Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Third Policeman

Title: The Third Policeman

Author: Flann O’Brien

Number of pages: 240

Started: 13 February 2011

Finished: 20 February 2011

Opening words:

Not everybody knows how I killed old Phillip Mathers, smashing his jaw in with my spade; but first it is better to speak of my friendship with John Divney because it was he who first knocked old Mathers down by giving him a great blow in the neck with a special bicycle-pump which he manufactured himself out of a hollow iron bar. Divney was a strong civil man but he was lazy and idle-minded. He was personally responsible for the while idea in the first place. It was he who told me to bring a spade. He was the one who gave the orders on the occasion and also the explanations when they were called for.

Plot summary:

A thriller, a hilarious comic satire about an archetypal village police force, a surrealistic vision of eternity, the story of a tender, brief, unrequited love affair between a man and his bicycle, and a chilling fable of unending guilt, 'The Third Policeman' is comparable only to 'Alice in Wonderland' as an allegory of the absurd. Distinguished by endless comic invention and its delicate balancing of logic and fantasy, 'The Third Policeman' is unique in the English language.

What I thought:

This was a very strange book. It started well, but then went off into the realms of bicycle worship. I guess the clues were there with the author being compared to James Joyce, but the book was certainly one of the odder books that I have read, and, for me, not in a good way.

This book was only published posthumously because it was turned down by the publisher. I have to say that if they made that decision based on the likely mass appeal of the book, I can see why. A strange read and not one that I would highly recommend.

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