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Flann O’Brien


Flann O’Brien was born in 1911 in Strabane in County Tyrone, in the North of Ireland, as Brian O’Nolan. His father was a customs officer but also very pro-Irish and he brought up his family speaking Irish. As there were few schools offering teaching in Irish, much of his children’s education was at home. When O’Brien was twelve, his father was transferred to Dublin and O’Brien started attending school. While at school, he and his brothers started writing to the papers, pretending to be various people. When he did this much later in life, it led to his getting a position as a newspaper columnist with the Irish Times under the name Myles na gCopaleen. Meanwhile he had taken a degree at University College in English, Irish and German. He passed the civil service exam and worked in local government for eighteen years. His first novel, At Swim-Two-Birds, had limited success till it was published in the United States in 1940. It is now recognised as one of the great Irish novels. During his lifetime, he was best known for his newspaper column, where he satirised everyone from politicians to writers. This indeed led to his losing his job, when he criticised a government minister but, by this time, he was an alcoholic and his work was losing its touch. He died of cancer in 1966.

Books about Flann O’Brien

Peter Costello and Peter van de Kamp: Flann O’Brien: An Illustrated Biography
Anthony Cronin: No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien
Ciaran O Nuallain, The Early Years of Brian O’Nolan / Flann O’Brien / Myles na gCopaleen

Other links

Flann O’Brien
Flann O’Brien (1911-1966)
Truth is an odd number, and Death is a full stop. Flann O’Brien – Ireland’s comic Genius
Pearly Gates (links and a few excerpts)


1939 At Swim-Two-Birds
1941 An Béal Bocht (The Poor Mouth)
1943 Faustus Kelly: A Play in Three Acts
1943 Cruiskeen Lawn
1961 The Hard Life
1961 The Dalkey Archive
1967 The Third Policeman
1968 The Best of Myles
1973 Stories and Plays
1976 Further Cuttings from”Cruiskeen Lawn”
1976 The Various Lives of Keats and Chapman and the Brother
1977 The Hair of the Dogma: Further Cuttings from”Cruiskeen Lawn”
1978 A Flann O’Brien Reader
1985 Myles Away from Dublin
1988 Myles Before Myles
1994 Rhapsody in Stephen’s Green: The Insect Play
1999 At War