“I do not know whether it was Gaelic or English or a strange irregular dialect which was in the old speech which the gentleman collected from among us here in Corkadoragha but it is certain that whatever word was uttered that night, came from our rambling pig.”
—from Flann O’Brien’s The Poor Mouth, 1941 (page 45)
Not only does this sentence conclude one of the funniest sequences in fiction, but along the way humbles everyone it touches: the narrator reveling in his own romantic rural ignorance, and the duped folklorist voyeurs who stand in for author, publisher, and reader at once, not to mention academics and politicians and English, Irish, and Germans alike; even the phonograph comes off looking dumb—no one escapes this sentence unscathed but the pig, and we all know where he’s bound sooner or later (and his like will never be here again!).
Steve Himmer is the author of the novels Scratch, Fram, and The Bee-Loud Glade, and his short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in The Millions, Ploughshares online, Post Road, Los Angeles Review, Hobart, and elsewhere. He edits Necessary Fiction and teaches at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.