The Hard Life

The Hard Life

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By Flann O'Brien

ISBN: 9781564781413

Publication Date: 9/1/1996

Subtitled “An Exegesis of Squalor,” The Hard Life is a sober farce from a master of Irish comic fiction. Set in Dublin at the turn of the century, the novel does involve squalor—illness, alcoholism, unemployment, bodily functions, crime, illicit sex—but also investigates such diverse topics as Church history, tightrope walking, and the pressing need for public toilets for ladies. The Hard Life is straight-faced entertainment that conceals in laughter its own devious and wicked satire by one of the best known Irish writers of the 20th century.


"The dialogue is first-rate, as is the Dublin atmosphere; and some of his characters are as rich and yeasty as good porter foaming out of the jar." —Times Literary Supplement 

"The real subject and hero of the novel is the English language—or rather, the Irish version of English. It's possible that O'Brien is actually better than Joyce at preserving the qualities of the Irish penchant for wordplay, a convention which often strikes an American audience as outrageous. . . . O'Brien's technique in The Hard Life is supremely economical, reading like a script without the obtrusive stage directions." City Pages 

"Mr. O'Brien's almost callous economy of language, combined with an odd moral sensitivity, renders beastliness truly beastly but also completely funny." —Simon Raven

Biographical Information

Flann O’Brien was one of several pseudonyms of Brian O’Nolan (1911-1966), who is considered along with James Joyce and Samuel Beckett to be one of the greatest Irish writers of the twentieth century. His novels include At Swim-Two-Birds, The Poor Mouth, The Third Policeman, The Hard Life, and The Dalkey Archive.