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Next Up: At Swim Two Birds

Anyone ever heard of this novel? I haven’t, not until I first saw it on the list.

So I’m diving in on this one blind. Wikipedia tells me this novel is about an Irish literature student who doesn’t believe novels should have a beginning or an end, then tells 3 different stories in one book. Sounds very Joyce-esque, right?

Here are a few tidbits about At-Swim Two Birds and its author, Flann O’Brien:

  • The novel was published in 1939 by Longman Green & Co.
  • The author’s name, Flann O’Brien, is actually a pseudonym. His actual name is Brian O’Nolan.
  • Graham Greene was actually a reader for Longman Green and at the time, and he was the person who recommended the novel.
  • Not long after the book released in 1939, World War 2 broke out, causing the novel to only sell 240 copies.
  • Though newspaper reviews of At Swim Two Birds weren’t awesome, O’Brien’s fellow writers loved it. Anthony Burgess called it one of the 99 greatest novels written between 1939 and 1984.
  • My favorite line about the novel comes from Dylan Thomas. He said “This is just the book to give to your sister, if she’s a loud, dirty, boozy girl.” Okay then.
  • A film based on the novel is currently in production, with actor Brendan Gleeson set to make his debut as a director.

Well, that’s all for now.

Anyone else familiar with At Swim Two Birds? Care to read along with me?

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dominick Sabalos #

    There’s one of the several stories-within-stories (the Finn Mac Cool one) that I found a bit a chore to read at first, but I actually really like At Swim-Two-Birds. It was the second book I read by O’Brien, and I preferred the other one (The Third Policeman), but I still enjoyed it. Mostly just because it’s rather funny.


    August 5, 2016
  2. I’ve never read it, but I know it influenced one of the most beautiful works I’ve ever read, At Swim, Two Boys, by Irish novelist Jamie O’Neill (also compared to Joyce).


    August 5, 2016
  3. Love this book – it demands that you pay attention, but for its meta-fiction alone, this book is my favourite, by far. Breaks my heart just seeing the title.


    August 5, 2016
  4. I haven’t read this one, but Flann O’Brien (until recently) is one of Ireland’s most underrated novelists. He definitely fits into the category of experimental fiction – think Joyce, Borges, Bolano etc. His book, the third policeman, is one of my favourites.


    August 6, 2016
  5. I am trying to read The Third Policeman, but just can’t get into it.


    August 7, 2016
  6. I read it but can’t remember anything, apart from it containing a lot of references to Irish mythology (which were fortunately explained in the footnotes). Still, I enjoyed it much more than “Ulysses”, if only because it’s much shorter. Good luck with it!


    August 8, 2016
  7. Glad to see that you are back and at it. It’s great to hear your voice again.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 8, 2016
  8. Oui Bob

    Liked by 1 person

    September 4, 2016
  9. Reblogged this on and commented:


    September 5, 2016
  10. Lafrowna #

    I read the opening 100 pages or so a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Captures a particular kind of pseudo-intellectual, university student fecklessness that you still see everywhere today.


    September 13, 2016
  11. I LOVE this book. The edition I first read, in the ’70s, had a quote on the back that described it as “A book about a book about a man writing a book about characters who write a book about him.”


    September 21, 2016
  12. Justin #

    There was a movie that came out a few years back called Seven Psychopaths, with Colin Farrell and Sam Rockwell, that reminded me of this novel. Sort of a story within a story where the writer of said story has some control over what happens. Odd movie, but seemed right in line with the book. Oh and Farrell gets to keep his Irish accent in it as well, so that may have helped too.


    October 10, 2016
  13. Have you been done in by the reading?! Perhaps you are taking a well deserved break. Having just read ‘The Year of Reading Dangerously’ I can see how fatigue could set in. Your reviews are very helpful anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

    November 15, 2016

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