born at Strabane, Co. Tyrone, and educated at University College, Dublin. He contributed a satiric weekly column under the name ‘Myles na Gopaleen’ to the Irish Times. His first novel, At Swim‐Two‐Birds (1939), is an exuberant work, operating on several levels of invention: a naturalistic portrayal of student and lower‐middle‐class life; a novel‐within‐a‐novel which deals with the legendary Irish hero Finn Mac Cool; and Irish folklore. The effect is a multi‐dimensional exploration of Irish culture and of the nature of fiction, much influenced by Joyce. O'Brien's second novel, An Béal Bocht (1941, written in Gaelic; English translation, The Poor Mouth, 1973). The best‐known of his other works is The Third Policeman (written 1940, pub. 1967) which Wain (Encounter, 1967) found ‘tense, grim and threatening’, closer in tone to Beckett.