From the author of the classic novel 'At-Swim-Two-Birds' comes this ingenious tale which follows the mad and absurd ambitions of a scientist determined to destroy the world. Flann O'Brien's third novel, 'The Dalkey Archive' is a riotous depiction of the extraordinary events surrounding theologian and mad scientist De Selby's attempt to destroy the ...Read MoreFrom the author of the classic novel 'At-Swim-Two-Birds' comes this ingenious tale which follows the mad and absurd ambitions of a scientist determined to destroy the world. Flann O'Brien's third novel, 'The Dalkey Archive' is a riotous depiction of the extraordinary events surrounding theologian and mad scientist De Selby's attempt to destroy the world by removing all the oxygen from the atmosphere. Only Michael Shaughnessy, 'a lowly civil servant', and James Joyce, alive and well and working as a barman in the nearby seaside resort of Skerries, can stop the inimitable De Selby in his tracks.Read Less
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Having recently read "The Third Policeman" by O'Brian, I was somewhat disappointed in "The Dalkey Archive". For some reason the surrealism just didn't work the way it did in the first book, and towards the last part of the book I found the obsession with a fictionalised James Joyce became rather tedious. This may not be the case for readers very familiar with Joyce, which I am not.
The riotously twisted De Selby portrayed in Policeman, seemed a thinner character in Dalkey; the numerous references to various Christian saints, religious orders and the like may also be wearing to a reader not very familiar with mid 20th century Irish culture. This part of the book is no doubt outrageously funny, but only to a certain audience.
In short, I enjoyed the book, but would swap it for The Third Policeman any day. In fairness to O'Brien, he did wite the Policeman before Dalkey but it was not published in his lifetime (the story why is very interesting and prefaces some editions) and he reused some of the ideas in the earlier book in Dalkey.
Dalkey's main strength I think lies in the portrayal of a certain Irish sensibilty, and in the semi-autobiographical central character, Mick. Whether it rates alongside some of the works of Joyce, as others have claimed, I am not able to say, but very evidently O'Brian was well aware of Joyce's ouvre.
For anyone who loves bicycles there is food for thought in both the books, but again much more engagingly in The Third Policeman, IMO.
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