The Collected Letters of Flann O’Brien

David Wheatley at Literary Review:

In recent years, Flann O’Brien has often been characterised as the third member of the sacred trinity of Irish modernism, the Holy Ghost to James Joyce’s God the Father and Samuel Beckett’s God the Son. If so, he shares with the Holy Ghost a certain vagueness as to his identity: the press release that accompanies this book refers to him as ‘O’Nolan, or O’Brien, or Myles nagCopaleen or whatever his name may be’. Of these three personas, the first was a civil servant, the second a novelist and the third a satirical columnist for the Irish Times. Although they inhabited the same body, their relations were not always cordial: Flann O’Brien was effectively held hostage by his journalistic rival for two decades between the efflorescence of early novels and his re-emergence with The Hard Life (1961).

Expertly edited by Maebh Long, these letters are concerned largely with the travails of the jobbing writer. O’Brien was fascinated by St Augustine, but there are few confessions here: vitriol excepted, emotional candour is not his strong suit. Writing was a battle for O’Brien, and almost from the outset the career arc we follow is downward.

more here.