London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1968. Second edition. pp. 222. Green papered boards, title in gilt on spine. Previous owner’s inscription on front endpaper. A good copy in dust jacket.
Brian O’Nolan (1911-1966), novelist, journalist, short story writer, playwright and humourist was a native of Strabane, County Tyrone. He was better known by his pseudonyms Flann O’Brien, Myles na gCopaleen, but he also had other pseudonymic incarnations: Brother Barnabas, George Knowall, Count O’Blather, and John James Doe. His most celebrated novel ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’ was published in 1939, was hailed critically, and much relished by James Joyce, but it sold poorly.
For twenty years Flann O’Brien contributed a humorous column ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’ to the ‘Irish Times’. Some of the material was simply humorous – puns, word games, fantasies, and anecdotes – satirically directed against politicians, bureaucrats, and mediocrities in office. A series of accidents and illnesses led to bouts of drunkenness, and when, in 1953, it was felt that his attacks on establishment figures in his column could no longer be ignored he was persuaded to retire from the Civil Service. In 1960, the re-issue of ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’ brought tremendous success, restored his confidence, and he went on to produce more best-selling novels.
This novel features a master mind, a dissident lover, St Augustine, a man who is in danger of turning into a bicycle, James Joyce, as well as a number of serious drinkers. Dalkey, in the author’s fertile imagination, is the little town bursting with oddities.