The Third Policeman: A Novel

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Dalkey Archive Press, 1999 - Fiction - 200 pages
48 Reviews

The Third Policeman is Flann O'Brien's brilliantly dark comic novel about the nature of time, death, and existence. 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 theories 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 found soul named "Joe, " he grapples with the riddles and contradictions that three eccentric policeman present to him.

The last of O'Brien's novels to be published, The Third Policeman joins O'Brien's other fiction (At Swim-Two-Birds, The Poor Mouth, The Hard Life, The Best of Myles, and The Dalkey Archive) to ensure his place, along with James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, as one of Ireland's great comic geniuses.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jculkin - LibraryThing

A weird book. I didn't get anything from it. Pages and pages of rambling nonsense. If you're not looking to gain something from each book you read, and a book's task is just to help you pass the time, then go ahead. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dbsovereign - LibraryThing

Like Joyce this book is more about structure than it is about plot. It's a whacky, weird tale within a tale within another tale. Don't worry what it's about or what's happening - just enjoy the way it unfolds. Read full review

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About the author (1999)

Writer Brian O'Nolan was born on October 5, 1911. He graduated from University College, Dublin. This gifted Irish writer had three identities: Brian O'Nolan, an Irish civil servant and administrator; Myles Copaleen, columnist for the Irish Times, poet and author of An Beal Bocht (The Poor Mouth: A Bad Story about the Hard Life, 1941), a satire in Gaelic on the Gaelic revival; and Flann O'Brien, playwright and avant-garde comic novelist. His masterpiece, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939), went almost unrecognized in its time. This novel, which plays havoc with the conventional novel form, is about a man writing a book about characters in turn writing about him. O'Brien starts off with three separate openings. The Third Policeman (1967), funny but grim, plunges into the world of the dead, though one is not immediately aware that the protagonist is no longer living. He died on April 1, 1966.

Denis Donoghue is University Professor and Henry James Professor of English and American Letters at New York University.

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