Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: At Swim-Two-Birds

At Swim-Two-Birds
At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As James Joyce lay dying and reading At Swim-Two-Birds, he must have felt his heritage was in good hands. Things didn't quite work out for Flann O'Brien, whose literary output dwindled after his second novel, [b:The Third Policeman|27208|The Third Policeman|Flann O'Brien||3359269], was rejected (and only hailed as a classic after its posthumous publication).

At Swim-Two-Birds is surreal, nonsensical and at times infuriating. It's also hilarious, imaginative and beautiful. It weaves Joycean journeys around Dublin with invented Gaelic myths, some nonsense philosophy and a bizarre plot wherein the characters of a novel rebel against the author. During the struggle, their ally, the semi-mythological Pooka, magically dispatches the author, Trellis, through his bedroom window and floats down to join him on the pavement, observing:

To forsake your warm bed … without the protection of your heavy great-coat of Galway frieze, that was an oversight and one which might well be visited with penalties pulmonary in character. To inquire as to the gravity of your sore fall, would that be inopportune?

You black bastard, said Trellis.

The character of your colloquy is not harmonious, rejoined the Pooka, and makes for barriers between the classes.

It makes for a baffling yet appealing read, which is all the more enjoyable if read purely for the joy of the words. If you put the book down feeling you have understood it, then you haven't understood it at all.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment