The Third Policeman

A Novel

O'Brien, Flann

(Book - 1999)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Third Policeman
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 writings 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 discovered soul, named "Joe," he grapples with the riddles and contradictions that three eccentric policemen present to him.--From publisher's description.

Series that include this title

Publisher: Champaign [Ill.] : Dalkey Archive Press, 1999, c1967
Edition: Dalkey Archive ed
ISBN: 156478214X
Branch Call Number: FICTION OBRIEN 1999
Characteristics: 209 p. ;,22 cm


From Library Staff

O'Brien was heavily influenced by Joyce and takes experimentation and absurdity to new heights in this story of a scholar who imperils his soul with a violent act.

A would-be academic finds himself in a world where nothing is important except stolen bicycles. If the phrase "fake footnotes" makes you clap your hands with glee, this book is for you.

From the critics

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Dec 22, 2012
  • theorbys rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Quirky, comic, and labyrinthine, by an original and influential writer who is somewhat off the beaten path perhaps even cultic. I can not see comparing him to Beckett but that is hardly a criticism.

Dec 17, 2012
  • Cepros rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Flann O'Brien is a modernist Irish writer and is the least well known of the big three modernist Irish writers: James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Flann O'Brien. However, in my opinion, O'Brien is by far the best. The Third Policeman is about a man who, after committing a murder, ends up in a two dimensional police station in a town full of people obsessed with bicycles. On top of that, the main character's soul (whom the main character names Joe) starts to talk to him of its own volition. It is confusing, nonsensical, and has some interesting ideas: namely that the world is in the shape of a sausage and that there is actually only one direction. In short, The Third Policeman has all the elements of a great modernist novel, but it is more lighthearted and doesn't have an inflated sense of its own literary significance.


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