This article's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (December 2021)
5 October 1911
Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland
|Died||1 April 1966 (aged 54)|
|Resting place||Deans Grange Cemetery, Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown|
|Pen name||Flann O'Brien|
Myles na Gopaleen
|Occupation||Civil servant, writer|
|Alma mater||University College Dublin|
|Notable works||At Swim-Two-Birds |
The Third Policeman
An Béal Bocht
The Dalkey Archive
"Cruiskeen Lawn" column
|Spouse||Evelyn McDonnell (1948–1966)|
Brian O'Nolan (Irish: Brian Ó Nualláin; 5 October 1911 – 1 April 1966), better known by his pen name Flann O'Brien, was an Irish civil service official, novelist, playwright and satirist, who is now considered a major figure in twentieth century Irish literature. Born in Strabane, County Tyrone, he is regarded as a key figure in modernist and postmodern literature. His English language novels, such as At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman, were written under the O’Brien pen name. His many satirical columns in The Irish Times and an Irish language novel An Béal Bocht were written under the name Myles na gCopaleen.
O'Brien's novels have attracted a wide following for their unconventional humour and modernist metafiction. As a novelist, O'Brien was influenced by James Joyce. He was nonetheless sceptical of the "cult" of Joyce, saying "I declare to God if I hear that name Joyce one more time I will surely froth at the gob."
Family and early life
O'Brien's father Michael Vincent O'Nolan was a pre-independence official in the UK’s HM Customs Service, a role that required frequent moves between cities and towns in England, Scotland and Ireland. Although of apparently trenchant Irish republican views, he was, because of his role and employment, forced to be discreet about them. At the formation of the Irish Free State in 1921 (such that the southern 26 counties of Ireland were no longer part of the UK), O'Nolan senior joined the Irish Revenue Commissioners.
The son's career as a writer extended from his student days, through his years in the Irish civil service and the years following his resignation.
O'Brien's mother Agnes (née Gormley) was also from an Irish republican family in Strabane, and this, then and now largely nationalist and Catholic town, formed somewhat of a base for the family during an otherwise peripatetic childhood. Brian was the third of 12 children, Gearóid, Ciarán, Roisin, Fergus, Kevin, Maeve, Nessa, Nuala, Sheila, Niall, and Micheál. Though relatively well-off and upwardly mobile, the O'Nolan children were homeschooled for part of their childhood using a correspondence course created by his father, who would send it to them from wherever his work took him. It was not until his father was permanently assigned to Dublin that Brian and his siblings regularly attended school.
O'Brien attended Synge Street Christian Brothers School, of which his novel The Hard Life contains a semi-autobiographical depiction. The Christian Brothers in Ireland had a reputation for excessive and unnecessary use of violence and corporal punishment, which sometimes inflicted lifelong psychological trauma upon their pupils.
Blackrock College, however, where O'Brien's education continued, was run by the Holy Ghost Fathers, who were considered more intellectual and less likely to use corporal punishment against their students. Blackrock was and remains a very prominent school, having educated many of the leaders of post-independence Ireland, including presidents, taoisigh (prime ministers), government ministers, businessmen and the elite of "Official Ireland" and their children.[circular reference]
According to Farragher and Wyer:
Dr McQuaid himself was recognised as an outstanding English teacher, and when one of his students, Brian O'Nolan, alias Myles na gCopaleen, boasted in his absence to the rest of the class that there were only two people in the College who could write English properly, namely, Dr McQuaid and himself, they had no hesitation in agreeing. And Dr McQuaid did Myles the honour of publishing a little verse by him in the first issue of the revived College Annual (1930)—this being Myles' first published item.
The poem itself, "Ad Astra", read as follows:
Ah! When the skies at night
Are damascened with gold,
Methinks the endless sight
O'Brien wrote prodigiously during his years as a student at University College Dublin (UCD), which was then situated in various buildings around Dublin's south city centre (with its numerous pubs and cafés). There he was an active, and controversial, member of the well known Literary and Historical Society. He contributed to the student magazine Irish: Comhthrom Féinne (Fair Play) under various guises, in particular the pseudonym Brother Barnabas. Significantly, he composed a story during this same period titled "Scenes in a Novel (probably posthumous) by Brother Barnabas", which anticipates many of the ideas and themes later to be found in his novel, At Swim-Two-Birds. In it, the putative author of the story finds himself in riotous conflict with his characters, who are determined to follow their own paths regardless of the author's design. For example, the villain of the story, one Carruthers McDaid, intended by the author as the lowest form of a scoundrel, "meant to sink slowly to absolutely the last extremities of human degradation", instead ekes out a modest living selling cats to elderly ladies and begins covertly attending Mass without the author's consent. Meanwhile, the story's hero, Shaun Svoolish, chooses a comfortable, bourgeois life rather than romance and heroics:
- 'I may be a prig', he replied, 'but I know what I like. Why can't I marry Bridie and have a shot at the Civil Service?'
- 'Railway accidents are fortunately rare', I said finally, 'but when they happen they are horrible. Think it over.'
In 1934 O'Brien and his university friends founded a short-lived literary magazine called Blather. The writing here, though clearly bearing the marks of youthful bravado, again somewhat anticipates O'Brien's later work, in this case, his "Cruiskeen Lawn" column as Myles na gCopaleen:
- Blather is here. As we advance to make our bow, you will look in vain for signs of servility or of any evidence of a desire to please. We are an arrogant and depraved body of men. We are as proud as bantams and as vain as peacocks.
- Blather doesn't care. A sardonic laugh escapes us as we bow, cruel and cynical hounds that we are. It is a terrible laugh, the laugh of lost men. Do you get the smell of porter?
O'Brien, who had studied German in Dublin, may have spent at least parts of 1933 and 1934 staying in Nazi Germany, namely in Cologne and Bonn, although details are uncertain and contested. He claimed himself, in 1965, that he "spent many months in the Rhineland and at Bonn drifting away from the strict pursuit of study." So far, no external evidence has turned up that would back up this sojourn (or an also anecdotal short-term marriage to one 'Clara Ungerland' from Cologne). In their biography, Costello and van de Kamp, discussing the inconclusive evidence, state that "...it must remain a mystery, in the absence of documented evidence an area of mere speculation, representing in a way the other mysteries of the life of Brian O'Nolan that still defy the researcher."
A key feature of O'Brien's personal situation was his status as an Irish civil servant, who, as a result of his father's relatively early death in July 1937, was for a decade obliged to partially support his mother and ten siblings, including an elder brother who was then an unsuccessful writer (there would likely have been some pension for his mother and minor siblings resulting from his father’s service); however, other siblings enjoyed considerable professional success—one, Kevin (also known as Caoimhín Ó Nualláin), was the Professor of Ancient Classics at University College, Dublin, yet another, Micheál Ó Nualláin was a noted artist, another, Ciaran O Nuallain was also a writer, novelist, publisher and journalist. Given the desperate poverty of Ireland in the 1930s to 1960s, a job as a civil servant was considered prestigious, being both secure and pensionable with a reliable cash income in a largely agrarian economy. The Irish civil service has been, since the Irish Civil War, fairly strictly apolitical: Civil Service Regulations and the service's internal culture generally prohibit Civil Servants above the level of Clerical Officer from publicly expressing political views. As a practical matter, this meant that writing in newspapers on current events was, during O'Brien's career, generally prohibited without departmental permission which would be granted on an article-by-article, publication-by-publication basis. This fact alone contributed to O'Brien's use of pseudonyms, though he had started to create character-authors even in his pre-civil service writings.
O'Brien rose to be quite senior, serving as private secretary to Seán T. O'Kelly (a minister and later President of Ireland) and Seán MacEntee, a powerful political figure, both of whom almost certainly knew or guessed O'Brien was na gCopaleen. Though O'Brien's writing frequently mocked the civil service, he was for much of his career relatively important and highly regarded and was trusted with delicate tasks and policies, such as running (as "secretary") the public inquiry into the Cavan Orphanage Fire of 1943 and planning of a proposed Irish National Health Service imitating the UK's, under the auspices of his department—planning he duly mocked in his pseudonymous column.
In reality, that Brian O'Nolan was Flann O'Brien and Myles na gCopaleen was an open secret, largely disregarded by his colleagues, who found his writing very entertaining; this was a function of the makeup of the civil service, which recruited leading graduates by competitive examination—it was an erudite and relatively liberal body in the Ireland of the 1930s to the 1970s. Nonetheless, had O'Nolan forced the issue, by using one of his known pseudonyms or his own name for an article that seriously upset politicians, consequences would likely have followed—contributing to the acute pseudonym problem in attributing his work today.
A combination of his gradually deepening alcoholism, legendarily outrageous behaviour when, frequently, inebriated, and his habit of making derogatory and increasingly reckless remarks about senior politicians in his newspaper columns led to his forced retirement from the civil service in 1953 after enraging a minister who realised he was the unnamed target whose intellect was ridiculed in several columns. One column described that the politician's reaction to any question requiring even a trace of intellectual effort as "[t]he great jaw would drop, the ruined graveyard of tombstone teeth would be revealed, the eyes would roll, and the malt eroded voice would say 'Hah!'" (He departed, recalled a colleague, "in a final fanfare of fucks".)
Although O'Brien was a well-known character in Dublin during his lifetime, relatively little is known about his personal life. He joined the Irish civil service in 1935, working in the Department of Local Government. For a decade or so after his father's death in 1937, he helped support his brothers and sisters, eleven in total, on his income. On 2 December 1948 he married Evelyn McDonnell, a typist in the Department of Local Government. On his marriage he moved from his parental home in Blackrock to nearby Merrion Avenue, living at several further locations in South Dublin before his death. The couple had no children.
Health and death
O'Brien was an alcoholic for much of his life and suffered from ill health in his later years. He suffered from cancer of the throat and died from a heart attack on the morning of 1 April 1966.
Journalism and other writings
From late 1940 to early 1966, O'Brien wrote short columns for The Irish Times under the title "Cruiskeen Lawn", using the moniker Myles na gCopaleen (changing that to Myles na Gopaleen in late 1952, having put the column on hold for most of that year). For the first year, the columns were in Irish. Then, he alternated columns in Irish with columns in English, but by late 1953 he had settled on English only. His newspaper column, "Cruiskeen Lawn" (transliterated from the Irish "crúiscín lán", meaning "full/brimming small-jug"), has its origins in a series of pseudonymous letters written to The Irish Times, originally intended to mock the publication in that same newspaper of a poem, "Spraying the Potatoes", by the writer Patrick Kavanagh:
I am no judge of poetry—the only poem I ever wrote was produced when I was body and soul in the gilded harness of Dame Laudanum—but I think Mr Kavanaugh [sic] is on the right track here. Perhaps the Irish Times, timeless champion of our peasantry, will oblige us with a series in this strain covering such rural complexities as inflamed goat-udders, warble-pocked shorthorn, contagious abortion, non-ovoid oviducts and nervous disorders among the gentlemen who pay the rent [a well known Irish slang for pigs].
The Irish Times has, traditionally, published a lot of letters from readers, devoting a full page daily to such letters, which are widely read. Often an epistolary series, some written by O'Brien and some not, continued for days and weeks under a variety of false names, using various styles and assailed varied topics, including other earlier letters by O'Brien under different pseudonyms. The letters were a hit with the readers of The Irish Times, and R. M. Smyllie, then editor of the newspaper invited O'Brien to contribute a column. Importantly, The Irish Times maintained that there were in fact three pseudonymous authors of the "Cruiskeen Lawn" column, which provided a certain amount of cover for O'Nolan as a civil servant when a column was particularly provocative (though it was mostly O'Brien). The managing editor of The Irish Times for much of the period, Gerard "Cully" Tynan O'Mahony (father of the comedian Dave Allen), a personal friend and drinking companion of O'Brien, and likely one of the other occasional authors of the column, was typically one of those pressed for a name but was skilfully evasive on the topic. (Relations are said to have decayed when O’Nolan somehow snatched and absconded with O’Mahoney’s prosthetic leg during a drinking session [the original had been lost on military service].)
The first column appeared on 4 October 1940, under the pseudonym "An Broc" ("The Badger"). In all subsequent columns the name "Myles na gCopaleen" ("Myles of the Little Horses" or "Myles of the Ponies"—a name taken from The Collegians, a novel by Gerald Griffin) was used. Initially, the column was composed in Irish, but soon English was used primarily, with occasional smatterings of German, French or Latin. The sometimes intensely satirical column's targets included the Dublin literary elite, Irish language revivalists, the Irish government, and the "Plain People of Ireland". The following column excerpt, in which the author wistfully recalls a brief sojourn in Germany as a student, illustrates the biting humour and scorn that informed the "Cruiskeen Lawn" writings:
I notice these days that the Green Isle is getting greener. Delightful ulcerations resembling buds pit the branches of our trees, clumpy daffodils can be seen on the upland lawn. Spring is coming and every decent girl is thinking of that new Spring costume. Time will run on smoother till Favonius re-inspire the frozen Meade and clothe in fresh attire the lily and rose that have not sown nor spun. Curse it, my mind races back to my Heidelberg days. Sonya and Lili. And Magda. And Ernst Schmutz, Georg Geier, Theodor Winkleman, Efrem Zimbalist, Otto Grün. And the accordion player Kurt Schachmann. And Doktor Oreille, descendant of Irish princes. Ich hab' mein Herz/ in Heidelberg verloren/ in einer lauen/ Sommernacht/ Ich war verliebt/ bis über beide/ Ohren/ und wie ein Röslein/hatt'/ Ihr Mund gelächt or something humpty tumpty tumpty tumpty tumpty mein Herz it schlägt am Neckarstrandm. A very beautiful student melody. Beer and music and midnight swims in the Neckar. Chats in erse with Kun O'Meyer and John Marquess ... Alas, those chimes. Und als wir nahmen/ Abschied vor den Toren/ beim letzten Küss, da hab' Ich Klar erkannt/ dass Ich mein Herz/ in Heidelberg verloren/ MEIN HERZ/ es schlägt am Neck-ar-strand! Tumpty tumpty tum.
- The Plain People of Ireland: Isn't the German very like the Irish? Very guttural and so on?
- Myself: Yes.
- The Plain People of Ireland: People say that the German language and the Irish language is very guttural tongues.
- Myself: Yes.
- The Plain People of Ireland: The sounds is all guttural do you understand.
- Myself. Yes.
- The Plain People of Ireland: Very guttural languages the pair of them the Gaelic and the German.
Ó Nuallain/na gCopaleen wrote "Cruiskeen Lawn" for The Irish Times until the year of his death, 1966.
He contributed substantially to Envoy (he was "honorary editor" for the special number featuring James Joyce) and formed part of the (famously heavy drinking) Envoy / McDaid's pub circle of artistic and literary figures that included Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Brendan Behan, John Jordan, Pearse Hutchinson, J.P. Donleavy and artist Desmond MacNamara who, at the author's request, created the book cover for the first edition of The Dalkey Archive. O'Brien also contributed to The Bell. He also wrote a column titled Bones of Contention for the Nationalist and Leinster Times under the pseudonym George Knowall; those were collected in the volume Myles Away From Dublin.
Most of his later writings were occasional pieces published in periodicals, some of very limited circulation, which explains why his work has only recently come to enjoy the considered attention of literary scholars. O'Brien was also notorious for his prolific use and creation of pseudonyms for much of his writing, including short stories, essays, and letters to editors, and even perhaps novels, which has rendered the compilation of a complete bibliography of his writings an almost impossible task. Under pseudonyms, he regularly wrote to various newspapers, particularly The Irish Times, waspish letters targeting various well-known figures and writers; mischievously, some of the pseudonymous author-identities reflected composite caricatures of existing people, this would also fuel speculation as to whether his model (or models) for the character was in fact the author writing under a pseudonym, apparently leading to social controversy and angry arguments and accusations. He would allegedly write letters to the editor of The Irish Times complaining about his own articles published in that newspaper, for example in his regular "Cruiskeen Lawn" column, or irate, eccentric and even mildly deranged pseudonymous responses to his own pseudonymous letters, which gave rise to rampant speculation as to whether the author of a published letter existed or not, or who it might in fact be. There is also persistent speculation that he wrote some of a very long series of penny dreadful detective novels (and stories) featuring a protagonist called Sexton Blake under the pseudonym Stephen Blakesley, he may have been the early science fiction writer John Shamus O’Donnell, who published in Amazing Stories at least one science fiction story in 1932, while there is also speculation about author names such as John Hackett, Peter the Painter (an obvious pun on a Mauser pistol favoured by the war of independence and civil war IRA and an eponymous anarchist), Winnie Wedge, John James Doe and numerous others. Not surprisingly, much of O'Brien's pseudonymous activity has not been verified.
O'Brien's journalistic pseudonym is taken from a character (Myles-na-Coppaleen) in Dion Boucicault's play The Colleen Bawn (itself an adaptation of Gerald Griffin's The Collegians), who is the stereotypical charming Irish rogue. At one point in the play, he sings the ancient anthem of the Irish Brigades on the Continent, the song "An Crúiscín Lán" (hence the name of the column in the Irish Times).
Capall is the Irish word for "horse" (from Vulgar Latin caballus), and 'een' (spelled ín in Irish) is a diminutive suffix. The prefix na gCapaillín is the genitive plural in his Ulster Irish dialect (the Standard Irish would be "Myles na gCapaillíní"), so Myles na gCopaleen means "Myles of the Little Horses". Capaillín is also the Irish word for "pony", as in the name of Ireland's most famous and ancient native horse breed, the Connemara pony.
O'Brien himself always insisted on the translation "Myles of the Ponies", saying that he did not see why the principality of the pony should be subjugated to the imperialism of the horse.
At Swim-Two-Birds works entirely with borrowed characters from other fiction and legend, on the grounds that there are already far too many existing fictional characters.
The book is recognised as one of the most significant modernist novels before 1945. Indeed it can be seen as a pioneer of postmodernism, although the academic Keith Hopper has argued that The Third Policeman, superficially less radical, is actually a more deeply subversive and proto-postmodernist work, and as such, possibly a representation of literary nonsense. It was one of the last books that James Joyce read and he praised it to O'Brien's friends—praise which was subsequently used for years as a blurb on reprints of O'Brien's novels. The book was also praised by Graham Greene, who was working as a reader when the book was put forward for publication and also the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, whose work might be said to bear some similarities to that of O'Brien.
The British writer Anthony Burgess stated, "If we don't cherish the work of Flann O'Brien we are stupid fools who don't deserve to have great men. Flann O'Brien is a very great man." Burgess included At Swim-Two-Birds on his list of Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English since 1939. At Swim-Two-Birds has had a troubled publication history in the USA. Southern Illinois University Press has set up a Flann O'Brien Center and begun publishing all of O'Brien's works. Consequently, academic attention to the novel has increased.
The Third Policeman and The Dalkey Archive
The rejection of The Third Policeman by publishers in his lifetime had a profound effect on O'Brien. This is perhaps reflected in The Dalkey Archive, in which sections of The Third Policeman are recycled almost word for word, namely the atomic theory and the character De Selby.
The Third Policeman has a fantastic plot of a murderous protagonist let loose on a strange world peopled by overweight policemen, played against a satire of academic debate on an eccentric philosopher called De Selby. Sergeant Pluck introduces the atomic theory of the bicycle.
The Dalkey Archive features a character who encounters a penitent, elderly and apparently unbalanced James Joyce (who dismissively refers to his work by saying 'I have published little' and, furthermore, does not seem aware of having written and published Finnegans Wake) working as an assistant barman or 'curate'—another small joke relating to Joyce's alleged priestly ambitions—in the resort of Skerries. The scientist De Selby seeks to suck all of the air out of the world, and Policeman Pluck learns of the molecule theory from Sergeant Fottrell. The Dalkey Archive was adapted for the stage in September 1965 by Hugh Leonard as The Saints Go Cycling In.
Other books written by O'Brien include An Béal Bocht—translated from the Irish as The Poor Mouth—(a parody of Tomás Ó Criomhthain's autobiography An t-Oileánach—in English The Islander), and The Hard Life (a fictional autobiography meant to be his "masterpiece"). As noted above he may, between 1946 and 1952, have been one of the writers to use the pseudonym Stephen Blakesley to write up to eight books of the protracted series of "penny dreadful" Sexton Blake novels and stories, and he may have written yet more fiction under a wide array of pseudonyms.
O'Brien's theatrical output was unsuccessful. Faustus Kelly, a play about a local councillor selling his soul to the devil for a seat in the Dáil, ran for only 11 performances in 1943. A second play, Rhapsody in Stephen's Green, also called The Insect Play, was a reworking of the Capek Brothers' synonymous play using anthropomorphised insects to satirise society. It also was put on in 1943 but quickly folded, possibly because of the offence it gave to various interests including Catholics, Ulster Protestants, Irish civil servants, Corkmen, and the Fianna Fail party. The play was thought lost, but was rediscovered in 1994 in the archives of Northwestern University.
In 1956, O'Brien was co-producer of a production for RTÉ, the Irish broadcaster, of 3 Radio Ballets, which was just what it said it was—a dance performance in three parts designed for and performed on radio.
O'Brien influenced the science fiction writer and conspiracy theory satirist Robert Anton Wilson, who has O'Brien's character De Selby, an obscure intellectual in The Third Policeman and The Dalkey Archive, appear in his own The Widow's Son. In both The Third Policeman and The Widow's Son, De Selby is the subject of long pseudo-scholarly footnotes. This is fitting, because O'Brien himself made free use of characters invented by other writers, claiming that there were too many fictional characters as is. O'Brien was also known for pulling the reader's leg by concocting elaborate conspiracy theories.
In 2011 the '100 Myles: The International Flann O'Brien Centenary Conference' (24–27 July) was held at The Department of English Studies at the University of Vienna, the success of which led to the establishment of 'The International Flann O'Brien Society' (IFOBS). Each year the IFOBS announces awards for both books and articles about O'Brien. In October 2011, Trinity College Dublin hosted a weekend of events celebrating the centenary of his birth. A commemorative 55c stamp featuring a portrait of O'Brien's head as drawn by his brother Micheál Ó Nualláin was issued for the same occasion. This occurred some 52 years after the writer's famous criticism of the Irish postal service. A bronze sculpture of the writer stands outside the Palace Bar on Dublin's Fleet Street. Kevin Myers said, "Had Myles escaped he might have become a literary giant." Fintan O'Toole said of O'Brien "he could have been a celebrated national treasure – but he was far too radical for that." An award winning radio play by Albrecht Behmel called Ist das Ihr Fahrrad, Mr. O'Brien? brought his life and work to the attention of a broader German audience in 2003.
List of principal works
- At Swim-Two-Birds (Longman Green & Co. 1939)
- The Third Policeman (written 1939–1940, published posthumously by MacGibbon & Kee 1967)
- An Béal Bocht (credited to Myles na gCopaleen, published by An Preas Náisiúnta 1941, translated by Patrick C. Power as The Poor Mouth 1973)
- The Hard Life (MacGibbon & Kee 1961)
- The Dalkey Archive (MacGibbon & Kee 1964)
- Slattery's Sago Saga (seven chapters of an unfinished novel written circa 1964–1966, later published in the collections Stories and Plays, Hart-Davis, MacGibbon 1973, and The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien, Dalkey Archive Press 2013, edited by Neil Murphy & Keith Hopper. It was also adapted as a play in 2010.
Selected newspaper columns
The best-known newspaper column by O’Brien, "Cruiskeen Lawn", appeared regularly in the Irish Times between 1940 and 1966. The column was initially credited to Myles na gCopaleen, but from late 1952 onwards it was published under the name of Myles na Gopaleen. Selections from this column have appeared in four collections:
- The Best of Myles (MacGibbon & Kee 1968)
- Further Cuttings from Cruiskeen Lawn (Hart-Davis, MacGibbon 1976)
- The Hair of the Dogma (Hart-Davis 1977)
- Flann O'Brien at War: Myles na gCopaleen 1940–1945 (Duckworth 1999); also published as At War.
O'Brien also wrote a column, "Bones of Contention", which appeared under the name George Knowall in The Nationalist and Leinster Times of Carlow between 1960 and 1966. Selections have been published as
- Myles Away from Dublin (Granada 1985).
- A Bash in the Tunnel (O'Brien's essay on James Joyce with this title appears in this book edited by John Ryan, published by Clifton Books 1970, alongside essays by Patrick Kavanagh, Samuel Beckett, Ulick O'Connor and Edna O'Brien).
- Stories and Plays (Hart-Davis, MacGibbon 1973), comprising Slattery’s Sago Saga, "The Martyr’s Crown", "John Duffy’s Brother", "Faustus Kelly" and "A Bash in the Tunnel"
- The Various Lives of Keats and Chapman and The Brother, edited and introduced by Benedict Kiely, Hart-Davis, MacGibbon 1976, ISBN 0 246 10643 3
- Myles Before Myles (Granada 1985), a selection of writings by Brian O’Nolan from the 1930s.
- Rhapsody in St Stephen's Green (play, an adaptation of Pictures from the Insects' Life), (Lilliput Press 1994)
- The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien, edited by Neil Murphy & Keith Hopper (Dalkey Archive Press 2013), including "John Duffy’s Brother", "Drink and Time in Dublin" and "The Martyr’s Crown"
- Plays & Teleplays, edited by Daniel Keith Jernigan, Dalkey Archive Press 2013, ISBN 978-1-56478-890-0
- The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien, edited by Maebh Long (Dalkey Archive Press 2018)
- Borg, Ruben; Paul Fagan, and Werner Huber, eds. (2014). Flann O’Brien: Contesting Legacies. Cork: Cork University Press. 978-1782050766 (This title was included in the Irish Times list of best books of 2014)
- Borg, Ruben; Paul Fagan, and John McCourt, eds. (2017). Flann O’Brien: Problems with Authority. Cork: Cork University Press. 978-1782052302 [Winner of 2015 IFOBS award]
- Brooker, Joseph (2004). Flann O'Brien. Tavistock: Northcote House Publishers. ISBN 978-0-74631-081-6.
- Clissmann, Anne (1975). Flann O'Brien: A Critical Introduction. Gill & Macmillan Ltd. ISBN 978-0717107186.
- Clune, Anne; Hurson, Tess, eds. (1997). Conjuring Complexities: Essays on Flann O'Brien. Belfast: The Institute of Irish Studies. ISBN 0-85389-678-X.
- Cronin, Anthony (1989). No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O'Brien. London: Grafton Books. ISBN 0-246-12836-4.
- Curran, Steven. "No, This is Not From The Bell: Brian O'Nolan's 1943 "Cruiskeen Lawn" Anthology". Éire-Ireland. Irish American Cultural Institute. 32 (2 & 3): 79–92. ISSN 1550-5162. (Summer/Fall 1997)
- Curran, Steven. "Designs on an 'Elegant Utopia': Brian O'Nolan and Vocational Organisation". Bullán. Oxford: Willow Press. 2: 87–116. ISSN 1353-1913. (Winter/Spring 2001)
- Curran, Steven. "Could Paddy Leave Off from Copying Just for Five Minutes?: Brian O'Nolan and Éire's Beveridge Plan". Irish University Review. International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures. 31 (2): 353–76. ISSN 0021-1427. (Autumn/Winter 2001)
- Guinness, Jonathan (1997). Requiem for a Family Business. London, UK: Macmillan. pp. 8–9. ISBN 0-333-66191-5.
- Hopper, Keith (1995). Flann O'Brien: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Postmodernist. Cork University Press. ISBN 1-85918-042-6.
- Johnston, Denis (1977). "Myles na Gopaleen". In Ronsley, Joseph (ed.). Myth and Reality in Irish Literature. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ISBN 0-88920-039-4.
- Jordan, John (2006). "'Flann O'Brien'; 'A Letter to Myles'; and 'One of the Saddest Books Ever to Come Out of Ireland'". Crystal Clear: The Selected Prose of John Jordan. Dublin: Lilliput Press. ISBN 1-84351-066-9.
- Long, Maebh (2014). Assembling Flann O'Brien. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-1-4411-8705-5. [Winner of 2015 IFOBS award]
- Long, Maebh, ed. (2018). The Collected Letters of Flann O'Brien. Champaign, Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press. ISBN 978-1-62897-183-5. [Winner of 2019 IFOBS award]
- "An Interview with Desmond MacNamara". The Journal of Irish Literature. January 1981. ISSN 0047-2514.
- Markus, Radvan (2018). “The Prison of Language: Brian O’Nolan, An Béal Bocht, and Language Determinism.” The Parish Review 4.1: 29-38.
- McFadden, Hugh (Summer 2012). "Fantasy & Culture: Flann and Myles". Books Ireland. No. 340. Dublin. ISSN 0376-6039.
- Murphy, Neil (Fall 2011). "Flann O'Brien's 'The Hard Life': The Gaze of the Medusa". Review of Contemporary Fiction: 148–161.
- Murphy, Neil (Fall 2005). "Flann O'Brien". Review of Contemporary Fiction. XXV (3): 7–41.
- Nolan, Val (Spring 2012). "Flann Fantasy and Science Fiction: O'Brien's Surprising Synthesis". Review of Contemporary Fiction. XXXI (2): 178–190.
- O'Keeffe, Timothy, ed. (1973). Myles: Portraits of Brian O'Nolan. London, UK: Martin, Brian & O'Keeffe. ISBN 0856161500.
- Riordan, Arthur (2005). Improbable Frequency. Nick Hern Books. ISBN 1-85459-875-9.
- Taaffe, Carol (1975). Ireland Through the Looking-Glass: Flann O'Brien, Myles na gCopaleen and Irish Cultural Debate. Cork University Press. ISBN 978-1859184424.
- Vintaloro, Giordano (2009). L'A(rche)tipico Brian O'Nolan Comico e riso dalla tradizione al post- [The A(rche)typical Brian O'Nolan Comic and Laughter from Tradition to Post-] (PDF) (in Italian). Trieste: Battello Stampatore. ISBN 978-88-87208-50-4.
- Wäppling, Eva (1984). Four Irish Legendary Figures in 'At Swim-Two-Birds': A Study of Flann O'Brien's Use of Finn, Suibhne, the Pooka and the Good Fairy. University of Uppsala. ISBN 91-554-1595-4.
Flann O'Brien studies
- bloomsbury.com. "Flann O'Brien & Modernism". Bloomsbury. Archived from the original on 2 August 2021. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
- Kellogg, Carolyn (13 October 2011). "Celebrating Flann O'Brien". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 16 October 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
- Intern (21 June 2012). "We Laughed, We Cried". Boston Review. Archived from the original on 17 July 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
- Cronin, John (1999). "Brother of the More Famous Flann: Ciarán Ó Nualláin". New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua. 3 (4): 9–17. JSTOR 20557600.
- "Christian Brothers left their mark on me and many of my old pals". Irish Examiner. 9 May 2008. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
- Waters, John. "Christian Brothers' brutality has origins in colonialism". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
- Barkham, Patrick (28 November 2009). "The Brothers grim". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 6 April 2019. Retrieved 6 April 2019 – via www.theguardian.com.
- Dolan, Professor Pat (19 October 2017). "Unfinished business: corporal punishment in Irish schools". RTÉ News. Archived from the original on 23 July 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019 – via www.rte.ie.
- List of Old Rockmen
- Farragher, Sean; Wyer, Annraoi (1995). Blackrock College 1860-1995. Dublin: Paraclete Press. ISBN 0946639191. Archived from the original on 1 July 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- "Flann O'Brien's English Teacher: John Charles McQuaid". Séamus Sweeney Blog. 1 May 2016. Archived from the original on 22 October 2018. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- Costello, Peter; van de Kamp, Peter (1987). Flann O'Brien – An Illustrated Biography. London, UK: Bloomsbury. pp. 45–50. ISBN 0-7475-0129-7.
- "O'Nolan's greatest deed no literary one, says the brother". Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
- "Micheál Ó Nualláin: Painter, cartoonist and fabulous polymath". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
- "Ciaran O Nuallain". www.newulsterbiography.co.uk. Archived from the original on 6 April 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
- Curran, Steven (2001). "'Could Paddy Leave off from Copying Just for Five Minutes': Brian O'Nolan and Eire's Beveridge Plan". Irish University Review. 31 (2): 353–375.
- An Irishman's Diary Archived 8 November 2020 at the Wayback Machine by Frank McNally, The Irish Times, 14 February 2013
- 'Could Paddy Leave off from Copying Just for Five Minutes': Brian O'Nolan and Eire's Beveridge Plan, Steven Curran Irish University Review, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Autumn - Winter, 2001), pp. 353-375
- "Making a fool of the force". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
- O'Toole, Fintan (1 October 2011). "The Fantastic Flann O'Brien". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 9 August 2018. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
- McNally, Frank (14 May 2009). "An Irishman's Diary". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 20 March 2016. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
- Phelan, Michael (1976). "A Watcher in the Wings: A Lingering Look at Myles na gCopaleen". Administration. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration of Ireland. 24 (2): 96–106. ISSN 0001-8325.
- Ó Nualláin, Micheál (1 October 2011). "The Brother: memories of Brian". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
In 1966 Brian was undergoing X-ray treatment for throat cancer. He was saved from the agony of dying from throat cancer by having a major heart attack. He died in that early morning of 1 April (April fool's day, his final joke).
- "Flann O'Brien (1911-66)". Ricorso. Archived from the original on 29 January 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2009.
- Gale, Steven H., ed. (1996). "O'Nolan, Brian". Encyclopedia of British Humorists: Geoffrey Chaucer to John Cleese. Vol. 2 (L-W). New York/London: Garland. p. 798. ISBN 978-0-8240-5990-3. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
- "Temporary Cadet G J C Tynan O'Mahony, of the Irish Times". The Royal Irish Constabulary Forum. Archived from the original on 5 August 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
- 'In 1951, whilst I was editor of the Irish literary periodical Envoy, I decided that it would be a fitting thing to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of James Joyce by bringing out a special number dedicated to him which would reflect the attitudes and opinions of his fellow countrymen towards their illustrious compatriot. To this end I began by inviting Brian Nolan to act as honorary editor for this particular issue. His own genius closely matched, without in any way resembling or attempting to counterfeit, Joyce's. But if the mantle of Joyce (or should we say the waistcoat?) were ever to be passed on, nobody would be half so deserving of it as the man whom under his other guises as Flan [sic] O'Brien and Myles Na gCopaleen, proved himself incontestably to be the most creative writer and mordant wit that Ireland had given us since Shem the Penman himself.' – John Ryan, Introduction to A Bash in the Tunnel (1970) John Ryan (1925–92) Ricorso Archived 27 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- "The Cardinal & the Corpse: A Flanntasy in Several Parts by Pádraig Ó Méalóid | gorse". Archived from the original on 28 October 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
- Gough, Julian (18 October 2013). "Have Another". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
- "The Saints Go Cycling In". Playography Ireland. Irish Theatre Institute. Archived from the original on 22 October 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- Coe, Jonathan (24 October 2013). "Clutching at Railings". London Review of Books. 35 (20): 21–22. Archived from the original on 13 February 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
- "Rhapsody in Stephens Green & The Insect Play". The Lilliput Press. Archived from the original on 13 February 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
- Lennon, Peter (17 November 1994). "From the dung heap of history". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 February 2018. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
- "The International Flann O'Brien Society". University of Vienna. 2011. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
- Nihill, Cian (15 October 2011). "Trinity celebrates Flann O'Brien centenary". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 16 October 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
- "Seven Days". The Irish Times. 8 October 2011. Archived from the original on 11 October 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
- "Writer O'Nolan honoured by stamp". The Irish Times. 4 October 2011. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
- Sweeney, Ken (5 October 2011). "Stamp of approval on Flann O'Brien's centenary". The Belfast Telegraph. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
- McManus, Darragh (5 October 2011). "Flann O'Brien: lovable literary genius". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 January 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
- McNally, Frank (5 October 2011). "An Post gets the message, gives Myles a stamp". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 14 October 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
In the course of the 1959 diatribe, he decried the low aesthetic standards of Irish philately and, calling for a better class of artist to be hired, suggested future stamps might also capture more realistic scenes from Irish life, such as "a Feena Fayl big shot fixing a job for a relative.
- Nihill, Cian (6 October 2011). "Palace of inspiration: Sculptures of writers unveiled". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
- Myers, Kevin (30 September 2011). "Had Myles escaped he might have become a literary giant". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 2 November 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
- "Hörspiel des Monats/Jahres 2003". Akademie der Darstellenden Künste (in German). Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
- Keating, Sara (17 October 2011). "Trinity plays host to Flann 100 as admirers celebrate comic genius". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 17 October 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
In a twist of Mylesian absurdity, however, the highlight of the day's cultural programme proved to be a science lecture by Prof Dermot Diamond, in which Diamond convincingly argued that O'Brien was not just a literary genius but a scientific prophet. Diamond set recent experiments in the fields of thermodynamics, quaternion theory and atomic theory against excerpts from O'Brien's books, suggesting that O'Brien anticipated some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th century.
- Doyle, Carmel (5 October 2012). "Google celebrates Irish author Brian O'Nolan in doodle today". Silicon Republic. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
- "Who's that Irish person in today's Google Doodle?". The Daily Edge. 5 October 2012. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
It would have been Irish writer Flann O'Brien's (aka Brian O'Nolan) 101st birthday today. Sound of Google to give him his own doodle for his birthday.
- Presenter: Matthew Parris; Interviewed Guests: Will Gregory, Carol Taaffe; Producer: Toby Field (5 December 2017). "Great Lives: Series 44, Episode 1: Will Gregory on Flann O'Brien". Great Lives. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Archived from the original on 12 December 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
- "The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien, edited by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 30 August 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
- Slattery's Sago Saga Archived 27 July 2020 at the Wayback Machine Playwright Arthur Riordan
- O'Brien, Flann; Tracy, Robert (1994). Rhapsody in Stephen's Green: The Insect Play. Lilliput Press. ISBN 978-1-874675-27-3. Archived from the original on 27 July 2020. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- Battersby, Eileen. "Eileen Battersby's books of 2014". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 31 October 2020. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
- "The International Flann O'Brien Society". www.univie.ac.at. Archived from the original on 6 April 2021. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
- Ruben Borg and Paul Fagan, 'Founders' Note: The Parish Review,' The Parish Review: Journal of Flann O'Brien Studies 1, no. 1 (Summer 2012): 1-7.
- Works by Brian O'Nolan at Faded Page (Canada)
- Works by Flann O'Brien at Open Library
- Flann O'Brien Manuscript Collection at the Harry Ransom Center
- Brian O'Nolan Papers, 1914–1966 Archived 27 July 2020 at the Wayback Machine at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Special Collections Research Center
- Flann O'Brien Papers at John J. Burns Library, Boston College