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Flann O’Brien: The Dalkey Archive

This is probably O’Brien’s weakest book. Much of it is pillaged from the then unpublished The Third Policeman. By the time he was writing this book he was an alcoholic and had lost his job in the government. As a result, the book, while interesting, is a pale imitation of its predecessors. Nevertheless, madcap scientific theories – from de Selby’s deoxygenating the atmosphere (which, unfortunately, messes up the serial nature of time) to Sergeant Fottreell’s Mollycule Theory (taken from the Atomic Theory of
The Third Policeman) – abound. We do get to meet James Joyce (who denies having written his famous works) and Saint Augustine (who, of course, has a Dublin accent). Mick Shaughnessy, the drunken low level civil servant (like O’Brien), is the hero as he tries to fight de Selby and his wicked plan. While it is all fun and certainly worth reading, it is not up to the standard of the earlier works.

Publishing history

First published 1964 by MacGibbon & Kee