O'Brien, Flann

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 410

O'Brien, Flann 1911–1966

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An Irish comic genius, O'Brien was the author of At Swim-Two-Birds and other incomparable novels, and a journalist, writing as Myles na Gopaleen, whose columns were collected for The Best of Myles. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 21-22; obituary, Vols. 25-28.)

Of [O'Brien's] very few books, The Hard Life and The Dalkey Archive are slight but funny (they have also been largely ignored by English critics), but At Swim-Two-Birds is probably a masterpiece…. Flann O'Brien did, in fact, discover a means of counterpointing myth, fiction and actuality through the device of a sort of writer's commonplace-book…. There is no feeling of recession, of one order of reality (myth or novel or narration) lying behind another: all are presented on the same level. This is what gives the contrapuntal effect.

Anthony Burgess, in his The Novel Now: A Guide to Contemporary Fiction (reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.; © 1967 by Anthony Burgess), Norton, 1967, pp. 77-8.

The Third Policeman is a comic but sinister invention: on the one hand, a regional farce in which a criminal struggles with an entrenched rural bureaucracy, and, on the other, a mysterious allegory of universal pitfalls. It is a metaphysical comedy in which tricky camerawork and fleet ballet maneuvers of style bear the stamp of a technical master who has an occasional Irish weakness for blarney. Wit sometimes descends into whimsey. Completely original, it paradoxically brings to mind, as so many less original works do not, the world and the tone of other writers, and of Joyce and Finnegans Wake in...

(The entire section contains 410 words.)

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O'Brien, Flann (Pseudonym of Brian O Nuallain) (Vol. 4)

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