Flann O’Brien’s innovative metafictional work, whose unruly characters strike out their own paths in life to the frustration of their author, At Swim-Two-Birds is a brilliant impressionistic jumble of ideas, mythology and nonsense. Flann O’Brien’s first novel tells the story of a young, indolent undergraduate, who lives with his curmudgeonly uncle in Dubin and spends far too much time drinking with his friends. When not drunk or in bed he likes to invent wild stories peoples with hilarious and unlikely characters – but somehow his creations won’t do what he wants them to.
A dazzling work of farce, satire, folklore and absurdity that gives full rein to its author’s dancing intellect and Celtic wit, At Swim-Two-Birds is both a brilliant comic send-up of Irish literature and culture, and a portrayal of Dublin to compare with Joyce’s Ulysses. Brian O Nuallain, (1911-1966), better known by his pseudonym Flann O’Brien, was born in Strabane, County Tyrone, and studied at University College Dublin before joining the Irish Civil Service.