At Swim-Two-Birds

At Swim-Two-Birds

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By Flann O'Brien

Introduction by William H. Gass

ISBN: 9781628973884

Publication Date: 7/19/2022

A true masterpiece of Irish literature, At Swim-Two-Birds has influenced generations of writers, opening up new possibilities for what can be done in fiction.

A wildly comic send-up of Irish literature and culture, At Swim-Two-Birds is the story of a young, lazy, and frequently drunk Irish college student who lives with his curmudgeonly uncle in Dublin. When not in bed (where he seems to spend most of his time) or reading he is composing a mischief-filled novel about Dermot Trellis, a second-rate author whose characters ultimately rebel against him and seek vengeance. From drugging him as he sleeps to dropping the ceiling on his head, these figures of Irish myth make Trellis pay dearly for his bad writing.

Hilariously funny and inventive, Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds is the most famous (and infamous) of Irish novels published in the twentieth century, along with a book or two by James Joyce.


"A real writer, with the true comic spirit. A really funny book."—James Joyce

"This is just the book to give your sister if she's a loud, dirty, boozy girl!"—Dylan Thomas

"I have enumerated many verbal labyrinths, but none so complex as the recent book by Flann O’Brien, At Swim-Two-Birds… [which] is not only a labyrinth, [but also] a discussion of the many ways to conceive of the Irish novel and a repertory of exercises in prose and verse which parody all the styles of Ireland.” —Jorge Luis Borges

"At Swim-Two-Birds has remained in my mind ever since it first appeared as one of the best books of our century. A book in a thousand . . . in the line of Ulysses and Tristram Shandy."—Graham Greene

"Labyrinthine and multilayered, Flann O’Brien’s humorous debut is both a reflection on, and an exemplar of, the Irish novel."The Guardian, The 100 Best Novels

Biographical Information

Flann O'Brien, whose real name was Brian O'Nolan, also wrote under the pen name of Myles na Gopaleen. He was born in 1911 in County Tyrone. A resident of Dublin, he graduated from University College after a brilliant career as a student (editing a magazine called Blather) and joined the Civil Service, in which he eventually attained a senior position. He wrote throughout his life, which ended in Dublin on April 1, 1966. His other novels include The Dalkey Archive, The Third Policeman, The Hard Life, and The Poor Mouth, all available from Dalkey Archive Press. Also available are three volumes of his newspaper columns: The Best of Myles, Further Cuttings from Cruiskeen Lawn, and At War.

William H. Gass (1924-2017) was an American writer and critic noted for his experimentation with stylistic devices. He twice won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism and was a Professor of Philsophy.