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The Dalkey Archive Hardcover – 1964

3.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Macgibbon & Kee (1964)
  • ISBN-10: 0246107642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0246107640
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 14.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,553,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 19 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
The Dalkey Archives is essentially a portrait of the insane philosopher/mad professor De Selby, so often referred to in the extended footnotes of O' Brien's opus The Third Policeman.
The book's more satirical elements never impinge on the laughs to be had from the farcical expolits of De Selby in his twisted plot to deprive the work of oxygen.
Read The Third Policeman and then this. You will be extremely pleased.
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Too good for ordinary eyes. Not his best, see At Swim Two Birds or The Third Policeman, but still 96% better than most stuff. The sort of imagination one, or possibly two, would almost defiantly kill for. My only wish is that he'd written more, or maybe no. It's just such a massive pity that the world is largely peopled by idiots, blinkered ninkempoops who don't even know this exists, who don't even know how utterly stupid they are, which I don't mean in any elitist way, just in a sad, defeated sort of fashion. In a country where Thatcher, Savile, and Rolf Harris have so long stood as moral bastions, we quite possibly need to reconfigure our beliefs, and where better than here?
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By Ford Ka VINE VOICE on 21 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
The Dalkey Archive is a risky read - you risk never reaching for anything that O'Brien wrote again. He did not write that much but still it would be a pity to miss out At Swim-Two-Birds or The Third Policeman. Archive is a spin-off of the latter novel. Coherent, funny at places but it is more of sustained effort than tour-de-force which you have all the rights to expect from O'Brien.
There is little of plot here - two young Irish gentlemen meet by chance a mad scientist and having learned about his plan to annihilate humanity try to stop him from doing so. Characters as different as St Augustine and James Joyce make cameo appearances but they add little to the slim plot. The sad facts of the case are that O'Brien failed to make the expected splash with his first novel, his second wasn't even published and he went on making a brilliant career as a satirical columnist. When twenty years later At Swim-Two-Birds was resurrected and hailed as the first post-modern novel, he tried to go back to writing fiction but with little artistic success. And yet this is a classic so why not give it a chance?
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Format: Paperback
Brian O'Nolan was an Irish civil servant who wrote fiction and journalism under pseudonyms. Flann O'Brien was the name O'Nolan used on his fiction and it is the name of the author of The Dalkey Archive, a metafictional novel that veers from the philosophical to the nonsensical, from the tender to the coarse and from the religious to the irreverent, often in the same sentence.

The Dalkey Archive is much more than a novel and at the same time much less than a story. There are linear threads of sorts that run through the book, but they are often knotted or broken. But the real ambition of the book seems to be something different from story-telling, something more akin to a flippant, sometimes facetious examination of the relationship between received assumption, demonstrable fact and identity-endowing allegiance.

On the face of it, The Dalkey Archive is something of a farce. There is this fellow called Mick, who is generally surprised by the use of Michael. He has an acquaintance called De Selby who claims both theories and capabilities, one of which is the ability to manufacture a substance capable of sucking all the oxygen out of the atmosphere. He has plans.

But his greatest achievement is to attend a meeting with Saint Augustine of Hippo set up by De Selby, where the attendees can grill the Saint about, amongst other things, his dabbling with Manicheanism and his sexual preferences. But this is no story cast in black and white, though it may make claim to the mundane.

Another of Mick's adventures is to locate James Joyce, reportedly resident nearby. He wants to ask the great man a few questions about his work. He traces Joyce to a seaside resort called Skerries, which means he is on the rocks.
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A classic, neo-scifi tale Lem would have been proud to have written, but Joyce would have too. That's the sort of writer O'Nolan was. These are not the tortured explorations of a troubled soul (though O'Nolan had his problems); these are the hilarious camfire tales of a superhuman imagination.
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I bought Dalkey, after having read O'Brien's surrealistic masterpiece "The Third Policeman", anticipating more vivid imagination and inspired writing. Oh dear.

It starts promisingly, with our hero Mick encountering the villain de Selby, who has decided to eliminate the unworthy human race, using a substance he has concocted, which removes all oxygen from the atmosphere. A side-effect is that it also eliminates time, and so de Selby and Mick spend time in an underwater cave, all oxygen removed, wearing breathing apparatus, where de Selby talks to religious saints like St Augustine.

And here I got my first warning. The conversation with St Augustine is long-winded & theological, & I had to skip to the next chapter. The remainder of the book is really quite pedestrian writing, entailing a long slow meander as Mick endeavours to thwart de Selby's plans. The only imaginative passage from then on is the strange theory expounded by Sergeant Fottrell about "mollycules", whereby he holds that extensive riding of bicycles results in a mingling of the molecules between bike & rider, with amusing results.

However this is not enough to rescue the book, nor is Mick's subsequent recruitment of James Joyce, whom he unearths quietly retreated from the world as a simple barman near Dublin. His conversations with Joyce are like the Augustine sequence, filled with theological meanderings concerning Catholic doctrine, and tedious.

In fact the final chapter featuring Mick and Joyce could well have been written by a rather dull 16-year old schoolboy, so lacking in substance is it.

If you're an O'Brien fanatic (and some are) then you might read it for completeness, but don't expect anything much from the philosopher/scientist de Selby, whose thoughts run madly through "Third Policeman". After the intriguing beginning, he just peters out, as does the book as a whole.
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