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O'Brien, Flann, 1911-1966


Biographical Note

Flann O'Brien was born Brian O'Nolan in 1911, in Strabane, County Tyrone, the third oldest of twelve children. The family moved to Dublin, where O'Brien and some of his siblings attended the Synge Street School and Blackrock College. O'Brien continued his education at University College Dublin, studying Irish, English, and German. In 1932, he went on to a master's degree, then began his career in the Irish Civil Service, while writing on the side -- creating a magazine, Blather, with his siblings, and writing his first novel, At Swim-Two-Birds. At Swim-Two-Birds was published in 1939, establishing himself under the pseudonym "Flann O'Brien" for the first time, but it did not sell well, and his second book, The Third Policeman, was not accepted for publication. Around this time, he also began to write the humorous columns that would become An Cruiskeen Lawn, using a different pseudonym, Myles na gCopaleen. In the 1940s, O'Brien wrote and published another book, An Béal Bocht, which was a success, as well as several plays. He married Evelyn McDonnell in 1948. Throughout the 1960s, his health declined, due in part to his alcoholism, but his writing output increased. He wrote two more novels, The Hard Life and The Dalkey Archive, and started another, Slattery's Sago Saga. He also produced scripts for radio, television, and the stage, and a number of his works were adapted for dramatization. He died in 1966.

Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) Identifier

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

"Cruiskeen Lawn" 1940-1966: A Selected Edition, unpublished typescript edited by Steven C. Young

 Collection — Shared_box 1012

This unpublished transcription of the Flann O'Brien "Cruiskeen Lawn" columns that are not represented in published compilations was prepared by drama scholar Steven C. Young. It is thought to be the only extant copy of this work.

Restrictions on Access

Open for research.

Dates: approximately 1990

Flann O'Brien papers


The Flann O’Brien papers document the life and work of the Irish writer and humorist Flann O’Brien, and include the papers of his wife, Evelyn O’Nolan, who managed his estate after his death, and his brother, Micheál Ó Nualláin, an illustrator and portrait artist. The papers comprise awards, correspondence, clothing, degrees, furniture and personal belongings, literary manuscripts, medals, notes, paintings, passports, photographs, scrapbooks, sketches, and theater programs.

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Dates: 1880-1995, undated; Majority of material found within 1930 - 1966