cover image The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien

The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien

Edited by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper. Dalkey Archive, $14.50 trade paper (168p

Irish late modernist writer O'Brien (The Third Policeman, At Swim Two Birds, The Poor Mouth) wrote in Gaelic under the name Brian %C3%93 Nuall%C3%A1in, and in English as Brother Barnabus, Myles na gCopaleen, Lir O'Connor, and Brian Nolan, among others. This present collection contains work from many of these known pseudonymns, with Gaelic stories in translation, as well as the unfinished novel, Slattery's Sago Saga. The variety taken together displays a playful, sardonic voice that is charmingly self-conscious in its invention. In "Scenes in a Novel," for instance, O'Brien's narrator is an author who must reckon with the rebellious characters of a novel he is writing, particularly his anti-hero Carruthers McDaid, "a man%E2%80%A6created one night when [he] had swallowed nine stouts and [was feeling] vaguely blasphemous." The story "Two in One" is narrated by Murphy, a taxidermist's assistant who attempts to hide the murder of his boss by wearing the deceased's skin, eventually fusing with it, only to be imprisoned for the crime of killing himself. Mirroring his own ambiguous approach to identity, a myriad cast of characters and voices seem to all jostle for attention, delightful in their assurance that "[n]ot everything in [a] story is as unbelievable as it may seem." (Aug.)