The Third Policeman

A.L. Kennedy - Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman (1967)

I would heartily recommend The Third Policeman - it's a work of genuine genius. O'Brien mingles a morality tale with a psychological thriller, fantasy, SciFi and comedy in a piece that is entirely unified in its diction, its world and narrative drive. From a squalid greedy murder, through a haunting and on into what is quite possibly hell, we journey with our increasingly anguished and bewildered protagonist. Riders and bicycles exchange atoms, complex machines control the weather, inexorable policemen plod on loaded with justice and guilt is everywhere. I read it every few years and probably always will - it's a masterclass in all the novel can achieve and all the unlooked for bounty for which a reader might hope. Written in 1939/40 it was rejected for publication during his lifetime and only emerged in 1967 - a mark of how groundbreaking it really was and a tragedy for O'Brien.

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