Books Magazine

Next Up: At Swim Two Birds

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

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?

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