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The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien

The Third Policeman (1967)

by Flann O'Brien

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,370912,414 (4.02)215
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» See also 215 mentions

English (87)  Spanish (1)  Greek (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  All languages (91)
Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)
“Your talk," I said, "is surely the handiwork of wisdom because not one word of it do I understand.”
― Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

This is an insane book. I mean that in the best way, I really do: So much bizarre stuff happens in this book, you have to turn your brain off and just enjoy the ride.

Policemen obsessed with bicycles. Wooden-legged men. Murderers. Eternity. It's all here, and it's all worth reading. What a pancake! ( )
  markhopp | Jan 31, 2019 |
An unusual book, to be sure. Its closest counterpart might be Alice in Wonderland, but where Alice has whimsy, clever wordplay, unforgettable characters, and the most quotable dialogue this side of Shakespeare, The Third Policeman has a strangeness, an obsession with bicycles, and a rather limited palette of actors and settings.

It sparked into life on a few occasions (most notably in the discussion of DeSelby, a philosopher/physicist who never appears but whose ideas are revealed at length), but was ultimately a bit wearying. The final chapter had some power--I can imagine the same book at half the length (just cut any reference to a bicycle) and it would be much more satisfying.

(Probably bicycles are metaphors for something and if I figured it out I'd enjoy the book 1000 times more, but I didn't, so I didn't). ( )
  ashleytylerjohn | Sep 19, 2018 |
Loved this, typical O'Brien genius, with hell being depicted as nothing more than a skewed and repeating version of normality. Not for lovers of normal narrative, but this author was always about challenging assumptions about society, identity, language, intellectualism, and morality. ( )
  JJPCIII | Sep 9, 2018 |
I did not actually "like" it that much, for it baffled me and blew chaos into my brain, but it might just be a formidable pancake if only for that.

It is as likely to go away now as "Infinite Jest" is, and it runs to about a fifth of the latter book's length. But I digress. This book is devoid of sense, but it manages to thrive like an anthill full of stupid little creatures acting in close accord. It is one brain slug of a book and if I made myself wonder why you should not read it, I wouldn't be able to come up with an answer. ( )
  alik-fuchs | Apr 27, 2018 |
Weird and bad. Slightly bad because I actually enjoyed some parts of it but I don't recommend it. ( )
  Denicbt | Feb 5, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 87 (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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Haiku summary
a book once read -- upside down | stories get -- dead forgotten

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:26 -0400)

(see all 6 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)

» see all 5 descriptions

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