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The Third Policeman

The Third Policeman

Written by Flann O'Brien

Narrated by Jim Norton


The Third Policeman

Written by Flann O'Brien

Narrated by Jim Norton

ratings:
4/5 (55 ratings)
Length:
3 hours
Released:
Apr 1, 2009
ISBN:
9789629548544
Format:
Audiobook

Description

Flann O’Brien’s most popular and surrealistic novel concerns an imaginary, hellish village police force and a local murder. Weird, satirical, and very funny, it is read by Irish master reader Jim Norton.
Released:
Apr 1, 2009
ISBN:
9789629548544
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Flann O’Brien is a pseudonym for Brian O’Nolan (1911–1966), an Irish novelist, playwright, and satirist. Born in Strabane, County Tyrone, he is regarded as a key figure in postmodern literature. His English language novels, such as At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman, were written under the pen name Flann O’Brien. His many satirical columns in the Irish Times and an Irish language novel An Béal Bocht were written under the name Myles na gCopaleen. O’Nolan’s novels have attracted a wide following for their bizarre humor and modernist metafiction.  


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Reviews

What people think about The Third Policeman

3.8
55 ratings / 61 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    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).
  • (4/5)
    What a strange, abstract tale, beautifully crafted, but one I find impossible to describe. Was it clever or crazy? I'm still not sure of that, but the Irish wit was simply glorious. I was delighted to hear old Irish words that until now I've only heard my grandmother use. My copy is an audiobook with outstanding narration by Jim Norton.
  • (3/5)
    Very strange!
  • (4/5)
    Surreal, satirical funny tale
  • (3/5)
    Not what I expected. Very funny, made me laugh on numerous occasions.
  • (2/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    Supremely absurd, but brilliantly witty.
  • (1/5)
    I had to stop reading because I could not wrap my mind around this book. I feel like a terrible failure, especially when I see how excited everyone else seems to be.
  • (3/5)
    Interesting, infuriating, absurd, boring, intriguing. I didn't know what to make of this book.
  • (3/5)
    The book is absolutely absurd and therefore very funny.
  • (5/5)
    4 and a half stars. one of my favourite writers, and every once in a while it's time to reread this one. it's a very funny spoof of science, logic, academic writing, and metaphysics, chaotic but organized, elegant and playful. everyone should own it. though i warn you, it's gonna lead to reading a lot more of Brian O'Nolan's body of work in every pseudonym and style - even his hilarious and very pointed journalistic columns for the Irish Times read just the same. but also, this classic jumps every genre line (surrealistic sf? existential mystery? Lewis Carrollist discourse delivered in absurdist mode? an allegory about heaven and hell? okay, all of the above, and more, in the loose and unassuming structure of an Irish tall tale). but this read, i marvelled at how the narrative seamlessly describes quantum space, utilizing string theory, as it demonstrates the folding up of dimensions and peers at the possible contents of a Schrodinger's box - even though the book was written in 1940, and appears weightless in content and style, while it reads like a fever dream.
  • (4/5)
    I think this is my first Flan O'Brien. A weird story but surprisingly entertaining. Set in rural Ireland, its a tale of murder, bicycles, other dimensions. Those Irish can sure tell tall tales. The ending is great but giving it away would be a shame. "Is it about a bicycle?"
  • (5/5)
    In and out, in and out the window. Flann O'Brien weaves his surreal reality complete with bogus footnotes concerning the lunatic ramblings of a bird brained ontologist, people who turn into bicycles through prolonged contact, and bicycles who turn into people, a general obsession with bicycles, 2D police stations, a legion of one-legged vigilantes, miniature boxes whose contents drive one to madness, a murderer who may or may not meet the man he has murdered. Thoroughly insane, deeply darkly hilarious, this book is a must for readers who like their drollery tinged with nightmare, or conversely, like their nightmares tinged with drollery. If you think Poe and Dostoevsky are overlooked as humorist, you will probably think O'Brien is a scream. Though he is often compared to his compatriot and contemporary, Joyce, I see little likeness except for a taste for the random and absurd.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    Another great work from Flann O'Brien. Delightfully weird, though it all comes together in the end. And, as usual, hilarious. (If you're a fan of _Lost_ you may already know that a character on the show was shown reading this book at one point, for a second or less. It's fun to read this book with that in mind as well. Almost certainly true that the readers/creators of that show had read this book before they even started. Lots of interesting resonances.)
  • (4/5)
    A genuinely funny and odd novel, that may have been dampened/spoiled by O'Brien's note at the end, which gives away the ending and kills the suspense of the last 30 pages. DO NOT FLIP TO THE END OF THE BOOK! I like reading all the notes at the end of these fancy editions, but usually they don't contain spoilers.

    A hilariously metaphysical comedy riffing on the nature of subjectivity and the everything-goes world of atomic relativity. O'Brien applies this weird version of Reality in a good satire of society---the police continually trying to 'control' the world, even when it is only themselves causing the chaos.

    The end of the book did lag, but overall a very good read.
  • (5/5)
    Bizarrely good. An aura of strangeness tinged the first few pages, and then it intensified, and then there was a surreal tumble down the rabbit hole into a very curious world. A place where "...the trees were active where they stood." You need to "use your internal imagination".
    Descriptions and events and expounded philosophies sort of made a weak and tenuous sense. The edge of sense. Until you realise it was making no sense at all and you were lost again. But then another promising thread of logic is offered and eagerly grasped. It only takes you deeper.

    Some of the incidental descriptions of the land, the surroundings, were beautiful. "The dawn was contagious, spreading rapidly about the heavens. Birds were stirring and the great kingly trees were being pleasingly interfered with by the first breezes."
    "The road...ran away westwards in the mist of the early morning, running cunningly through the little hills and going to some trouble to visit tiny towns which were not, strictly speaking, on its way."
    Time and space are interchangeable. "... he led the way heavily into the middle of the morning." This is not logical, yet it makes sense.
    Inanimate things don't become animated but they do assume a different essence, all explainable by the Atomic Theory. Which again made a weird sort of illogical sense.
    "...you would know how certain the sureness of certainty is"

    A delightful, bendy-mind kind of book that will take your brain out for a run, and then won't return it to the same spot.
  • (4/5)
    On audiobook. Wierd and wonderful
  • (5/5)
    I rarely say that once I pick up a certain book, I can't put it down because the phrase is often hyperbole, but in the case of The Third Policeman, I actually found myself trying to read as much as possible in order to continue through the story. O'Brien's dry wit matched with social criticism mixed to create a brilliant and absurd masterpiece. The protagonist isn't necessarily likeable, but that's okay because his soul, Joe, makes up for what his host lacks. I don't think I will ever look at bicycles the same way again and not since Ulysses has a book of mine been filled with so many marginal notes. O'Brien wasn't shying away from experimentation which is at its best in the footnotes. It's easy to disagree with O'Brien when he proclaimed the only good thing about this novel is its plot. He has done things within these pages which Western readers think of as commonplace today and he's done them masterfully and to his own degree of absurd perfection. I would love to teach this in a course on either Anglo-Irish Literature or Absurdist Literature. It's brilliant.
  • (4/5)
    Pay attention now. In order to enjoy this book, you must mix equal parts of:

    Kafka

    Borges

    Douglas Adams

    LSD

    Stir carefully. If your head hurts, put it down for a while and take an aspirin. Other than that, it's brilliant. Just brilliant.
  • (4/5)
    Hilarious and absurd and surreal and beautifully strange. Great writing, great characters, great setting. I was disappointed to find that I didn't understand everything and it had to be explained in an author's note at the end.
  • (1/5)
    Man, call me a philistine, but I don't know what the hell just happened!
  • (4/5)
    Overflowing with fine comic writing. It gets highly psychedelic at times. Something of a fusion of Kafka, Beckett and Alice in Wonderland.



    Pretty much the most plausible version of Hell I've read.
  • (4/5)
    it was worth a second round.
  • (5/5)
    A man of dubious morals and a wooden leg is convinced to join a robbery, which turns into a murder. He returns to the victim's house years later to recover a stolen cash box, and finds the victim, seemingly alive, in the house. Things get much stranger after that, involving two-dimensional police barracks, half-human bicycles, and a place where time does not go forward.This is the most bizarre book I have ever read. Everything is very funny at first, and then without fail goes to a very weird place. There are a series of references and footnotes about a nonexistent scientist named De Selby, who is completely wrong about everything, and whose ideas are being kept alive by a series of commentators. The execution is hilarious — All of De Selby's theories are complete nonsense, and the commentators explain them as lapses in judgement of the otherwise profound thinker. For example, De Selby thinks night is caused by 'black air.' All of this is very funny, enough so that the footnotes about De Selby that span many pages just add to the comedy. And then they start getting weird — the last few footnotes assert that De Selby couldn't tell the difference between men and women, and then imply that most of the commentators are in fact the same mentally unbalanced person publishing under different names. Which, if wikipedia is to be believed, is taken directly from the author's own life ("He allegedly would write letters to the Editor of The Irish Times complaining about his own articles published in that newspaper").On balance, it's a brilliant novel: I have read few things that are as funny, as horrible, as uncomfortable. And certainly nothing that was all three.
  • (4/5)
    I had figured out this was in the vein of Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, or The Man Who Was Thursday, but the ending was even neater than I anticipated. A fabulous piece of absurdism, both funny and unsettling, told in a dry and elliptical tone in a distinctly roundabout Irish way.
  • (4/5)
    I was originally attracted to this book after it was featured in an episode of Lost, where Jacob was reading it as J Locke was thrown out the window by his father. It took me a while to track down a copy of the book, and a while longer before I actually read it. The only other Irish author or book that I had read was Joyce's "Portrait of a Young Man..". I found the book quite readable, and would have been even more so had I skipped the footnotes. The plot was fairly easy to follow, as much as I understood. The quirky concepts like the sausage universe and the bicycle personification were quite entertaining. The copy that I read had some footnotes in it, which helped me to understand some parts. I still really don't understand the entire bicycle concept, but it will prob make more sense if I ever read it again. Bicycles were very common back when the story was originally written, and prob had a definitive role in life in Ireland at that time. I thought the representation of eternity was good also.
  • (4/5)
    The initially peculiar writing style, which put me in mind of Magnus Mills, grew on me to become a flashback of listening in as a child to Irish adult conversations not quite understanding but feeling strangely comforted in alienation. By the time a character used the word gawm to describe himself O'Brien had already drawn me deep into the colloquialism. This is an exaggerated world of a band of wooden legged men and half man half bicycle policemen, and yet there is a straightforward robbery and murder plot underpinning the strangeness. The story has moments of horror, comedy, and tenderness, and segments which exercise the mind with intriguing possibilities of what lies beyond our wordly perceptions of normality. The plot leaves plenty of scope to wander and wonder ahead the various twists and turns. The dreamlike quality of the narrative reflects a stream of unconciousness which becomes clear in a beautifully crafted finale. The book contains numerous footnotes which are undoubtedly clever in their seemingly important referencing of the works and experiences of a fictitious physician and intellectual, though at times these become a tediously distracting sideshow whilst allowing the author to run a parallel story written with a completely different style of prose.The Third Policeman is throughly entertaining work best read in your favoured rural Irish dialect.
  • (5/5)
    In this surreal and absurdist novel, a one-legged gentleman farmer is easily swayed into concocting the murder of a man believed to have a black box full of money. His partner in crime, the loathsome Divney, refuses to reveal the whereabouts of the black box for several years, ostensibly to avoid discovery. This forces the farmer to spend every waking moment in Diveny's shadow, for fear that he'll recover the box without sharing its contents. When the location of the box is finally revealed, the farmer goes off to retrieve it and discovers that old man Mathers, the man who was supposedly murdered, is actually alive and well. Trying to concoct another way of separating the box from his owner, the farmer devises a plan to go down to the police station to fill out a false theft report, only to discover that a world of strangeness and unpredictability awaits him. As the policemen revolve around him in nonsensical circles, the farmer discovers a secret plot involving the melding of bicycles and men (!!) that threatens to take over the countryside. He also learns that these seemingly benign men have the secret keys to eternity and the ability to create fabulous and wonderful inventions that defy the mind's capability to perceive them. Though puzzled by what the policeman present to him, he soon discovers he's in serious danger and his only hope for survival is a congregation of wandering one-legged men and a strangely female bicycle. Both uproariously funny and puzzlingly sinister, this work of comic genius written by Flan O'Brien was published posthumously in the 60's and is still as representative of the enigmas of life today as it was back then.A few months ago I was at a party and met a wonderful girl by the name of Melissa who's studying literature in college. We got into a deep conversation about books and she told me she was taking a literature course based on the books that have appeared in the television series Lost. I was greatly intrigued by this class and wondered aloud why there were no classes like this when I was in college. As she was describing some of the books she was reading, she began to get very animated about this particular book. From what she told me, it sounded like a trip and a half, and like something that I just couldn't pass up. When she got to the part about the relationship between bicycles and humans, I knew I was going to read this book and it was going to be fantastic. I wasn't disappointed in the least and I can only assume that Flan O'Brien was a genius, not only in the way he creates this particular story but in its off-the-wall narration. It was one hell of a weird ride, but I must confess it made my top book of the year, which says a lot considering I've read some pretty good stuff.This book is told through a deceptively simple style of prose. Though we know that the gentleman farmer is up to no good and is, in effect, a murderer, I couldn't help but get invested in his tale and come to feel for the man. When he finally goes to retrieve the black box from its hidden location, old man Mathers has some seriously disturbing and puzzling news for him. It's not very clear just what this news means, but the farmer is not only flummoxed and enraged, he's also scared and sets out to find a way to separate this box from its owner. The first sections of this book differed from all the rest in that most of it was easily comprehensible. Farmer, box and old man were eerily interpreted but pretty straightforward. Had this book continued on in this vein, it wouldn't have been anything to write home about. Luckily for me, the book picked up a lot of steam and became increasingly bizarre and funny as soon as the farmer stepped inside the police station.As the farmer arrives at the station house, he realizes that its dimensions and attributes are physically impossible. This troubles him greatly and he begins to think that coming to the station to fill out a lost item form may have been a bad idea. He has no idea what's in store for him when he finally meets the first two policeman. These policeman are inordinately consumed with bicycles and question the man endlessly about them, a fact that the man doesn't understand at all. When a strange gentleman comes into the station and admits that his bicycle has been stolen again, the police mount a search for the missing bike and our perplexed farmer finds out that in this strange place, bicycles are a thing of intentional menace and danger. This confuses him and the reader shares his feelings of confusion and foreboding, knowing that there is much about the bicycles that we just cannot know. It's also very comical that there is so much malice and weirdness associated with the bicycles, and a lot of this story is utterly absurd and nonsensical. It's all a whirlwind of comic perplexity, and as such, the only thing I could do was let it wash over me with a sense of ludicrous wonder.Meeting the second policeman puts the farmer at a greater sense of unease, for the man is an inventor of the highest order but his inventions make absolutely no sense in any way that inventions should. One example is the finely crafted box. This box is about palm-sized and is beautifully inlaid with intricate carvings and gold. As the farmer examines the box, he comes to discover that this box hold two hundred identical boxes of the same quality, each small enough to fit inside the other. The smallest box is so tiny that the naked eye cannot discern it, and this, in addition to all the other wild inventions, has a frightening effect on the farmer. As more and more inventions are introduced to the farmer, he becomes increasingly more afraid for reasons the reader can't understand, and decides that he will no longer speak to the second policeman for fear of what may happen to him. Some of these inventions are amazingly bizarre and mystifying and others are silly and nonsensical. The reaction of the farmer is one that confuses the reader and it's not until the end of the book that we understand why.When the policeman reveal their knowledge of the farmer's misdeed, they decide to build a gallows and hang him. Despite the fact that they have shown him their fabulous inventions and the secrets of eternity, they must punish him for his crime, and set off to get things prepared. This is when the farmer remembers the deal he struck with the leader of a strange band of one legged men, and he calls to him for help. When a female bicycle comes to his aid, the farmer escapes to the hovel of the third policeman and learns the truth about all he has seen and heard. This third policeman is off the grid and is operating under the guise of secrecy. He reveals the real secret of eternity that is hidden to all but him and he shares all his secrets with the farmer. Now the farmer is deathly afraid and goes to seek out old Divney for help. But when he reaches Divney, things become frighteningly clear to him and the farmer realizes just what has happened to him and why he's trapped in this absurd and strange conundrum. All of this sounds menacing but it's also comically brilliant and unlike anything I've ever read before.I know my review of this book doesn't do it justice, and frankly, I doubt if any review ever could. It was a strange amalgam of farce, satire and horror, and told a fantastical tale that kept me flipping pages to see what O'Brien would come up with next. Nothing was predictable or ordinary, and even the hidden nuances of the book were strangely surreal and wildly funny. A lot will probably never make sense to me, and in a way it reminded me a lot of Alice's time in Wonderland. It had the same feel of crafty nonsensicalness and was full of amazing and unorthodox components that made the whole wildly atypical and divergent from anything I have ever read before. If you're in the mood for something strange that will knock your socks off, this is the book for you! It's a book I will be pondering over for a long time.