Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Dalkey Archive: Flann O'Brien says things funny

I like writers who don't just write funny things, but write things funny.  I'll save the narrative high points of Flann O'Brien's last novel for a later blog post, the deadly substance that can end all life, the underwater meeting with Saint Augustine, and the discovery of James Joyce alive, well, and tending bar in a seaside resort years after his supposed death.

For now, what I like best about The Dalkey Archive is that O'Brien seemed incapable of writing a non-funny sentence.  Even purely expository passages and the most routine actions are funny:
"It was near six when they stopped a tree."
"My goodness, the Bishop of Hippo!"
"I implore you not to be facetious, the unsmiling Crabbe replied. The funny thing is that I like the name Nemo. Try thinking of it backwards. 
"Well, you have something there, Hackett granted, 
"Poetic, what? 
"There was a short silence which Dr. Crewett broke. 
"That makes you think, he said thoughtfully. Wouldn't it be awful to have the Arab surname Esra?"
Who else is like that? Who else is funny no matter what he or she is writing?

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous Giuseppe said...

Hi Peter,
• I’m Giuseppe from I’m writing you just to let you know we’ve cited your site Detectives Beyond Borders among the ones we suggest reading. You can find it here:

The post is just a way to thank bloggers who help us spreading the news about crime fiction and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Of course, if you liked to cite it anywhere on your blog and your social profiles, it would be a pleasure for us.

Cheers, and keep it up with the great work!

April 14, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...


April 14, 2014  
Blogger Unknown said...

Peter, I just read an anecdote about O'Brien's drunken attempt to recreate (with a few of his friends) the Dublin itinerary within the "plot" of James Joyce's Ulysses. O'Brien showed up bright and early in the morning for the planned adventure. He was already drunk, and his fellow four adventurers spent the rest of the day pouring O'Brien in and out of taxicabs and pubs. Now that would have been an odyssey worth joining. BTW . . . they failed in their recreation, but they had a helluva a time trying.

April 16, 2014  
Blogger Unknown said...

And, BTW, At Swim-Two Birds, another of O'Brien's (a.k.a. Brian O'Nolan and Myles na gCopaleen) books is on my TBR list.

And, the attempted recreation was on June 16, 1954, the 50th anniversary of Bloomsday, the day on which Ulysses (1922) is set.

April 16, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No surprise O'Brien would undertake an odyssey like that or that it would fizzle. O'Brian's feeling a bouts about Joyce--a mix of admiration and exasperation, I would say--run through The Dalkey Archive.

April 16, 2014  
Blogger lisa_emily said...

O'Brien's, The Third Policeman, is another loopy and funnily strange book. I look forward to reading more Flann O'Brien novels,thanks for reminding me of his work. As for funny, not quite intentionally, is the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. Although, his work is not fun to read sometimes, and the "humour" is buried under his rantingness.

April 17, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lisa Emily: Thanks for the comment. The Dalkey Archive, as odd a book as it is, is more straighforward in its narrative technique than The Third Policeman, even though it is acclaimed. It might be better way for readers to ease themselves into O'Brien's world.

I had not read Thomas Bernhard, but he looks very much like a writer I might enjoy, Thanks for the heads-up.

April 18, 2014  

Post a Comment

<< Home