The Hard Life: An Exegesis of Squalor

Overview

Subtitled "An Exegesis of Squalor," The Hard Life is a sober farce from a master of Irish comic fiction. Set in Dublin at the turn of the century, the novel does involve squalor—illness, alcoholism, unemployment, bodily functions, crime, illicit sex—but also investigates such diverse topics as Church history, tightrope walking, and the pressing need for public toilets for ladies. The Hard Life is straight-faced entertainment that conceals in laughter its own devious and wicked ...
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Overview

Subtitled "An Exegesis of Squalor," The Hard Life is a sober farce from a master of Irish comic fiction. Set in Dublin at the turn of the century, the novel does involve squalor—illness, alcoholism, unemployment, bodily functions, crime, illicit sex—but also investigates such diverse topics as Church history, tightrope walking, and the pressing need for public toilets for ladies. The Hard Life is straight-faced entertainment that conceals in laughter its own devious and wicked satire by one of the best known Irish writers of the 20th century.

"The dialogue is first rate, as is the Dublin atmosphere; and some of his characters are as rich and yeasty as good porter foaming out of the jar." (Times Literary Supplement 12-1-61)

"Described as a 'sober farce,' this book is anything but sober. Wild, hilarious, fast moving, irreverent and comic would be the better way to describe it. . . . Not since the publication of Mr. O'Brien's first book, At Swim-Two-Birds, has such a comic novel come out of Ireland." (Shaun O'Criadin, New York Herald Tribune 7-29-62)

"The conversation is a delight—it seems no Irishman can be dull when talking—and the atmosphere of a lower-middle-class family, with its cheerless, shabby, restricted way of life, is well done." (Library Journal 5-15-62)

"Flann O'Brien's The Hard Life is a comic Irish novel that derives its effect from an absolutely deadpan approach, for the narrator is a small boy who, for the better part of the time, has only the foggiest notion of what he is describing. Young Finbarr commands a glorious version of the English language combined with a totally impartial view of adult actions. The two things produce remarkable results." (Phoebe Adams, Atlantic 7-62)

"The real subject and hero of the novel is the English language—or rather, the Irish version of English. It's possible that O'Brien is actually better than Joyce at preserving the qualities of the Irish penchant for word play, a convention which often strikes an American audience as outrageous. . . . O'Brien's technique in The Hard Life is supremely economical, reading like a script without the obtrusive stage directions." (City Pages 7-20-94)

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
O'Brien's 1961 novel is a sober but satirical tale about two Irish orphans growing up at the turn of the century amid the squalor of working-class Dublin. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Critics have placed O'Brien in the upper echelon of Irish novelsts. This 1961 comic novel relates the lives of two orphaned Dublin brothers sent to live with their fiery uncle. ``The conversation is a delight,'' said LJ 's reviewer, ``it seems no Irishman can be dull when talking--and the atmosphere of a lower-middle-class family, with its cheerless, shabby, restricted way of life, is well done'' ( LJ 5/15/62). For all fiction collections.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564781413
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1996
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 179
  • Sales rank: 1,399,913
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian O'Nolan wrote under the pen names of Flann O'Brien and Myles na Gopaleen. He was born in 1911 in County Tyrone. A resident of Dublin, he graduated from University College after a brilliant career as a student (editing a magazine called Blather) and joined the Civil Service, in which he eventually attained a senior position. He wrote throughout his life, which ended in Dublin on April 1, 1966. His other novels include The Dalkey Archive, The Third Policeman, The Hard Life, and The Poor Mouth, all available from Dalkey Archive Press. Also available are three volumes of his newspaper columns: The Best of Myles, Further Cuttings from Cruiskeen Lawn, and At War.
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