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Posted 06 October 2011

UCD celebrates 100 years since the birth of alumnus Brian O’Nolan, aka Flann O’Brien

To mark 100 years since the birth of Brian O’Nolan, aka Flann O’Brien and Myles na gCopaleen, University College Dublin, his alma mater, held a special event in the Physics Theatre in Newman House, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, a room which prominently features in one of his best know novels At Swim-Two-Birds (1939).

The artist Micheál Ó Nualláin (83) views his portrait of his brother Flann O’Brien at the event in the Physics Theatre in UCD’s Newman House. The portrait features on a new 55c stamp released to celebrate the birth centenary of one of Ireland’s most loved writers
The artist Micheál Ó Nualláin (83) views his portrait of his brother Flann O’Brien at the event in the Physics Theatre in UCD’s Newman House. The portrait features on a new 55c stamp released to celebrate the birth centenary of one of Ireland’s most loved writers

Like James Joyce, some thirty years earlier, O’Nolan was a leading light of the UCD Literary and Historical Society.

His tendency to reflect obsessively on the act of writing itself may have come from his often debilitating sense of the inadequacy of all writing after Joyce.

This obsession is clearly visible in At Swim-Two-Birds, where he opens the novel with three beginnings and finishes with an indeterminable number of endings.

At the event, hosted by the UCD School of English, Drama & Film, Colm Tóibín, Dr Carol Taaffe, and Judge Adrian Hardiman gave talks on the life and works of Flann O’Brien, and the place of UCD in his writing.

 

Dr Carol Taffe, author of Ireland Through the Looking-Glass: Flann O'Brien, Myles na gCopaleen and Irish Cultural Debate, reflects on the place of UCD in the work of Brian O’Nolan, aka Flann O’Brien and Myles na gCopaleen:

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Colm Tóibín, adjunct professor of creative writing at UCD considers the work of Flann O'Brien in an international dimension, focusing in particular on Borges and Pessoa:

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Judge Adrian Hardiman considers Flann O'Brien and the Law:

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Born in Strabane, Co Tyrone on 05 October 1911, O’Nolan spent most of his life in Dublin. He attended University College Dublin from 1929 to 1932, and wrote prodigiously during his student years.

He entered the civil service in 1935. During his career in the Department of Local Government, he served as private secretary to three successive ministers.

His other works include The Third Policeman (1940); Faustus Kelly (1943); The Hard Life (1960) and The Dalkey Archive, which was produced on the Dublin stage in 1965.

For more than 25 years he wrote The Irish Times column, 'Cruiskeen Lawn' (“little brimming jug”), a satirical take on Irish life, under the pseudonym Myles na gCopaleen. By 1944, the column was regarded as among the wittiest English language newspaper columns anywhere in the world.

After the sudden death of his father in 1937, O'Nolan took on much of the financial responsibility for his mother and 10 siblings. He died in 1966.
 

(Produced by UCD University Relations)

 

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