Flann O'Brien

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O'Brien, Flann,

pseud. for

Brian Ó Nualláin or O'Nolan

(ō nō`lən) 1911–66, Irish novelist and political commentator. Born in County Tyrone and raised in Dublin, he studied at University College, Dublin, entered the Irish civil service in 1937, and formally retired in 1953. From 1940 until his death, he wrote a political column called "Cruiskeen Lawn" for The Irish Times, under the pseudonym of Myles na Gopaleen; his biting, satiric commentaries made him the conscience of the Irish government. Under this name, he also wrote the novel An Be'al Bocht (1941, tr. The Poor Mouth, 1973), a parody of Irish country life. As Flann O'Brien, he published four comic novels in English, all of which display his brilliant abilities at wordplay and absurdist sensibility: At Swim-Two-Birds (1939, repr. 1960), a wildly funny literary send-up widely considered his masterpiece; The Hard Life (1961), a farce; The Dalkey Archive (1964), a satiric fantasy; and the surreal The Third Policeman (1967). He was also the author of a play, Faustus Kelly (1943).


See his Complete Novels (2008) and The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien (2013, ed. by N. Murphy and K. Hopper); biography by A. Cronin (1998); studies by A. Clissmann (1975), S. Asbee (1991), T. F. Shea (1992), K. Hopper (1995), and K. Donohue (2002).

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(1) This article will follow the naming system introduced by the International Flann O'Brien Society and used in the majority of contemporary publications on O'Nolan: Brian O'Nolan is used when the man, or his works in general, are referred to.
Ireland was, at the time, in dire straits and under a repressive culture, but Flann O'Brien never left the country, as did other more successful writers.
To say that Flann O'Brien may have spoken English better than Winston Churchill did is to patronize the Irish writer.
There is no clear distinction between the work of expatriate modernists like Beckett and Joyce and the activities of those who stayed at home, notably Flann O'Brien. Nor can we make a clear linkage between Catholic and national since a certain Catholic internationalism can be seen at work in Joyce as well as poets Denis Devlin and Brian Coffey.
Another critic, Keith Hopper, who provides one of the most in-depth analyses of O'Brien's work in his book, Flann O'Brien: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Post-modernist, also looks at O'Brien's critique of epistemology.
While the list of books has yet to be revealed, it is believed works by James Joyce, Flann O'Brien, Frank McCourt and Colum McCann will be included.
The lucky Newcastle College students fighting it out to have their picture on the cover of Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds are Carly Boardman, Gary Chaytor, Jill O'Donnell, Ruth Ferguson and Vanessa Southern.
The Irish star is adapting Flann O'Brien's novel At Swim Two Birds for the big screen, and has cast Gabriel Byrne, Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy in it.
In the final author study, Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman (1974) is given a thorough examination--in terms of structure and language--to arrive at a definition of this work as absurd owing to its 'non- sense' circular narrative, and the foregrounding in the novel's different voices of the communicative 'failure of language'.
However, the writing he most admired as a young man came from Brian Nolan, the great columnist on the Irish Times, bylined as Myles na gCopaleen (cor), who also used the pen-name of Flann O'Brien.