The Third Policeman

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This isn’t exactly what I’d call a book review of The Third Policeman, by Flann O’Brien. Maybe it is more of a teaser. Or more simply and directly, it is a quote followed by a few personal impressions. The story is so unique that I’ll leave it to the reader to do his own research before deciding to read it.

I knew that I liked this bicycle more than I had ever liked any other bicycle, better even than I had liked some people with two legs. I liked her unassuming competence, her docility, the simple dignity of her quiet way. She now seemed to rest beneath my friendly eyes like a tame fowl which will crouch submissively, awaiting with out-hunched wings the caressing hand. Her saddle seemed to spread invitingly into the most enchanting of all seats while her two handlebars, floating finely with the wild grace of alighting wings, beckoned to me to lend my mastery for free and joyful journeyings, the lightest of light running in the company of the swift ground-winds to safe havens far away, the whir of the true front wheel in my ear as it spun perfectly beneath my clear eye and the strong fine back wheel with unadmired industry raising gentle dust on the dry roads. How desirable her seat was, how charming the invitation of her slim encircling handle-arms, how unaccountably compentent and reassuring her pump resting warmly against her rear thigh!


To me, this book is complex, humorous, strange, and over-the-top. I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it, but I wouldn’t recommend against it. I enjoyed indeed several passages in which the author goes into poetically descriptive mode, as in the quote above. Even though I’ve chosen an excerpt about a bicycle, and bicycles are a key prop for the story, the story is about something else entirely.

6 thoughts on “The Third Policeman

  1. I put this on my reading list after reading her review and even then I had some doubts. Now I’m doubly unsure…I hate getting invested in a book that I ultimately don’t like.

  2. I especially like that bit about how much atomic structure has been exchanged between bike and rider. Some excellent scenes in this book, just hard to fit together a narrative at times. (Given the unfortunate circumstances). A challenging read.

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