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The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien

The Third Policeman (original 1967; edition 2002)

by Flann O'Brien

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2,810702,072 (4.03)175
Title:The Third Policeman
Authors:Flann O'Brien
Info:Dalkey Archive Pr (2002), Edition: Second printing, Paperback, 200 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien (1967)


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Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
In this bizarre dark comedy the narrator can't give us his name because he has forgotten it. All we know about him is that he has a wooden leg and has devoted his life to the study of the works of and about a scientist-philosopher named de Selby. While some of de Selby's manuscripts are utterly undecipherable, it is at least known that he believed night was a recent phenomenon caused by the intrusion of a noxious pollutant called "dark air." He also devoted much of his life to studying how to dilute water. The narrator has prepared a manuscript about de Selby which will be his own life's work, but he is desperately short of the the funds it will take to subsidize its publication--desperate enough to resort to robbery, even murder.

While the narrator may not know his own name, he does know that his soul's name is Joe, and the two carry on an ongoing conversation during their travels and adventures. They have much to discuss, including a trio of obese policemen who are obsessed with bicycle thefts, but also possess the uncanny means to manipulate time and space.

The Third Policeman is a marvelous, often funny, occasionally unsettling, wildly imaginative absurdist fantasy. ( )
1 vote StevenTX | Feb 3, 2015 |
A genuinely funny and odd novel, that may have been dampened/spoiled by O'Brien's note at the end, which gives away the ending and kills the suspense of the last 30 pages. DO NOT FLIP TO THE END OF THE BOOK! I like reading all the notes at the end of these fancy editions, but usually they don't contain spoilers.

A hilariously metaphysical comedy riffing on the nature of subjectivity and the everything-goes world of atomic relativity. O'Brien applies this weird version of Reality in a good satire of society---the police continually trying to 'control' the world, even when it is only themselves causing the chaos.

The end of the book did lag, but overall a very good read. ( )
  blanderson | Mar 4, 2014 |
Another great work from Flann O'Brien. Delightfully weird, though it all comes together in the end. And, as usual, hilarious. (If you're a fan of _Lost_ you may already know that a character on the show was shown reading this book at one point, for a second or less. It's fun to read this book with that in mind as well. Almost certainly true that the readers/creators of that show had read this book before they even started. Lots of interesting resonances.) ( )
1 vote piccoline | Feb 5, 2014 |
Very strange! ( )
  leslie.98 | Oct 20, 2013 |
I rarely say that once I pick up a certain book, I can't put it down because the phrase is often hyperbole, but in the case of The Third Policeman, I actually found myself trying to read as much as possible in order to continue through the story. O'Brien's dry wit matched with social criticism mixed to create a brilliant and absurd masterpiece. The protagonist isn't necessarily likeable, but that's okay because his soul, Joe, makes up for what his host lacks. I don't think I will ever look at bicycles the same way again and not since Ulysses has a book of mine been filled with so many marginal notes. O'Brien wasn't shying away from experimentation which is at its best in the footnotes. It's easy to disagree with O'Brien when he proclaimed the only good thing about this novel is its plot. He has done things within these pages which Western readers think of as commonplace today and he's done them masterfully and to his own degree of absurd perfection. I would love to teach this in a course on either Anglo-Irish Literature or Absurdist Literature. It's brilliant. ( )
1 vote hovercraftofeels | May 26, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Flann O'Brienprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magnus HedlundTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Human existence being an hallucination containing in itself the secondary hallucinations of day and night (the latter an insanitary condition of the atmosphere due to accretions of black air) it ill becomes any man of sense to be concerned at the illusory approach of the supreme hallucination known as death."
~ de selby
"Since the affiars of men rest still uncertain,/ Let's reason with the worst that may befall."
~ Shakespeare
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Not everybody knows how I killed old Phillip Mathers, smashing his jaw in with my spade;
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 156478214X, Paperback)

A comic trip through hell in Ireland, as told by a murderer, The Third Policeman is another inspired bit of confusing and comic lunacy from the warped imagination and lovably demented pen of Flann O'Brien, author of At Swim-Two-Birds. There's even a small chance you'll figure out what's going on if you read the publisher's note that appears on the last page.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:39 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Told by a narrator who has committed a botched robbery and brutal murder, the novel follows him and his adventures in a two-dimensional police station where, through the writings of the scientist/philosopher de Selby, he is introduced to "Atomic Theory" and its relation to bicycles, the existence of eternity (which turns out to be just down the road), and de Selby's view that the earth is not round but "sausage-shaped." With the help of his newly discovered soul, named "Joe," he grapples with the riddles and contradictions that three eccentric policemen present to him.--From publisher's description.… (more)

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