Dalkey Archive

by Flann O'Brien

Paperback, 1993



Call number

HN 6553 D143



Dalkey Archive Pr (1993), Edition: Rep, 192 pages


From the author of the classic novel 'At-Swim-Two-Birds' comes this ingenious tale which follows the mad and absurd ambitions of a scientist determined to destroy the world. Flann O'Brien's third novel, 'The Dalkey Archive' is a riotous depiction of the extraordinary events surrounding theologian and mad scientist De Selby's attempt to destroy the world by removing all the oxygen from the atmosphere. Only Michael Shaughnessy, 'a lowly civil servant', and James Joyce, alive and well and working as a barman in the nearby seaside resort of Skerries, can stop the inimitable De Selby in his tracks.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Porius
Tickled to learn about the 'Mollycule' theory among other interesting things. O'Brien's language skills rank up there with the very best.
LibraryThing member lucybrown
This one goes in my weirdly wonderful category along with Mrs. Caliban. Not they are really anything alike, except that they are very odd. Way too much fun.
LibraryThing member figre
Is it possible to not be entirely sure what something you just read is, and still enjoy every moment of it? Apparently so, because that is my first take on this book. It is bizarre, it is funny, it is weird, it is somewhat indescribable, and it seems to go all over the place while going very little
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distance. Yet, at the end, it is still satisfying and perplexing and contains thoughts and concepts that will haunt me for quite a while.

The plot is close to indecipherable. Mick and Hackett meet DeSelby, a man who has found a way to use the atmosphere to play with time and, eventually, destroy the world. He also uses this same method to talk to saints and important religious individuals of the past. Mick also discovers that James Joyce is alive and selling drinks at a local tavern. As he is making this discovery, he is putting together the plot to steal the source of DeSelby’s ability and save the world. And through all this, there are twisted conversations with such entities as St. Augustine and, of course, James Joyce.

The conversations are all over the place. The plot (here it sounds like science fiction – in the book it just sounds – well, wacky) merely ties the conversations together. And the entire affect is still more fun than it sounds. At least, I think it is. Did I mention I’m still not sure what was going on here?
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LibraryThing member ryano
A fairly poor later work from the master. It raises a few smiles, but lacks the hilarity, precision and carefully orchestrated anarchy that characterise At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman. The "atomic theory" material from the latter is reworked here as the "mollycule thoery" to less
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hilarious effect.
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LibraryThing member dtw42
I've often seen later authors compared to O'Brien, so when I saw this going cheap at a local shop I thought I'd give it a go. Forewarned by the previous reviewers that it was a late, minor work, I didn't raise me expectations too high. This was fortunate, because although the literary style is
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inventive and amusing enough, the story falls apart a bit toward the end.

The first half sets up a plot that feels Robert-Rankinesque, in which two friends, Mick and Hackett, stumble upon reclusive mad scientist De Selby, who's devised and intends to use a substance that can stop time and remove all the oxygen from the air, thereby killing all life on earth. A brief demonstration of this substance also introduces a sort of Philip K Dick 'Valis' element to the story. So we follow Mick in his attempt to foil De Selby's plans, and in a sub-plot about James Joyce being alive and living in hiding. But the resolution of both plotlines seems underwhelming and rushed, as if the author suddenly lost interest.

A curious mixed bag of a book, to be sure.
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LibraryThing member annmariestover
I feel like I have so much to say about this book, though I don't. The first third could be classified as the most fascinating story I've ever read. From there, it gets weird, a bit confusing, and a touch tedious. "Is the main character crazy? Am I??" you might wonder at several points. Many of the
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words will require a trip to the dictionary - 33% of those words will be defined for you (unless you are from Ireland, in which case, awesome!). I love and am confused by this book. It'll need to be read again, which I'm fairly sure I'm looking forward to? In the meantime, I intend to think the hell out of it.
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LibraryThing member jent33
I am not sure what I'm reading and the vernacular is strange.
But each time I pick up the Archive I fall right into the story. I am enjoying it but certain that I am not getting it.
LibraryThing member billycongo
Sometimes I start books on a dare. I think that the book is going to be inaccessible because the author has a reputation. I chose this one sort of at random, because I had heard many good things about 'At Swim Two Birds'. Later I found out that 'The Third Policeman' had many of the same themes as
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this book.

I enjoyed this book from the very beginning. It had a great sense of humour and it was quite surreal. Eventually I did go on to read the other two books mentioned, but I did not enjoy them as much as this one.
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LibraryThing member mkfs
Plenty funny for the first sixty or so pages, then sort of peters out. The James Joyce joke falls dead flat, though Ralph Steadman apparently thought it clever enough to portray on the cover.


Original publication date



0586089535 / 9780586089538

Other editions

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