Fintan O’Toole on Flann O’Brien

An excerpt from his fine article on the man, the myth, the legend . . .

The banning of almost every serious Irish contemporary novel also created the strange literary culture in which O’Brien revelled, one in which officially approved reading was narrowed to theological reflections, Gaelic sagas and peasant narratives while the thirst for contemporary stories was slaked by imported cowboy stories and cheap crime thrillers.

O’Brien’s main novels draw much of their humour from the absurd conjunctions implicit in this unlikely mix. At Swim sets heroic and folkloric figures (Finn MacCool, Sweeny, The Good Fairy, The Pooka MacPhellimey) literally alongside the cowboys Slug and Shorty.

Happy Birthday, Flann!!

(Updated 6-27-22. Several changes since 2011 in the publishing world have rendered the original post a bit too confusing, though I imagine O’Brien would love all of that —the madcap zaniness of the biz, so to speak. Well, perhaps. So I’ll just point current and future readers to a more up to date source, and leave at that***.)

Centenary morning, to ya!!

A great, great author, full of wit and whimsy and a native Irish speaker, Flann O’Brien would be a hundred years young today, if he hadn’t met the fate of The Third Policeman.

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

Brian O’Nolan (Irish: Brian Ó Nualláin; 5 October 1911 – 1 April 1966), better known by his pen name Flann O’Brien, was an Irish civil service official, novelist, playwright and satirist, who is now considered a major figure in twentieth century Irish literature.

Live, From New York!

Well, not quite. But we do have an expressive report from Robert Mueller regarding his evening on the town and a concert performance of New York musicians/composers. As George Spencer mentions in the comments, Robert seems to sync his prose meter (quite naturally) with the music he heard — without stretching the metaphor.

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 On a different note: Brian O’Nolan, otherwise known as Flann O’Brien, was born a century ago as of October 5th of this year. The author of The Third Policeman and At Swim-Two-Birds is one of my all-time favorites, and deserving of quite a big ruckus on his centennial.…

The Dalkey Archive

Flann O’Brien

 The Third Policeman finds his way to At Swim-Two-Birds and lives to write about it, writes to live within it. Riding his bloody bike, he feels his molecules changing, becoming something other, something cyclical. Along the way, he meets Saint Augustine and James Joyce, both of whom are really dead, but only one of whom is an apparition.

The other is a bartender who doesn’t know about Finnegans Wake.

Well, actually, that’s only part of the story and the wrong part. The real Dalkey Archive is nothing like the above. I like the novel, but it’s just not up to the same standard as O’Brien’s (or O’Nolan’s) best two works, The Third Policeman and At Swim-Two-Birds, which just happen to be among the very best novels of the 20th century in English.…

Meursault and Plume

Henri Michaux. 1936. Photo by Giselle Freund.

As mentioned before, I once wrote an incredibly brilliant essay about Camus’s Meursault and Michaux’s Plume. Lost it. Nothing as tragic as a car crash. Nothing as dramatic as getting it stolen in Paris. It’s just gone.

So, anyway. Thinking about Camus and Michaux and Joyce’s Leopold Bloom made me think about the connections between the characters. Yet again. Along comes Charlie Chaplin into the mix, and another memory. Of seeing his statue in Ireland, in Waterville by the sea. County Kerry. The Ring of Kerry. One of the most beautiful places on earth.…

Tabhair ‘om póg, is Éireannach mé

In honor of Saint Patty’s Day, I thought it a good thing to watch “Once”, once again. Its simple beauty held up, the emotional power remained, and I came away from it with more joy in me heart than I had before rewatching it. It’s just quite nearly a perfect film. No pretense. No artifice. Just golden, raw, innocent emotion, but never naive. True. The movie rings true, like guitars around a campfire. Like guitars in the streets of Dublin. And those streets came back to me and took me back to my trip there in 2003. A trip I can’t and won’t ever forget, for the depth of love I felt for my ancestral home, for the sights and sounds along the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands, the castles, the mountains, the sea.

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