The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien

70%

5 Critic Reviews

Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman involves themes of time, death, and existence, but ultimately serves as a critique of science and knowledge.
-Suite 101

Synopsis

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, The Dalkey Archive) to ensure his place, along with James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, as one of Ireland's great comic geniuses.
 

About Flann O'Brien

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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.
 
Published October 1, 1976 by Plume. 200 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Third Policeman
All: 5 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Above average
on Apr 23 2013

Much of the tediously quirky discussion deals with O'Brien's mystery- mania about bicycles and their anthropocentric properties...O'Brien's a quare fellow whose comic gifts and cosmic concerns may attract a coteric readership

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Blog Critics

Below average
on Aug 09 2004

The Third Policeman also has the corniest, most affected, precious dialogue I've ever dry heaved my way through:

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Suite 101

Excellent
on Dec 16 2010

O'Brien utilizes his love of Irish language and people to color his landscapes. The peculiarities of many characters serve only to enliven the strangeness of their situations: freshly murdered men are suddenly alive again...

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Suite 101

Above average
on Jan 30 2010

Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman involves themes of time, death, and existence, but ultimately serves as a critique of science and knowledge.

Read Full Review of The Third Policeman

Digital Journal

Good
on Aug 03 2012

The novel is a subtle, wry, ironic and intelligent play with the art of storytelling, the nature of reality and our capacity to know and understand it; it is catholic in every sense of the word.

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Reader Rating for The Third Policeman
77%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 153 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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