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sirinrob

At Swim Two Birds - Flann O'Brien

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This was Flann O'Brien's (one of Brian O Nuillain's many pseudonyms) first novel. He was greatly influenced by James Joyce, but at the same time was sceptical of the cult that grew up round Joyce. Like Joyce he likes to use long convulted sentences to convey simple actions. There use is often comic as they are so preposterous - its almost as if hes saying 'Look I can write pretentious sentences just as well as joyce ,but mine are sillier'.

 

This novel is writtten as a continous text,broken into chunks. There are many stories some embedded within others. all have a beginning middle and an ending. The whole spirit of the novel is a comic send up of Irish literature and culture and story writing as well - many of the characters are seen as employees of an author. Many of the stories are based on a madcap premise - one early in the book involves cowboys, red indians, the dublin police and a tram!!

 

I found myself chuckling all the way through the novel - definitely on my reread list.

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At-Swim-Two-Birds is a book I remember as one of my favourites of all time, although it's too long - 10 years or more - since I last read it. Flann O'Brien really was a comic genius; I'm very disinclined to laugh when reading, yet reading his newspaper pieces - collected as The Best Of Myles these days, as he was writing under the pseudonym Myles na gCopaleen - I found myself being stared at by commuters as I was practically creased up on the train.

 

Anyway, back to At-Swim, etc. The nesting of the stories, the whole meta-ness of the fictions and the way he takes the wee out of meta-fiction at the same time, is a work of brilliance.

 

Funnily, though, the insane tales I remember best from Flann are from other books - the meeting with St Augustine under the sea or the quantum mechanics, policeman, bicycle property transference thing...

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Yes I agree he is a comic genius and a good writer to boot. I'm currently reading 'The Third Policeman' - the one about policemen and bicycles etc. The collected Myles I'm keeping an eye out for as well.

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