Sergio Pitol at The Quarterly Conversation:
Our century seems to take pleasure in repeating cyclically that strange comedy of errors that stirs between certain authors and an unreceptive public. The cases of Robert Musil, Hermann Broch, Malcolm Lowry, Joseph Roth are examples of writers who have needed an upheaval in literary taste, which happened twenty-five or thirty years after their death, in order for the magnitude of works like The Man Without Qualities, The S, Under the Volcano, The Radetzky March, At Swim-Two-Birds, and The Third Policeman to be added to the list of those fundamental novels of our time that have been rediscovered belatedly.
The bizarre name of this novel, At Swim-Two-Birds, comes from the name of a village that lies on the banks of the River Shannon, which is the Anglicized form of a long-ago place mentioned in medieval Irish lyric, which in Gaelic sounds like Snám-da-en.
At Swim-Two-Birds entails a dizzying transit between every register of Irish literature, and is a book that contains at least three other books: one, about the relationship between the novelist and his characters, an erratic convivence between the demiurge and his creatures, who end up rebelling against he who gave them life; another, about the old medieval legend of King Sweeney whom God cursed with madness and —as if that were not enough! —with immortality, for having attempted to kill a pious cleric, and who in those old Gaelic songs appears transformed into a pathetic old bird that leaps from tree to tree; and a third, which registers at a level that could be called realist, composed of the familial vicissitudes of a young man who attempts to write a novel, his initiation into alcohol, his day-to-day conflicts.