Quotes from At Swim-Two-Birds

Flann O'Brien ·  239 pages

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“I saw that my witticism was unperceived and quietly replaced it in the treasury of my mind.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“A wise old owl once lived in a wood, the more he heard the less he said, the less he said the more he heard, let's emulate that wise old bird.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“When a man sleeps, he is steeped and lost in a limp toneless happiness: awake he is restless, tortured by his body and the illusion of existence. Why have men spent the centuries seeking to overcome the awakened body? Put it to sleep, that is a better way. Let it serve only to turn the sleeping soul over, to change the blood-stream and thus make possible a deeper and more refined sleep.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“When things go wrong and will not come right,
Though you do the best you can,
When life looks black as the hour of night,
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“Put a thief among honest men and they will eventually relieve him of his watch.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“Answers do not matter so much as questions, said the Good Fairy. A good question is very hard to answer. The better the question the harder the answer. There is no answer at all to a very good question.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“Do you know what I am going to tell you, he said with his wry mouth, a pint of plain is your only man.

Notwithstanding this eulogy, I soon found that the mass of plain porter bears an unsatisfactory relation to its toxic content and I subsequently became addicted to brown stout in bottle, a drink which still remains the one that I prefer the most despite the painful and blinding fits of vomiting which a plurality of bottles has often induced in me.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“Characters should be interchangeable as between one book and another. The entire corpus of existing literature should be regarded as a limbo from which discerning authors could draw their characters as required, creating only when they failed to find a suitable existing puppet. The modern novel should be largely a work of reference. Most authors spend their time saying what has been said before – usually said much better. A wealth of references to existing works would acquaint the reader instantaneously with the nature of each character, would obviate tiresome explanations and would effectively preclude mountebanks, upstarts, thimble-riggers and persons of inferior education from an understanding of contemporary literature.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“Trellis wants his salutary book to be read by all. He realizes that purely a moralizing tract would not reach the public. Therefore he is putting plenty of smut into his book.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“I cannot say whether there is fur on my wife's legs for I have never seen them nor do I intend to commit myself to the folly of looking at them. In any event and in all politeness -nothing would be further from me than to insult a guest- I deem the point you have made as unimportant because there is surely nothing in the old world to prevent a deceitful kangaroo from shaving the fur from her legs, assuming she is a woman?”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“One beginning and one ending for a book was a thing I did not agree with. A good book may have three openings entirely dissimilar and inter-related only in the prescience of the author, or for that matter one hundred times as many endings.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“With these words there came the rending scream of a shattered stirk and an angry troubling of the branches as the poor madman percolated through the sieve of a sharp yew, a wailing black meteor hurtling through green clouds, a human prickles.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“Sweet to me your voice, said Caolcrodha Mac Morna, brother to sweet-worded sweet-toothed Goll from Sliabh Riabhach and Brosnacha Bladhma, relate then the attributes that are to Finn's people.


I will relate, said Finn. Till a man has accomplished twelve books of poetry, the same is not taken for want of poetry but is forced away. No man is taken till a black hole is hollowed in the world to the depth of his two oxters and he put into it to gaze from it with his lonely head and nothing to him but his shield and a stick of hazel. Then must nine warriors fly their spears at him, one with the other and together. If he be spear-holed past his shield, or spear-killed, he is not taken for want of shield-skill. No man is taken till he is run by warriors through the woods of Erin with his hair bunched-loose about him for bough-tangle and briar-twitch. Should branches disturb his hair or pull it forth like sheep-wool on a hawthorn, he is not taken but is caught and gashed. Weapon-quivering hand or twig-crackling foot at full run, neither is taken. Neck-high sticks he must pass by vaulting, knee-high sticks by stooping. With the eyelids to him stitched to the fringe of his eye-bags, he must be run by Finn's people through the bogs and the marsh-swamps of Erin with two odorous prickle-backed hogs ham-tied and asleep in the seat of his hempen drawers. If he sink beneath a peat-swamp or lose a hog, he is not accepted of Finn's people. For five days he must sit on the brow of a cold hill with twelve-pointed stag-antlers hidden in his seat, without food or music or chessmen. If he cry out or eat grass-stalks or desist from the constant recital of sweet poetry and melodious Irish, he is not taken but is wounded. When pursued by a host, he must stick a spear in the world and hide behind it and vanish in its narrow shelter or he is not taken for want of sorcery. Likewise he must hide beneath a twig, or behind a dried leaf, or under a red stone, or vanish at full speed into the seat of his hempen drawers without changing his course or abating his pace or angering the men of Erin. Two young fosterlings he must carry under the armpits to his jacket through the whole of Erin, and six arm-bearing warriors in his seat together. If he be delivered of a warrior or a blue spear, he is not taken. One hundred head of cattle he must accommodate with wisdom about his person when walking all Erin, the half about his armpits and the half about his trews, his mouth never halting from the discoursing of sweet poetry. One thousand rams he must sequester about his trunks with no offence to the men of Erin, or he is unknown to Finn. He must swiftly milk a fat cow and carry milk-pail and cow for twenty years in the seat of his drawers. When pursued in a chariot by the men of Erin he must dismount, place horse and chariot in the slack of his seat and hide behind his spear, the same being stuck upright in Erin. Unless he accomplishes these feats, he is not wanted of Finn. But if he do them all and be skilful, he is of Finn's people.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“For my sustenance at night,
the whole that my hands can glean
from the gloom of the oak-gloomed oaks--
the herbs and the plenteous fruits...”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“Tuesday had come down through Dundrum and Foster Avenue, brine-fresh from sea-travel, a corn-yellow sun-drench that called forth the bees at an incustomary hour to their day of bumbling. Small house-flies performed brightly in the embrasures of the windows, whirling without fear on imaginary trapezes in the lime-light of the sun-slants.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“Evil is even, truth is an odd number and death is a full stop.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“But which of us can hope to probe with questioning finger the dim thoughts that flit in a fool's head?”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“Mr Corcoran, whom by chance I was observing, smiled preliminarily but when about to speak, his smile was transfixed on his features and his entire body assumed a stiff attitude. Suddenly he sneezed, spattering his clothing with a mucous discharge from his nostrils.
As my uncle hurried to his assistance, I felt that my gorge was about to rise. I retched slightly, making a noise with my throat similar to that utilized by persons in the article of death. My uncle's back was towards me as he bent in ministration.

I clutched my belongings and retired quickly as they worked together with their pocket-cloths. I went to my room and lay prostrate on my bed, endeavouring to recover my composure.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“In reply to an inquiry, it was explained that a satisfactory novel should be a self-evident sham to which the reader could regulate at will the degree of his credulity.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“Çocuklar içinde büyüdükleri kotu çevrenin etkisiyle kirleniyor ve p*zevenklere, suçlulara ve gaddar insanlara dönüşüyorlardı. -kötülük çok zayıf bir kelime değil mi yahu!
Kötülük, ona göre, bilinen bütün illetlerin en bulaşıcı olanıydı. Bir hırsızı dürüst insanların arasına koy, er ya da geç adamcağızın saatini yürütüverirler.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“İyi ki bir bedenim yok dedi iyi Peri. Ateş edebileceği bir şey görür görmez tabancalarına sarılan şu kaçık kabadayı varken kimse güvende değil.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“The tense of the body is the present indicative; but the soul has a memory and a present and a future. I have conceived some extremely recondite pains for Mr. Trellis. I will pierce him with a pluperfect.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

“Dermot Trellis'in akli melekeleri geldiğinde aralıklarla teker teker geldiler, öyle hep birden değil. Hepsi kendi ıstıraplarıyla geldiler ve sanki her an kalkıp gideceklermiş gibi aklın sınırında endişeyle durdular.”
― Flann O'Brien, quote from At Swim-Two-Birds

About the author

Flann O'Brien
Born place: in Strabane, Ireland
Born date October 5, 1911
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