10 Books That Wouldn’t Exist Without Flann O’Brien.

If this were 10 Books That Wouldn’t Exist Without Shakespeare or Cervantes or some other obvious candidate, I would have yawned and moved on. But I couldn’t resist Flann O’Brien, who (as ever) needs all the publicity he can get; I learned some interesting stuff (“Borges reviewed At Swim-Two-Birds in 1939, claiming that it was a more complex ‘verbal labyrinth’ than Don Quixote and The Thousand and One Nights“); and the surprise ending definitely makes it worth posting.


  1. Aw, c’mon. No At Swim-Two-Birds, no Gilbert Sorrentino’s Pack of Lies trilogy. Im-possible. What is this is, the sandlot league?

  2. The surprise ending is itself O’Brien-esque, and also harks back to (#1) Borges’ “Each writer creates his own predecessors” in a kind of implied ring composition.

    O’Brien is one of my very favorite writers (as is #10), so this article added a few books to my reading list. But this is almost too cheeky:

    Seated comfortably in a wood and wickerwork chair of eighteenth-century Chinese manufacture, I began seriously to meditate upon the form of my allegedly full-time literary sublimations.

    I mean, I admit to being an occasional imitative Flann-eur myself, but that’s taking it a bit far. Not that O’Brien would have been in any position to complain about literary cannibalism, of course.

  3. I’ve just finished J. Rodolfo Wilcock’s The Temple of the Iconoclasts. Wilcock was an Argentinian who moved to Italy and mostly wrote in Italian, as well as appearing as Caiaphas in Pasolini’s film The Gospel According to Saint Matthew. The book is a mock encyclopaedia of intellectual kooks and weirdos. The primary influence is Borges, of course, but it also reminded me of the de Selby footnotes in Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman.

    O’Brien also seems to have a growing influence on TV. I don’t mean just Lost (which I’ve never seen). I think The Poor Mouth and the village in The Third Policeman must have been at the back of the minds of the creators of Father Ted.

Speak Your Mind