Flann O'Brien: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Post-modernist
Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman was written in 1940 but his publishers rejected it for being 'too fantastic'. Since its posthumous release in 1967 it has achieved cult status, although critical appraisal of his work has focused almost exclusively on At Swim-Two-Birds (1939). In this first novel O'Brien had confronted two towering traditions: the jaded legacy of Yeats' Celtic Twilight and the problematic complexities of Joyce's modernism. With The Third Policeman O'Brien forges a unique synthesis between these two traditions, and the paraliterary path he pursues marks the historical transition from modernism to post-modernism.
This formalist study is a tribal retrieval of O'Brien's work which reconfigures him as a powerful voice within a dynamic and fertile landscape; indisputably Irish yet distinctly post-modern. It identifies The Third Policeman as a subversive intellectual satire, in the cutting-edge tradition of Swift and Sterne, and situates it as one of the earliest - and most exciting - examples of post-modernist fiction.
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