This week, 8th – 14th March we were challenged to read Classic Irish Novels. Well, I think this is a classic, I read The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien.
The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien
Published February 2006 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1967)
4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I honestly don’t know what to say about this book. It was one of the strangest ones I have read. Did I enjoy it? Yes, most of it. Am I glad I read it? Yes. Did I understand it? Not completely. I will say that this book was written in 1940 and I think Flann O’Brien was ahead of his time. It was published posthumously in 1967. The story is told by a narrator, who was orphaned at a young age. He attended a boarding school where he became an amateur scholar of de Selby, a scientist and philosopher. He commits a botched robbery and brutal murder with a friend, John Divney who is in charge of the family farm and pub, and is then in an explosion where he loses his memory. He meets up with several characters, including heading off to a police station where he meets a policeman who insists he doesn’t exist if he can’t remember who he is. This book is full of satire, humour, and quotes that will make you scratch your head and think. This book is equated to Alice in Wonderland in a couple of reviews and I agree. There is a lot of strange happenings. I recommend you read this one, it is relatively short, but don’t read it after a few drinks or nibbles because you might not know where you have ended up.
About the Book (From Goodreads): 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.
About the Author: Pseudonym of Brian Ó Nualláin , also known as Brian O’Nolan.
His English novels appeared under the name of Flann O’Brien, while his great Irish novel and his newspaper column (which appeared from 1940 to 1966) were signed Myles na gCopaleen or Myles na Gopaleen – the second being a phonetic rendering of the first. One of twelve brothers and sisters, he was born in 1911 in Strabane, County Tyrone, into an Irish-speaking family. His father had learned Irish while a young man during the Gaelic revival the son was later to mock. O’Brien’s childhood has been described as happy, though somewhat insular, as the language spoken at home was not that spoken by their neighbours. The Irish language had long been in decline, and Strabane was not in an Irish-speaking part of the country. The family moved frequently during O’Brien’s childhood, finally settling in Dublin in 1925. Four years later O’Brien took up study in University College Dublin.
Flann O’Brien is considered a major figure in twentieth century Irish literature. Flann O’Brien novels have attracted a wide following for their bizarre humour and Modernist metafiction. The café and shop of Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich (www.culturlann.ie), at the heart of the Belfast Gaeltacht Quarter, is named An Ceathrú Póilí (“The Fourth Policeman”), as a play-on-words of the title of O’Brien’s book The Third Policeman.