In a letter to a literary agent, Flann O’Brien described his first novel as “a very queer affair, unbearably queer perhaps.” The book in question was At. Flann O’Brien’s innovative metafictional work, whose unruly characters strike out their own paths in life to the frustration of their author. O’Brien found his novel branded as the book you read for more of the same after you had finished Finnegans Wake. Since few survived the Wake, and even.

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The best novels: No 64 – At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien () | Books | The Guardian

Dispatched from the UK in 2 business days When will my order arrive? Valium would have helped his diction, But we’ll settle for this work of metafiction. Swim-rwo-birds is an object of torture at the hands of some medieval scribe. A wealth of references to existing works would acquaint the reader instantaneously with the nature of each character, would obviate tiresome explanations and would effectively preclude mountebanks, upstarts, thimble-riggers and persons of inferior education from an understanding of contemporary literature.

You are commenting using your Twitter account. O’Brien may be a trickster like Joyce, but he knows different tricks. It also reveals their essential deformability. It was not many pages in before this explanation of the novel came to the perusal of my ocular sense, at which point I swiftly began to form the opinion that I myself was indeed such a mountebank, upstart, thimblerigger.

This novel overflows with stories; its plot threads twist into each other, break out of each other, erupt into new ideas, characters, riffs, sketches. Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews.

Dlann absurdity of the book is always right on the surface, which follows the rule that “a satisfactory novel should be a self-evident sham to which the reader could regulate at will the degree of his swim-two-nirds Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe. Politics and the English Language George Orwell. In its earliest days, storytelling almost always partook of the magical.


It is bad living without a house, Peerless Christ, it is a piteous life! It’s hard to describe adequately, but I’ll give it a shot. Paintings within paintings and books that branch into other books help us sense this oneness. Also, I’m gonna steal the blurb by Dylan Thomas that is on the cover of the edition I have. Several collections of the pieces have been published – if you want to see pure comic and satirical genius in action on a daily wsim-two-birds, they are indispensable.

The poor man, broken, starving, and living solely on watercress, falls into despair. Yes, for even men’s misfortunes often flag, And the stormy wind does not always blow so strong, Nor swim-two-bkrds the prosperous ever so; For all things change, making way for each other.

Answers do not matter so much as questions, said the Good Fairy.

The 100 best novels: No 64 – At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien (1939)

Leaden-hard forked arteries ran speedily about his scalp, his eye-beads bled and the corrugations of boils and piteous tumuli which appeared upon the large of his back ascertained on counting to be sixty-four in number. Notify me of new comments via email. The notion of limit is essential here, all the more so as it is often blurred and elusive: Even those who oriien mess with the rules often start out on a conventional note Joyce had to work up to the horror that is Finnegans Wake.

Most authors spend their time saying what has been said before – usually said much better. It is widely considered to be O’Brien’s masterpiece, and one of the most sophisticated examples of metafiction.

View all 48 fpann. Other writers, poets and bards appear in these pages, and even if they don’t need to fear the death penalty, they have plenty of woes of their own.


Keith Hopper has argued that, contrary to the common tendency to favour At Swim-Two-Birds as “the primary defining text of the O’Brien oeuvre”, the novel is in fact less, not more, experimental than O’Brien’s second novel, the posthumously published The Third Policeman:.

What is summary of this book?

Flann O’Brien’s Novel At Swim-Two-Birds Is a Postmodernist Masterpiece of Comic Storytelling

And since few got to the end of the Wakeand even fewer wanted more of the same, At Swim-Two-Birds turned into the great Irish masterpiece that almost no one read. Is it merely a construct? I can tell already. Archived from the original on 17 July It made me think of Nabokov’s Pale Fire for the metafiction factor though in my opinion Nabokov was far superiorand a bit of David Foster Wallace for some of the asides, notes, and extracts.

This would not be published, posthumously, until I am fond of wing-beating in dark belfries, cow-cries in pregnancy, trout-spurt in a lake-top. Such games can be traced back to different literary traditions, including, but by no means limited to, Victorian Nonsense literature. The book almost defies review because it defies all literary conventions; however, it does so in such an overt and parodic manner that it never becomes tedious reading.

When pursued in a chariot by the men of Erin he must dismount, place horse and chariot in the slack of his seat and hide behind his spear, the same being stuck upright in Erin.