The Literary Circus of Flann O’Brien’s Novels

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O’Brien’s nonsense prose in “At Swim-Two-Birds” and “The Third Policeman” reveals how his cyclical narratives draw several fictional levels and styles together as a basic principle of the novels’ structure. O’Brien employed literary conventions in using the novel form but did so in a manner that results in a defamiliarization of the common ideas of fiction, character, and authorship. He turns the novel, a literary form, into a textual circus that opposes literary realism, revealing novel writing itself to be “a self-evident sham.” This article explores how O’Brien’s nonsense portraits of rebellious characters and his playing with structure unsettle the boundaries of fiction and reality. The article discusses the formation of a mosaic text that consistently undermines the possibility of an objective representation of reality.