Remembering Flann O’Brien

Tuesday 17th May 2016

The Irish writer Flann O’Brien died on April Fool’s Day 1966. Fifty years on, we remember him with a special workshop. Flann O’Brien may no longer be our ‘contemporary’, belonging rather to the late-modernist generation of Samuel Beckett; but his legacy may be detected in the work of living writers, notably from Ireland: Paul Muldoon, Julian Gough, Kevin Barry. Meanwhile critics like Carol Taaffe, Jennika Baines and Maebh Long have recently worked to deepen our understanding of his writing.

In this commemorative session we will return to Flann O’Brien’s first novel, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939), considering again its innovations, challenges and comic delights, while also pondering its example for literature today. After an introduction to the author and text, we will consider key moments and issues in the novel, including:

  • The question of how many beginnings and novels one novel should have
  • The strange appearance of Wild West cowboys on the East side of Dublin
  • The intricate scholastic dialogues of the Pooka and the Good Fairy
  • Finn MacCool and the modern use of myth
  • The strange births of the novel’s characters: parody of fiction, precursor of the postmodern?


The session will be led by Flann O’Brien scholar and specialist Tobias Harris, with Dr Joseph Brooker, Director of CCL and author of Flann O’Brien (Northcote House, 2005).

Time: 6-7:30pm

Location: 112, 43 Gordon Square

Book your place here.


FOB passport

Image from Burns Library, Boston College, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence.



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Author: CCL

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