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"Treating the Literary Literally:" The Reflexive Structure of Flann O’Brien’s ... - page 30 / 50





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We are in a position to announce that a happy event has taken place at the Red Swan Hotel, where the proprietor, Mr. Dermot Trellis, has succeeded in encompassing the birth of a man called Furriskey. Stated to be doing "very nicely", the new arrival is about five feet eight inches in height, well-built, dark, and clean-shaven. The eyes are blue and the teeth well-formed and good, though stained somewhat by tobacco; there are two fillings in the molars of the left upperside and a cavity threatened in the left canine. (54)

This is only a taste of the information given by this birth announcement, which also includes Furriskey’s hairstyle of choice, his rather good but incomplete education in the sciences of Physics and Chemistry, his obvious smoking habit, and that "He is apparently not a virgin, although it is admittedly difficult to establish this attribute with certainty in the male" (55).

In order for this newspaper’s readership to understand the fantastic events surrounding such an unusual birth, the reporter has employed the paper’s medical correspondent, who explains Trellis’ "international repute in connection with his researches into the theory of aestho- autogamy" (55). The structure of Trellis’ novel at this point should be looked at closely; Trellis is actually quoting himself in an interview. It can be presumed that Trellis has invented this newspaper reporter and the medical correspondent along with Furriskey in order to explain his appearance in the novel in an easier manner. Here, Trellis’ readers are confronted by a fictional interviewer quoting from a conversation had with his own creator; Trellis is a highly competent author, it would seem, when considering the technical aspects of his writing. This interview adds scientific validity to Trellis’ fiction writing. Trellis’ medical correspondent writes that

Aestho-autogamy with one unknown quantity on the male side ... has long been a commonplace. For fully five centuries in all parts of the world epileptic slavies have been pleading it in extenuation for uncalled-for fecundity. It is a very familiar phenomenon in literature. The elimination of conception, and pregnancy, however, or the reduction of these processes to the same mysterious abstraction as that of the paternal factor in the commonplace case of unexplained maternity, has been the dream of every practising psycho-eugenist the world over. I am very happy to bring a century of ceaseless experiment and endeavour to a triumphant conclusion. (55)

Trellis graciously acknowledges assistance in the field of aestho-autogamy to his long-time friend and colleague, the late William Tracy, from whose last novel, a western, most of Trellis’ novel’s characters have been borrowed.

It is obvious that it requires much more effort to actually create an original character than to borrow one in a world where an author is held responsible for his or her characters’ well-being. One must not only create a physical being, but also supply them with the necessary background, including their education, in order for them to fulfill their intended roles within a literary work. An unfinished, or imperfect character can react to new surroundings with surprising results, as one sees with Trellis’ villain, Furriskey. This is only one of the reasons creating characters is problematic. Trellis will soon discover another that results in threats to his own life.

Furriskey is problematic for Trellis in a rather ironic way; he is a very nice man. Trellis has created him, one remembers, to be a vile and destructive character. It is Furriskey who is supposed to commit the several offences to female chastity and honour within Trellis’ novel. Unfortunately for Trellis, however, Furriskey has no evil inclinations. As mentioned earlier, Trellis has no power over his characters, hired or created, once he is asleep. While Trellis is


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