Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.
Pseudonym of Irish author and civil servant Brian O'Nolan or Ó Nualláin (1911-1966), who also wrote – mainly for his 1940-1966 Irish Times newspaper column "Cruiskeen Lawn" ["The Little Overflowing Jug"] – as Myles na Gopaleen ["Myles of the Little Horses" or "Myles of the Ponies"], sometimes rendered Myles na gCopaleen. The Irish Times columns are classics of often fantastic Humour; various selections have been published [see Checklist below], the first and finest being The Best of Myles: A Selection from "Cruiskeen Lawn" (coll 1968). His early short stories were published under various pseudonyms; it has plausibly been suggested that "Naval Control" (Winter 1932 Amazing Stories Quarterly) as by John Shamus O'Donnel was by O'Brien. The pseudonym resembles others he was known to use; and the story – a spoof tale in which a malfunctioning Robot replaces the priggish, recently deceased wife of a widower in South America – has some of the inventiveness of his later work. He is of course best known for work outside the sf field, such as the Fabulation, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939), a metafictional fantasy "saga" at the heart of which mythological entities inflict themselves on a character within a book by a man about whom the protagonist of the actual novel is writing a book, and Faustus Kelly: A Play in Three Acts (1943) as by Myles na Gopaleen, a fantasy play about the Devil in Ireland; Rhapsody in Stephen's Green: The Insect Play (1994 chap), which was produced in 1943, is a Beast Fable based on Že života hmyzu (1921 chap; trans as And So Ad Infinitum: (The World of the Insects) 1923 chap UK) by Josef Čapek and Karel Čapek; it was dangerously Satirical of both Ulster and Eire.
O'Brien's novels most closely resembling sf are The Third Policeman (written circa 1940; 1967) and The Dalkey Archive (1964). The Third Policeman is a Posthumous Fantasy [for this term and Beast Fable above see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] in which a murderer sets off, by bicycle, through a phantasmagorical Pocket Universe whose circularity is not spatial but temporal; it features numerous science-fictional devices including a Basilisk Weapon in the form of paint with an unendurable colour. The Dalkey Archive (1964) utilizes material from the previously written book – in particular the notion of a kind of Cyborg leakage of Identity between man and bicycle – in its entrancingly eccentric presentation of a plot featuring a Mad Scientist eager to destroy the world, and the fantastic results – including temporary abolition of Time – of his Poison-gas Invention. [JC/PN/DRL]
Brian O'Nolan or Ó Nualláin
born Strabane, Northern Ireland: 5 October 1911
died Dublin, Ireland: 1 April 1966
- At Swim-Two-Birds (London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1939) [hb/]
- Faustus Kelly (Dublin, Ireland: Cahill and Company, 1943) as by Myles na gCopaleen [play: pb/nonpictorial]
- Rhapsody in Stephen's Green: The Insect Play (Dublin, Ireland: Lilliput Press, 1994) [play: chap: first produced in 1943: pb/]
- The Dalkey Archive (London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1964) [hb/]
- The Third Policeman (London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1967) [written circa 1940: hb/John Farman]
- The Various Lives of Keats and Chapman and The Brother (London: Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1976) [coll: see Feghoots: edited and introduced by Benedict Kiely: hb/]
- A Flann O'Brien Reader (New York: The Viking Press, 1978) [coll: novel extracts and other material including newspaper columns: edited and introduced by Stephen Jones: hb/Roy Kuhlman]
- The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien (Normal, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2013) [coll: edited by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper: contains "Naval Control" (see discussion in text above): pb/Eddie O'Kane]
- The Best of Myles: A Selection from "Cruiskeen Lawn" (London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1968) as by Myles na Gopaleen [nonfiction: coll: Irish Times columns edited and introduced by Kevin O Nolan: hb/]
- Further Cuttings from Cruiskeen Lawn (London: Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1976) as by Myles na Gopaleen [nonfiction: coll: Irish Times columns edited and introduced by Kevin O'Nolan: hb/nonpictorial]
- The Hair of the Dogma: A Further Selection from "Cruiskeen Lawn" (London: Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1977) as by Myles na Gopaleen [nonfiction: coll: Irish Times columns edited and introduced by Kevin O'Nolan: hb/nonpictorial]
- The Collected Letters of Flann O'Brien (Victoria, Texas, McLean, Illinois and Dublin, Ireland: Dalkey Archive Press, 2018) [nonfiction: coll: letters edited and with annotations by Maebh Long: pb/photographic]
about the author
- Peter Costello and Peter van de Kamp. Flann O'Brien: An Illustrated Biography (London: Bloomsbury, 1987) [nonfiction: hb/photographic]
- Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- The Encyclopedia of Fantasy: Beast Fable; Posthumous Fantasy.
- Picture Gallery
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