ISBN 0-7123-1071-1.
Peter Weir's 2003 film, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is loosely based on the novel The Far Side of the World from the Aubrey–Maturin series for its plot, but draws on a number of the novels for incidents within the film.
hree years later in 1930); Hussein was published in 1938, when he was 23. The name change to O'Brian necessarily meant abandoning the literary reputation he had built up.
In the 1950s O'Brian wrote three books aimed at a younger age group, The Road to Samarcand, The Golden Ocean, and The Unknown Shore. The latter two were based on events of the Anson circumnavigation of 1740–1743. Although written many years before the Aubrey–Maturin series, the literary antecedents of Aubrey and Maturin can be clearly seen in the characters of Jack Byron and Tobias Barrow.