The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
The Third Policeman (Amazon.com)
The Third Policeman (Amazon.co.uk)
The Third Policeman (Powell's Books - new or secondhand)
'Within the boundaries of this novel the reader will find: a murder thriller; a 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.'
When I was in my mid-teens, I discovered a copy of *The Third Policeman* in my local library. Nothing was *ever* the same again. Written in 1939, but not published until after the author's death, it's a book that threatens to defy the dimensions of it's own pages. Sub plots and wild theories run through almost independent footnotes, introducing De Selby, the scientist who believed that night was but an accumulation of 'black sooty substances' in the atmosphere, and that travel was an illusion.
In the main text, our De Selby-obsessed narrator is pulled backwards through an Irish rural version of Dante's inferno - a place where policemen steal bicycles to combat the effects of atomic theory, yet a man is accused of acting suspiciously for merely not having a bicycle. One friend of mine couldn't look at a bicycle the same way for months after reading this book.
The Third Policeman is a frightening, hilarious book that will survive many readings - it may be a slim volume, but it has hidden depths.
barry at November 1, 2005 6:59 PM
The Third Policeman and the TV show Lost
Our own Flann O'Brien 'No Bicycle' page.