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The Poor Mouth: A Bad Story about the Hard Life

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4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,521 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
The Poor Mouth relates the story of one Bonaparte O'Coonassa, born in a cabin in a fictitious village called Corkadoragha in western Ireland equally renowned for its beauty and the abject poverty of its residents. Potatoes constitute the basis of his family's daily fare, and they share both bed and board with the sheep and pigs. A scathing satire on narratives of Gaelic Ir ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published March 1st 1996 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1941)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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David Katzman
Jul 16, 2010 David Katzman rated it it was amazing
I have quite the man-crush on Flann O’Brien. Call it a bro-mance if you wish. I’m making my way through all his work, including his newspaper columns. There’s something so anti-twenty-first-century about his use of multiple pseudonyms and personas in our look-at-me-age of “FACEBOOK STATUS: Pooping right now.” Here we have Brian O’Nolan who wrote his novels as Flann O’Brien and his newspaper column as a character Myles na Gopaleen (think mid-century Stephen Colbert). He even allegedly wrote lette ...more
Geoff
Dec 21, 2012 Geoff rated it it was amazing
Yesyesyes! Flawless, hilarious, scathing, blistering satire* of Irish/English colonialism of the Gaels and the Gaelic tongue. The funniest book you will read this or any other day. Not a rib-tickler or a knee-slapper but a whole body- and soul-shaker. Books like this make you glad to be a human being, alive and well and of unsound mind. Can you tell I liked it? Read this book. It's not even very long. Laughter destroys empires and pierces little lethal holes in the armor of imposed ideologies, l ...more
Rowena
Feb 06, 2013 Rowena rated it really liked it
Shelves: irish-lit
This was a satire about the Irish life told by narrator Bonaparte O'Coonassa (what a name!). There are LOTS of references to potatoes, poverty, drunkenness, perpetual rainfall and the Gaelic language issue. It's a very grim book but manages to be quite funny because of the narrator's writing style. A very good introduction to Flann O'Brien, in my opinion.
Cody
Apr 06, 2016 Cody rated it really liked it
Plaid Goeth Before the Fall.

A proper yarn, a fable of epically Gaelic proportion (the heroes travel kilometers!), and some running gags about pigs and a certain name—these are but a few of the substantial charms of The Poor Mouth. In ol’ Ireland, where the sun is a mere rumor, the potato the national flower, and the rain only stops long enough to replenish itself with a glass or three of rye, this brutal farce unfolds and takes to task the pride that goes with nationalism and excessive cultural
...more
MJ Nicholls
Better than a bag o' potatoes for breakfast, so it is. Its like in literature will never be seen again!
Emma Flanagan
The Poor Mouth, originally published in Irish under the title An Beal Bocht and the pseudonym Myles na gCopaleen, it is considered one of the great works of modern Irish literature. It is a satirical fictional autobiography of Bonaparte O'Coonassa, born in a cabin in a fictitious village called Corkadoragha in western Ireland equally renowned for its beauty and the abject poverty of its residents.

It is a parody of autobiographies of life in the Gaeltact and on the islands off the west coast whi
...more
Bondama
Apr 21, 2013 Bondama rated it it was amazing
Although much of the American public may be unaware of the incredible talent that was Myles naGopaleen, Brian O'Nolan, Flann O'Brien (he wrote under many, many pseudonyms) I sincerely think that anyone who loves humour, surrealism, etc. is missing out if you don't at least sample this man's writing.

It's been said many times that O'Nolan (I believe that's his birth name)and his good friend, James Joyce, used to sit with each other for hours, without uttering a word. I don't know if this is true,
...more
Dan
Aug 27, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
In this comic work, Flann O’Brien satirizes the "Gaeltacht autobiography", a kind of literature that was popular in Ireland in the first half of the century, and which emphasized misery and impoverishment. Typically, the tone of the writer of this type of literature implies a doubt that anyone could have experienced worse conditions than those he or she is describing (Angela's Ashes comes to mind as a recent instance of this sort of narrative). In this fictional memoir, O’Brien undermines and su ...more
Alma Castro
Jan 24, 2013 Alma Castro rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish, classic
Flann O’Brien is sinisterly funny in his short novel about the life of Bonaparte O'Coonassa. The story is based in a rural area in the West of Ireland and it is home to the most Gaelic residents known to Ireland. O’Brien satirizes the Gaelic roots of these residents by using the carnivalesque to exaggerate their living conditions.
All of the residents of Corkadoragha are extremely poor and they only have potatoes to eat. They share their homes with animals even though they cannot stand the smell
...more
Beatriz
Jan 08, 2016 Beatriz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un libro muy gaélico con gente muy gaélica.

Me ha gustado bastante, me he reído con la ironía de O'Nolan, pero he tardado bastante en leérmelo (creo que tengo un problema con los libros de menos de 150 páginas). Supongo que el libro gusta todavía más si te has leído alguno de los libros que parodia (aunque yo no me he leído "Tirant Lo Blanc" y eso no me ha impedido leer "El Quijote").

Lo que sí me ha gustado muchísimo de esta edición (a parte de estar muy bien cuidada) es el traductor y sus notas
...more
Josh
Feb 06, 2016 Josh rated it it was amazing
Pretty much perfect weird, short satire of the wretchedly poor turn-of-the-20th-century rural Irish life. Every meal is potatoes, every day is a downpour, and no one knows anything about the outside world.

Flann O'Brien's writing is tough to describe - it's funny without really being comic, surreal but about daily life. This one is less plotted than his longer novels, but it's a good intro to O'Brien, too, at just over 100 pages.
Oscar
’La boca pobre’ es un puro disparate. Desde el primer momento, Flann O’Brien te introduce en un juego caracterizado por la parodia, llegando al ridículo en muchos casos, de las costumbres y tradiciones más típicas del folclore irlandés. En esta historia, los irlandeses se alimentan solo de patatas, que además es el único alimento que les apetece; les gusta ser pobres, se regodean en sus miserias, porque el buen gaélico asume lo que la vida le trae; viven en el campo, dando más importancia a sus ...more
Ramon
May 08, 2011 Ramon rated it it was amazing
Establishes Flann "the man" O'Brien as one of my favorite authors, the most underappreciated of the Irish triumvirate (Plus JJ and Sammy Beck) and easily the funniest. Well... I mean, like, if Joyce made you giggle in the head, and Beckett with your heart, then Flann's all about the belly laugh. The muppet in lit's balcony is Flann, and here, he calls bullshit on the Gaelic Novel (take that, um... poor, subjugated underclass) with infectious, wicked, and just plain WRONG aplomb, by Gawd.

And he w
...more
Bruce
Jun 30, 2010 Bruce rated it really liked it
This short novel, written by Brian O’Neal (whose most commonly used pen name was Flann O’Brien) under the pseudonym Miles na gCopaleen, was written in Irish Gaelic and later translated, thus being subject to all the vagaries associated with translations. It is a parody on the style of works of the Irish literary revival, his satire being aimed at those who want to romanticize the Gaelic people and culture. In the novel, the author exaggerates the poverty, the ignorance, the fatalism, the drunken ...more
Paul Cockeram
May 14, 2014 Paul Cockeram rated it really liked it
This book is one long, fine joke told by a Gaelic writer at the expense of the Gaels; at the expense, also, of those seeking to exploit or romanticize them. Three things lie at the heart of the joke: Gaelic language, Gaelic poverty, and Gaelic misery. Think of Kate McKinnon's miserable Russian peasant character Olya Povlatsky on Saturday Night Live, whose refrain seems to be her unwavering desire to escape her miseries through the sweet release of death. In Flann O'Brien's The Poor Mouth, a cert ...more
Li'l Vishnu
Feb 26, 2014 Li'l Vishnu rated it really liked it
...a smothering fire arose in the end of the house—my mother burning the place. Back went the Old-Fellow in one leap, threw a couple of old sacks on the smoke and beat them with a big stick until the fire was quenched. He then beat my mother and gave her beneficial advice while doing so.
— p. 421 (in The Complete Novels)
For me, Flann/Myles goes in the same car with Charles Portis. Both are so imaginative—but also have a real knack for strange dialects. I just love the way their people talk. Hell,
...more
J.M. Hushour
Feb 24, 2013 J.M. Hushour rated it it was amazing
Flann O'Brien desecrates his own people in this hilarious and mockingly evil book which pokes black-natured fun at the Gaeltacht genre of Irish fiction. It is the tale of Bonaparte O'Coonassa who lives in the west Irish village of Corkadoragha where boots are unknown and feared, the terrible Sea-cat stalks the night, and Gaels drop dead in droves at every public function featured. The likes of this will never be there again! Highly, highly recommended.
Zac O hArgadain
Mar 25, 2014 Zac O hArgadain rated it it was amazing
An-Chliste! This book is very clever! Coming from an Irish-American family that came over during the Famine (Gorta Mor) speaking Irish Gaelic and that endured a lot of trauma on this side of the Atlantic, it is a great view into what those who remained in Ireland still speaking the language went through. What a great way to critique imposed stereotypes, Gaeltacht policy and the crushing weight of imperialism. It will have you laughing at every point, while also treating the struggle of the Irish ...more
Norah
Sep 19, 2014 Norah rated it it was amazing
I read this a long time ago, and it has stuck in my memory. I found my review recently in the roof-space while looking for something else!

"If you want to understand the Irishness of the Irish, read The Poor Mouth by Flann O'Brien or Myles na Gopaleen, translated from the Gaelic. Brought up by his mother and grandfather (his father being 'in the jug'), poor, but appreciative of beauty and the traditions of the Gaels; basic earth humour, pigs in the kitchen stuff (Ambrose and the Bad Smell!); hard
...more
Elmursard
Jul 10, 2015 Elmursard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor, satire, classics, irish
Flann O'brien's mighty satire "The Poor Mouth" is certainly one of the greatest novels i've ever read. It's awkwardly funny and absolutely nicely written. Even though I had never heard of Gaeltacht autobiographies before reading this it still makes a lot of sense. Particularly I loved the episodes about irish language and if some certain pieces in the whole novel seem a little bit too awkward that view of Rehabilitation and Research of irish language are just mesmerizingly witty. That was the fi ...more
Matthew
Oct 23, 2008 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: laugh-riots
Originally written in Gaelic!

HILARIOUS MISERY!!!
Kevin Tole
Aug 12, 2011 Kevin Tole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am giving this edition 1 star only to publicise the utterly poor quality of this Flamingo edition. Do yourselves a favour and track down the old Paladin / Picador edition if you can find it.

Flamingo must be one of the poorest of the poor publishing houses - either that or they are putting on the poor mouth - have gone out of their way to make this as cheap as possible possibly reflecting the hard times and the hardships of the Gaels which have fallen upon them, the ill luck and bounteous quant
...more
Allan MacDonell
Nov 06, 2013 Allan MacDonell rated it it was amazing
Irish people are great folks for making fun of humans not of their own ilk, but sensitive, sensitive souls when it comes to mockery being delivered by the other foot. The only reason the Hibernian Protection League allows The Poor Mouth: A Bad Story about the Hard Life to remain in print without raising a pointless clamor against it is that the bruising kicks and cutting pricks the book delivers to the Irish psyche and physicality are delivered by Flann O’Brien, an admitted descendent of the Eme ...more
Aaron Arnold
Jul 02, 2013 Aaron Arnold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2013
As the most insular and self-consciously Irish novel he ever wrote, this one won't ever gain the fame of his others, for understandable reasons, but it's very funny all the same. Originally published in Gaelic as An Béal Bocht, it's the story of Bonaparte O'Coonasa, a wretch of an Irishman who lives a life of uninterrupted poverty, misery, and filth in the remote village of Corkadoragha with his mother, an elderly companion named the Old-Grey-Fellow, and an assortment of pigs.

The humor in the bo
...more
Mandy Jo
Jul 10, 2012 Mandy Jo rated it liked it
This week’s headline? An Béal Bocht

Why this book? only O'Brien available

Which book format? US print, HPB

Primary reading environment? one Saturday afternoon

Any preconceived notions? lesser known title

Identify most with? Sitric O'Sanassa's fate

Three little words? "Paradise of Ireland”

Goes well with? Po Tay Toes

Recommend this to? patient Gaelic translator

I picked up The Poor Mouth during my Half Price Books Irish fiction shopping spree late last year. I really, really, really want to read At Swim-
...more
Holly
Dec 10, 2012 Holly rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic-lit
This book is often described as funny...well, Flann O'Brien is often described as a writer of the hilarious and I often find his humor eludes me (I am ready to take full blame on that count though as I strongly suspect his humor is outside of my knowledge to appreciate it). This book was different and after thinking about it for several days I concluded the reason I actually laughed outloud was because, well, I got it. I picked this up after reading a few books about the Irish famine of 1847ish ...more
Mysterium
To fully understand this wonderfully twisted book, it helps to be from Ireland. It really, really helps to be from the Irish Republic. It really, really, really helps to be from Western Ireland Coastal region. It really, really, really, really helps to know the tension between the Irish and the english. (Yes, I purposely left it in the lower case). I fit all of these categories.

The Poor Mouth is a funny story about the Irish who inhabit one of the areas of Ireland that time seems to forget. It w
...more
Braden
Oct 08, 2010 Braden rated it it was amazing
Stumbled on Flann O'Brien's The Poor Mouth just when I was starting to feeling sorry for my underemployed self. Satire at its best! Typical chapter beginning: “In one way or another, life was passing us by & we were suffering misery, sometimes having a potato & at other times having nothing in our mouths but sweet words of Gaelic. As far as the weather in itself was concerned, things were becoming worse.”

If I read this at another time in my life, I might give this four stars rather than
...more
Evan
Jan 04, 2013 Evan rated it liked it
I realize that saying a translated work of literature had to have read better in the original language is a cliche, but in this case I really do think it's pivotal (with the caveat that I can't read Irish Gaelic). A lot of the humor in this, especially in the earlier chapters, seemed to depend on the reader understanding the style and structure of the Gaelic language, and the callbacks to specific earlier works in the style O'Brien was parodying, and despite a valiant effort on the translator's ...more
Tim
Jun 10, 2013 Tim rated it it was amazing
The internet led me to Flann O'Brien's darkly humorous The Poor Mouth, a series of bleak tales about rural Irish life, told to mimic the way suffering and Irish culture was recounted in earlier Irish writing. Translated from the Gaelic with a lovely sing-song feel. Be ready for the bleakest tragedy and to laugh out loud repeatedly. "I do not think that the like will ever be there again." Illustrations by Ralph Steadman in my edition only made it bleaker.

"If the bare truth be told, I did not pro
...more
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15248
Pseudonym of Brian Ó Nualláin, also known as Brian O'Nolan.

His English novels appeared under the name of Flann O’Brien, while his great Irish novel and his newspaper column (which appeared from 1940 to 1966) were signed Myles na gCopaleen or Myles na Gopaleen – the second being a phonetic rendering of the first. One of twelve brothers and sisters, he was born in 1911 in Strabane, County Tyrone, in
...more
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“An té a bhíonn i bhfad gan práta ní bhíonn sé folláin” 1 likes
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