The Hard Life
Finbarr and Manus are young orphans who are taken under the protection of the eccentric Mr Collopy (whose chief occupation is the extravagant discussion of the state of the world) and into his household, where they grow up with good whiskey and bad cooking. Manus proves to be a business genius, from organising correspondence courses in walking the tightrope to his creation of a cure for arthritis. When Mr Collopy’s health is endangered by this cure they embark on a pilgrimage to Rome, to meet Pope Pius X, where a miracle is the least to be expected.
Life in Dublin at the turn of the twentieth-century is hard, poverty and squalor are common while public toilets for ladies are less frequent. In The Hard Life O’Brien celebrates the Irish genius for conversation while his use of language shows why he is regarded as the equal of his more famous contemporaries, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, and one of the greatest comic writers of the twentieth-century. The Hard Life conceals its satire on the Roman Catholic Church and Irish education system through its uproarious comic energy.
Flann O’Brien was a pseudonym of Brian O’Nolan. Born in Strabane, County Tyrone, he spent most of his life in Dublin and died in 1966. Souvenir Press have also published O’Brien’s The Various Lives of Keats and Chapman in our Independent Voices series, while a film of ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’, starring Gabriel Byrne and Colin Farrell, will also be released in 2011.
“Greeted as a small masterpiece when it first appeared… What remains undiminished is the pitch-perfect Dublinese, of which O’Nolan rightly regarded himself a master”
“Cleverly manages to critique all levels of society, especially the Catholic church in this novel, but this is cleverly disguised by his hilarious description of life in early 20th Century Dublin… Unarguably one of the finest writers of the 20th Century.”
“Fuelled by an uproarious comic energy, it’s easy to see why many critics have saw fit to elevate O’Brien up alongside James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.”