Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien

"I must have come back sufficiently from death to enter a healthy tiredness again for I did not hear the policeman coming out of the bedroom again and crossing the kitchen with his unbeholdable and brain-destroying bicycle."

Murder, mayhem, death, academia and bicycles make for a strange and fantastical journey in this at times almost incomprehensible novel. That is not to detract from the delight it may deliver.
There is something of the shaggy dog tale, a nod, a wink, an Irish lilt that will have you turning the pages and muttering to yourself repeatedly "what now... what is going on... Who's a bicycle"?

Having completed this while rather tired, I feel I need to re-read in one uninterrupted session to get a better perspective of the tale as a whole. I have read some reviewers who reference Laurence Stern's Tristram Shandy in the same breath and  they do share that comical, non-linear and completely absurd perspective - although I prefer Stern if truth be told.

Much of the novel is made up of footnotes detailing the works of De Selby - the subject of the narrator's fixation and his reason for committing murder. The unnamed narrator kills a man with the intention to rob adequate funds to finance the ultimate study of De Selby. A man (De Selby) who at times cannot tell the difference between genders, is obsessed with mirrors and walking backwards and whose reasoning is " difficult to get to grips with".

If this book were a song it would probably be a re-mix between the Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds , the Prodigy's Firestarter, with some traditional Irish refrain thrown in for good measure. There are moments that will make you laugh, do a double take and finally settle down and just enjoy a rather different experience.

4 out of 5 half human bicycles might get the odd puncture.

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