Something about the current recession, or should that be depression, in Ireland has given me a longing for the wit and wisdom of Flann O’Brien aka Myles na Gopaleen aka Brian O’Nolan. His zaniness, for me at least, is only matched nowadays – and in a different way – by someone like Will Self. After a week of half-remembered sentences, I thought it was time to dig out and re-read The Best of Myles Na Gopaleen. By way of giving you a flavour, I am choosing an excerpt from the punny Keats and Chapman section. It goes as follows:
Chapman was much given to dreaming and often related to Keats the strange things that he saw when in bed asleep. On once occasion he dreamt that he had died and gone to heaven. He was surprised and rather disappointed at what he saw for although the surroundings were most pleasant, there seemed to be nobody about. The place seemed to be completely empty and Chapman saw himself wandering disconsolately about looking for somebody to talk to. He suddenly woke up without solving this curious puzzle.
‘It was very strange,’ he told Keats. ‘I looked everywhere but there wasn’t a soul to be seen.’
Keats nodded understandingly.
‘There wasn’t a sinner in the place,’ he said.
My edition of the Best of Myles is thirty years old. If you can’t find this in the shops, another one to look out for by the same author is The Third Policeman (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)