Read The Complete Novels by Flann O'Brien Online


Flann O’Brien, along with Joyce and Beckett, is part of the holy trinity of modern Irish literature. His five novels–collected here in one volume–are a monument to his inspired lunacy and gleefully demented genius. O’Brien’s masterpiece, At Swim-Two-Birds, is an exuberant literary send-up and one of the funniest novels of the twentieth century. The novel’s narrator is writFlann O’Brien, along with Joyce and Beckett, is part of the holy trinity of modern Irish literature. His five novels–collected here in one volume–are a monument to his inspired lunacy and gleefully demented genius. O’Brien’s masterpiece, At Swim-Two-Birds, is an exuberant literary send-up and one of the funniest novels of the twentieth century. The novel’s narrator is writing a novel about another man writing a novel, in a Celtic knot of interlocking stories. The riotous cast of characters includes figures “stolen” from Gaelic legends, along with assorted students, fairies, ordinary Dubliners, and cowboys, some of whom try to break free of their author’s control and destroy him. The narrator of The Third Policeman, who has forgotten his name, is a student of philosophy who has committed murder and wanders into a surreal hell where he encounters such oddities as the ghost of his victim, three policeman who experiment with space and time, and his own soul (who is named “Joe”).The Poor Mouth, a bleakly hilarious portrait of peasants in a village dominated by pigs, potatoes, and endless rain, is a giddy parody aimed at those who would romanticize Gaelic culture. A naïve young orphan narrates the deadpan farce The Hard Life, and The Dalkey Archive is an outrageous satiric fantasy featuring a mad scientist who uses relativity to age his whiskey, a policeman who believes men can turn into bicycles, and an elderly, bar-tending James Joyce. With a new Introduction by Keith Donohue...

Title : The Complete Novels
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780307267498
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 824 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Complete Novels Reviews

  • Richard
    2019-04-10 23:29

    Flann O'Brien writes some of the most bizarre fiction I have ever read. Considering the period in which it was written, it is far ahead of its time. There are plot twists, stories within stories, demons and fairies and curses (oh my!), vindictive saints, haunted houses, conspiracy theories, mad scientists, odd clerics, eccentric policemen, domineering uncles, bewildered orphans, bicycles with minds of their own, freely flowing liquor, and bartenders with secrets.O'Brien has a way of starting a story in a very ordinary way and suddenly introducing the surreal, so much so that after the first novel (At Swim-Two-Birds) you are just holding your breath waiting for something uber-weird to happen in each successive story. As with the more recent magnum opus of Susanna Clarke, there is often a bright sparkling surface with a dark undercurrent. One thing that surprised me was the fact that O'Brien recycled characters, plot elements and even whole passages from The Third Policeman for re-use in The Dalkey Archive. Despite the overlap, the two works are quite different. De Selby, for example, steps from the sidelines onto the stage. Some of the novels were better than others; thus the rating is a kind of overall average. At Swim-Two-Birds was, in my estimation by far the most ambitious and original of the novels. It was also the hardest to wrap my head around. Having read it, however, I must say that I see MJ Nicholls' A Postmodern Belch in a rather different light now. I wonder what O'Brien and Nicholls would have to say to each other if, by some surreal breach of the fourth wall or the space-time continuum, they could actually have a conversation over a dram of something.

  • Derek Davis
    2019-04-06 22:09

    At Swim Two-birds is probably the funniest book in the English language--especially Finn MacCool's description of what it takes to be accepted into his "tribe." The Third Policeman I haven't reread yet but loved originally. The other 3 novels are of much lower stature but fairly interesting, with occasionally wicked darts of off-the-wall humor. At his best, there was no one like O'Brien

  • Geoff
    2019-04-03 01:17

    Okay. Fulfilling a promise I made to myself at the beginning of the year. Which was to read my lovely Everyman's library edition of the Complete Novels of Flann O'Brien from cover to cover. Year's almost out. So here we go!

  • Ed
    2019-03-29 00:14

    O'Brien is wonderful. Very funny--the more one knows about Ireland and the Irish the more hilarious his work becomes but it is hardly necessary to have even heard of Ireland to enjoy his writing. "At Swim-To-Birds" may be the first post-modern novel (unless one counts "Tristam Shandy").I was reminded of "Molloy" by Samuel Beckett while reading "At Swim" although probably because I expected or even wanted O'Brien to be linked to one of the certified recent geniuses of Irish letters--O'Brien doesn't need any validation other than his work, though.In "The Poor Mouth", which is a commentary on and vicious satire of the movement that romanticized the Gaels of western Ireland--people who were desperately poor and who would stay that way because they remained an agrarian, non-English speaking remnant of a golden age of Gaelic language and culture that may never have existed. The Gaels live with swine in their huts, it rains constantly and potatoes are boiled and served at seemingly every meal. (One of the insults that I recall my parents and their parents using toward “those other people” was “pig in the parlor Irish” which finally made sense while reading “The Poor Mouth”).The narrator and his family live in a "small, unhealthy, lime-white house, situated at the corner of the glen” because all true Gaels live in such a house. “If there were a hundred corners in all that glen, there was a small, lime-white cabin nestling in each one”.At seven years old he goes off to school where the master asks “Phwat is yer nam?”. When he realizes that “Your name he wants”, our protagonist begins “Bonaparte, son of Michelangelo, son of Peter, son of Owen...” and on for a few lines. But before he has even “half-uttered” his name, he is smashed on the head by the master who is wielding a large oar. As he loses consciousness he can hear the master scream: “Yer nam is Jams O’Donnell!”. It turns out that all the young Gaelic men are called Jams O’Donnell by English speakers..O’Brien is completely scornful of those who celebrate the backward Gaels including a man from Dublin who arrives with a gramophone to record the speech of the locals. He has no success until he accidentally winds up recording the “speech” of a pig dressed as a man. This gentleman then takes his recording to Berlin, where he is given a “fine academic degree”.

  • Lori
    2019-04-10 22:25

    Starting with At-Swim-Two-Birds.-- This book took me quite awhile to get into. Having read The Third Policeman, I was expecting to be blown away from page one. However, O'Brien did nothing but set the stage for confusion and puzzlement!I was no expert at Irish Literature and Folklore, but it became apparent to me quite early on in this novel that if I was going to read At Swim and understand it at all, I needed to do my homework. Thank you Wiki!! Imagine doing 'homework' in order to grasp where O'Brien was coming from. Needless to say, once I stocked up on Mad Sweeny and Finn McCools background, I was able to relax a bit and quickly found myself getting pulled into this strange, twisted novel.An unnamed narrator is writing a book about Trellis, who is writing a few books that eventually get intertwined when Trellis is sleeping. In order to maintain their literary freedom, the characters of these stories conspire to keep Trellis drugged and live lives of drinking, storytelling, and mayhem...The Poor Mouth:-- "Tis amazing how fate drives us in this life from the bad act to the good one and back again."--"After great merriment comes sorrow and good weather never remains forever"Quite the little novel about a young gaelic man and all the misadventures and hard times he suffers. Sleeping in the end of the house with the pigs on a bed of rushes, living in a small town assaulted nightly by heavy downpours, he and the Old-Grey-Fellow seem to go on endless journeys that result in nothing good.Far easier to read and digest than At-Swim-Two-Birds, I still feel I missed alot being ignorant of the true Gaelic background and history.

  • Tom
    2019-04-06 22:22

    Great collection for fans of Irish literature, and a real find if you've never read O'Brien. Only caveat is that the writing is very Irish, and it helps to have some background. For instance, "The Poor Mouth" (tr. from Gaelic), though funny in its own right, is a wicked sendup of traditional Gaelic-language works such as Tomas O'Crohan's "The Islandman" (the other four novels were written in English). The weird and wonderful "At Swim-Two-Birds" is worth the price of admission. Maybe O'Brien's writing isn't always at the absolute highest level (whose is?), but his high points are truly outstanding, and "The Dalkey Archive" is the only work that seems less than fully mature. The novels have consistent satirical content, with memorable characters such as the mad scientist De Selby ("The Third Policeman", "The Dalkey Archive") and the Roman Catholic prelate Fr. Kurt Fahrt ("The Hard Life").

  • June
    2019-04-10 04:32

    Saving the hardest "cake" at the end (of all other works) for me to "bite", At Swim-Two-Birds, turned out to be "the most delicious" for the mind. What novel, art, music, and the expression of science & math can be, his works achieved the ultimate bliss, on the verge of lunacy.

  • Steve
    2019-03-27 21:04

    This anthology is a telling story in its own right, which is just the sort of meta-fictional trick which O'Brien seemed to enjoy. The staggering comic genius of At Swim-Two-Birds and the Third Policeman, gives way to the more traditional satire of Poor Mouth and the Hard Life, to a sort of anti-climactic dilution in the Dalkey archive.The reason for this was the failure of the Third Policeman to be published, which caused the author to abandon 'Flann O'Brien', one of his many pennames, and concentrate on editorialism and newspaper satire.What a waste! At Swim-Two-Birds is as tightly considered comic work as anything one could name, it's a welcome departure from some excessive American comedies I've been reading lately. Each device employed, from the italic footnotes of the frame story, to the garish epic poetry parody, is spot-on.Third Policeman is arguably even better, as they purgatorial world it inhabits gave the author more room to maneuver. In contrast to his contemporary Joyce, O'briens characters are never meant for sympathy or creative epiphany, merely as either foils our instruments of their own destruction, a knife he twists with great pleasure. You can sense the falling off of his touch throughout the final three novels, although the middle two still offer plenty of chuckles. It's really more a question of scope and ambition than delivery, the first two novels were so daring that following them is a near-guarantee of disappointment

  • Max Nemtsov
    2019-03-27 01:20

    кто бы мне все ж объяснил, почему русский перевод романа Брайана О'Нолана "At Swim-Two-Birds" называется "О водоплавающих"? я понимаю, почему другой его перевод называется "Злой дух Пука, Добрая Фея, царь Свиини, я и мой дядя" - это нам перечислили половину персонажей (не надо было останавливаться, кстати, и перечислить всех, что помешало?), но вот водоплавающие - решительно загадка. там никто никуда, в общем, особо не плавает, даже в русском тексте. а брод "Плывут-две-птички" загадочным образом метаморфировал в "Птичье озеро". зияют и другие высоты."Третий полицейский" - одна из лучших на планете фантазий о смерти: убийственный коктейль из Кафки, Бекетта и кого только не. я даже не стал разбираться с существующими русскими переводами, один из которых озаглавлен "А кто же третий?" - этот бодрый идиотизм уже за гранью добра и зла. сиквелом к нему читается совершенно уже загадочный "Архив Долки""Поющие Лазаря" в русском переводе Анны Коростелевой сильно выигрывают в сравнении с англопереводом, в котором юмор остался преимущественно ситуативный, а не стилистический, лексический и интонационный, хотя Коростелева прощелкала шуточку о короле Георге. но все равно она сделала с этой повестью что-то необыкновенное."Трудная жизнь" просто хороша сама по себе - самый, пожалуй, непритязательный его роман, действительно перекликающийся с простотой и изяществом "Дублинцев" Джойса.

  • Stop
    2019-04-22 03:25

    Read the STOP SMILING review of The Complete Novels of Flann O'Brien.Flann O’Brien, the pen name of Brian O’Nolan, was 11 in 1922, the year Ulysses was published. O’Brien distinguishes himself from the lot who comprise the Sons O’Joyce as one of the first, and one of the best; no time-traveling ninja need disturb his infant cradle. He grew to become a faithful Joycean who had little patience for his fellow adherents. (“If I ever hear that name Joyce one more time,” he once declared, “I will surely froth at the gob.”)Read the complete STOP SMILING review...

  • Petra
    2019-04-12 22:32

    Sept 2015: At Swim-Two-Birds: (first read: 3-star)I don't know how to adequately review this book. It's beyond strange.There are so many twists and turns. Yet it's told in such a way that it's truly hard to follow. I recognized good writing, some humorous sections, an interesting storyline. This story would improve, I think, upon rereading....and possibly a third rereading. I will reread it one day.There are supposedly Irish myths and stories throughout this book. Perhaps knowing those would have made this an easier read? Not for the faint of heart. This little book is a commitment. It won't be a boring ride but it will be a smoky, foggy, unfocussed ride. Update; note to self: could this be a novel of student angst?? Keep this in mind upon the next reading.

  • Eric
    2019-03-24 04:31

    not quite sure i'd put o'brien with joyce and beckett, at least not yet. but he's damn close. read the first two novels. "at swim-two-birds" is a wild multi-narrative that weaves ancient, modern, literary and other voices wonderfully. "the third policeman" is a tighter, ultimately more compelling vision of hell that partnered well with my recent re-reading of dante's "inferno." i'll probably try at least one more of the 5 novels here, "the dalkey archive" i think, since joyce (sent up) is a character.

  • Iris
    2019-03-24 23:18

    "The Third Policeman": so droll! Admittedly, I read it after hearing it tied to "Lost" but come on, Desmond. It's better seen as a goofy literary partner to Dylan Thomas and "Pale Fire": a foggy tale about mood and humor, not about mind-benders. As a bonus, O'Brian's grasp of particle physics isn't entirely outlandish. At this moment, you're just a few electrons away from merging with your chair.

  • Phillip
    2019-04-09 23:07

    "It was a queer country we were in. There was a number of blue mountains around us at what you might call a respectful distance with a glint of white water coming down the shoulders of one or two of them and they kept hemming us in and meddling oppressively with our minds."......a terrifying and fascinating book. unforgettable, poetry burned upon the brain with levers of flames. a book that will burn the cerebral flesh and spit the wounds into the starry evening of eternity.

  • Chad Nevett
    2019-03-25 22:04

    I've read The Third Policeman, but nothing else in this collection of five novels. Hopefully, over the next few years, I'll read the rest, but I'm not in a big rush.As for The Third Policeman, I really enjoyed it, although is it a bit obstuse and absurd--the key to it is remembering that it is meant to be funny. A very excellent book, though.

  • Matthew
    2019-04-20 01:28

    I only read the first two novels, At Swim two birds, and The Third Policemen. I attempted to start a couple of the other ones but they were far different stylistically and I did not want to be disappointed. At Swim, was an extremely hilarious book, and the third policemen certainly did not disappoint. This was a random find that left me wondering why I hadn't heard of Flann O'Brien previously.

  • Carol
    2019-04-17 23:07

    I only read At Swim Two Birds and The Third Policeman, so I rated based on those. They are so creative and funny. I especially enjoyed the underlying morality tale in The Third Policeman. A must read!

  • James Fleming
    2019-04-11 00:21

    Great. Really surreal story telling. Like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for adults :) If you like weird and wonderful and artistic, The Third Policeman is for you.

  • Majikwah
    2019-04-17 21:13

    Early example of meta fiction and post modernism. Very funny and some great pathos as themes. And O'Brien's strong Irish roots give to some great writing and sentence crafting.

  • Melissa Powers
    2019-04-22 04:23

    Genius, obviously, except for the slightly disappointing Dalkey Archive. Still a great plot, though.Like I said, genius. Obviously.

  • Ed
    2019-04-22 05:14

    O'Brien is a personal fave and I'm reading "The Third Policeman" from this collection ... really enjoyed his "At Swim-Two-Birds" last year.

  • Rich
    2019-03-28 05:03

    As the French have with literary sex, the Irish have with the down and out.

  • Kevin Tole
    2019-04-23 03:31

    What can you say - The Third Policeman and At Swim Two Birds are modern masterpieces which everyone should read

  • Alang
    2019-04-24 03:19

    Never again MUCK!!!!

  • Machado Drummond Amado Rosa Coelho
    2019-04-18 04:21

    At Swim-Two-Birds: *****The Third Policeman:*****The Poor Mouth:*****The Hard Life:****The Dalkey Archive:*****

  • Justin Fawsitt
    2019-03-28 05:07

    Mind-boggling Irish humor and breathtaking cynicism. The purest antidote to all the Celtic Twilight and Saints and Scholars shite and onions!

  • Lucy
    2019-04-14 00:07

    06/04/08: Just finished At-Swim-Two-Birds Was considering skipping The Third Policeman, since I read it last year, but I guess I'm partying hard with this book. WOOOOOO.

  • Mark
    2019-04-23 23:07

    Excellent novels!!! Very wry and extremely entertaining!!! Anyone who wants a true insight into the Irish mentality, I strongly recommend reading these books... Enjoy!!!

  • Shanti Hofshi
    2019-03-29 22:25

    A fascinating author with a strange sense of humor. Particularly enjoyed At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman for the way O'Brien transcends some of the norms of "conventional" storytelling.

  • Angela
    2019-03-25 03:26

    Have to give this one back to the libary. Finished the 1st chapter of "The Third Policeman," which is the story I got the book for. Very weird story so far. Will get it again later.