So apparently I am just going to spend my morning listening to a highly absurdist novel. Makes perfect sense to me actually. This is a book written by Flann O’Brien who is one of the more or less grandfathers of Irish literature (especially during a certain time in the 20th century) and this novel feels in a lot of ways like a nice blend between Joyce and Beckett, who more or less bracket O’Brien’s career.
The novel was written in the 1930s, but didn’t find a publisher until the 1960s after he’d died. The result is that it was published at a time (that didn’t help him much) but did position it with some readers who were more apt and attuned to the weird, paranoid, cosmological twists and turns of the book. We begin with our unnamed narrator telling us he’s been involved in a crime — the murder of old man Mathers, and he’s also recently stolen a book. This book is a volume of the collected works of an out of print and obscure philosopher that our narrator has becomes a kind of adherent to. In addition to these other facts, we learn that he’s recently had his leg broken in multiple places, amputated, and replaced with a wooden leg.
That sets the scene. What follows is a weird little adventure in metaphysics, space-time, intermixed worlds, deep dives into philosophical nonsense, pancakes, and bicycles. As the world within the novel breaks down further and further, the absurdity of the plot and the language of the plot persists in the absence of sense. It’s funny and weird and it feels like I was missing a whole lot.