Flann O'Brien, pseud. for Brian Ó Nualláin or O'Nolan (ō nō´lən) 1911–66, Irish novelist and political commentator. Born in County Tyrone and raised in Dublin, he studied at University College, Dublin, entered the Irish civil service in 1937, and formally retired in 1953. From 1940 until his death, he wrote a political column called
for The Irish Times, under the pseudonym of Myles na Gopaleen; his biting, satiric commentaries made him the conscience of the Irish government. Under this name, he also wrote the novel An Be'al Bocht (1941, tr. The Poor Mouth, 1973), a parody of Irish country life. As Flann O'Brien, he published four comic novels in English, all of which display his brilliant abilities at wordplay and absurdist sensibility: At Swim-Two-Birds (1939, repr. 1960), a wildly funny literary send-up widely considered his masterpiece; The Hard Life (1961), a farce; The Dalkey Archive (1964), a satiric fantasy; and the surreal The Third Policeman (1967). He was also the author of a play, Faustus Kelly (1943).
See his Complete Novels (2008) and The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien (2013, ed. by N. Murphy and K. Hopper); biography by A. Cronin (1998); studies by A. Clissmann (1975), S. Asbee (1991), T. F. Shea (1992), K. Hopper (1995), and K. Donohue (2002).
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