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The Third Policeman

by Flann O'Brien

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,559982,500 (4.03)226
Flann O'Brien's most popular and surrealistic novel concerns an imaginary, hellish village police force and a local murder. Weird, satirical, and very funny, its popularity has suddenly increased after the novel was featured in the October 2005 episode of the hit television series Lost.
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» See also 226 mentions

English (94)  Spanish (1)  Greek (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  All languages (98)
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
This book was ahead of its time, and a very fascinating read. The book that brought me to this and 'At Swim Two Birds' was 'The Dalkey Archive'. My preference is for 'The Dalkey Archive', because it has a great sense of humour. ( )
  billycongo | Jul 22, 2020 |
Good cover design by Nick Bantock - two-faced man ( )
  jon1lambert | Jun 26, 2020 |
Delightfully absurd, witty and (apparently) random, this rambling story took me many places I did not expect to go before spitting me out with that sense of "what on earth was that all about?". O'Brien plays tricks with the reader's perceptions as he explores all the trivial, tangential forces that shape our consciousness in ways that remain just beyond our grasp. So it is entirely fitting that his novel remains, for this reader at least, tantalisingly impossible to pin down. May 2020. ( )
  alanca | May 12, 2020 |
The third policeman, is a novel by Irish writer Brian O'Nolan, writing under the pseudonym "Flann O'Brien". It was written between 1939 and 1940, but after it initially failed to find a publisher, the author withdrew the manuscript from circulation and claimed he had lost it. The book remained unpublished until his death from cancer in 1966. It was printed by MacGibbon & Kee in 1967.

The audiobook I got from my local Wilbor page, was read by the talented Jim Norton.

While I was almost continuously annoyed by the wacky theories of the scientist/philosopher de Selby, he did introduce the "Atomic Theory" and its relation to bicycles. We also find 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 found soul that he NAMED "Joe," he grapples with the riddles and complete contradictions that three eccentric policeman bring him.

What a strange, and different kind of story...! Third Policeman is a fantastic work of imaginative fictional wonder that by the end somehow manages to become a bit exasperating in all its fantastic imaginative wonderfulness. It's like, when someone you know well, and like, who starts telling you one sort of story. Then he gets distracted, and the story becomes about something else entirely along the way.... And you don't mind at all, because it's charming, and rather different. Even though it happens again.

While this story meanders all over this strange countryside, it didn't bother me one whit. The narrator being used for this audiobook was VERY good. Every 'voice' was completely different. Every accent flawless and smart. Even the French pronunciations. Even though it was all done by one man. All slang and jargon used like the narrator understood them completely. This truly does not happen very often...!

Each chapter by itself is a kind of magical and mind-bending set piece illustrating baffling physical and metaphysical conundrums, paradoxes, absurdities, and improbabilities, but this is perhaps a situation where the pieces are greater than the whole (a standout example is MacCruiskeen’s ever-diminutive reproductions of boxes falling away into the invisibly miniscule, a wonderful metaphor for the metafictive act). Though I was growing a bit impatient with it toward the end, I believe this book still points the way toward Flann O’Brien being some kind of mad genius of wordsmithery, and it is a book both hilarious and deeply unsettling. It took me all night to ruminate about this story, after it ended.

The novel takes place in what we are given to believe is an eternally recurring afterlife, where no greater intelligence or divinity is present, or if one is present, it's been shattered into traces that cannot be coherently reassembled -- infinity, authority, & punishment. The Third Policeman is a narrative closed loop and resists explication.

When he was unable to find a publisher for this, his second novel, Flann O'Brien famously stashed the manuscript away in a drawer and told his friends that it had been lost. The book is also very, very funny. It's one of the very best modern novels, and, sadly, because it was written very early in his career, the finest thing Flann O'Brien ever wrote. Overall, the book grips the reader and refuses to let go. It is creepy, confusing, and a touch haunting. I may have to pick up more from this author if they are written anything like this one!

(Last night I was listening to the audiobook with headphones on, in bed. My hubby turns out the light, looks over at me, rapt with attention and smiling weirdly, and says, "ok honey, time to go to sleep....?" "Hold on a minute. This dude is falling in love with a bicycle." "Um......... What.....?" "Don't worry, it's female." Weird looks continue for some time towards me, until the hubby finally turns over, shaking his head, and goes to sleep.)

Highly recommended, highly enjoyed. Let me reiterate- this Irishman is a magician of the highest order and is not to be ignored.

« The Third Policeman » illustrations > James Kenny - http://ow.ly/xbJ3u . ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
The craic runs strong with this one. At times I was exhausted by the relentless absurd whimsicality, until I embraced the fact that all there is is relentless absurd whimsicality, and in doing so it started becoming quite a bit profound. I did keep checking my pockets to see if I'd been pilfered by a hidden hand while being told a tall tale- relentlessly tall. Flawless prose, really enjoyable and creative prose more importantly. And in general just a real last hurrah for imagination and style ( )
  Charlie_Miller | Dec 3, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
O'Brien, Flannprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bantock, NickCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Donoghue, DenisAfterword, Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hedlund, MagnusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Norton, JimNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rowohlt, HarryTranslatorsecondary 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 affairs of men rest still uncertain,/ Let's reason with the worst that may befall."
~ Shakespeare
First words
Not everybody knows how I killed old Phillip Mathers, smashing his jaw in with my spade; but first it is better to speak of my friendship with John Divney because it was he who first knocked old Mathers down by giving him a great blow in the neck with a special bicycle-pump which he manufactured himself out of a hollow iron bar.
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a book once read -- upside down | stories get -- dead forgotten

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