(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
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 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 naive 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