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The Third Policeman | [Flann O'Brien]

The Third Policeman

Flann O'Brien's most popular and surrealistic novel concerns an imaginary, hellish village police force and a local murder.

Weird, satirical, and very funny, its popularity has suddenly increased with the mention of the novel in the TV series Lost.

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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Jim Norton turns this wild post-modern romp into an accessible absurdist story that sounds as though it has been narrated by a studio full of talent. This modern classic can often make little sense when read, but Norton never misses a beat. While the story ranges from life to afterlife and everywhere in between, Norton keeps us grounded, entertained, and totally engrossed. You might've missed it in lit class, but don't let it roll by now. —Chris Doheny

Publisher's Summary

Flann O'Brien's most popular and surrealistic novel concerns an imaginary, hellish village police force and a local murder.

Weird, satirical, and very funny, its popularity has suddenly increased with the mention of the novel in the TV series Lost.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

© and (P)2007 Naxos Rights International

What the Critics Say

"His writing is invariably compared to those other Irish greats, Joyce and Beckett, but for me he is infinitely more accessible and much funnier." (Sue Arnold, The Guardian, UK)
"If ever a book was brought to life by a reading, it is this presentation of O'Brien's posthumously published classic. Norton individually crafts voices and personalities for each character in such a way that a listener might imagine an entire cast of voice talent working overtime....[He] ties the ribbon on a perfect presentation of this absurd and chilling masterpiece." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (291 )
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3.7 (141 )
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4.1 (141 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Amazon Customer 12-30-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Narrator extradinaire"

    This is a very funny story but the narrator makes it great. It is surreal so one must suspend logic to enjoy it.
    The skill and talent of Jim Norton is unbelievable. I would like to know if he is Irish or not. He has the accent down pat. His ability to interpret the various characters, and there are many weird and wonderful, is fantastic.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 03-01-15
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 03-01-15

    "... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hell is other people's bicycles."

    "Joe had been explaining things in the meantime. He said it was again the beginning of the unfinished, the re-discovery of the familiar, the re-experience of the already suffered, the fresh-forgetting of the unremembered. Hell goes round and round. In shape it is circular and by nature it is interminable, repetitive and very nearly unbearable."

    - O'Brien (omitted from the published novel)

    After finishing Flann O'Brien's dark masterpiece of absurdity, I wanted to jam a well-chewed copy of Joyce in one pocket, a copy of Sterne in the other, push a DFW in my back left pocket, put some dark strawberry jam in my back right pocket, turn left twice, exit into my tight little garage and immediately make sweet sweet love to the nearest bicycle available. No. Not yet. She's not ready, nor is my review. I'll pick up this peach tomorrow.

    So, it isn't tomorrow, but time and peaches are relative in purgatory. This is one of those books that is nearly impossible to review, but there is a space beyond impossible where letting go of this book exists. So, let's press forward shall we? The prose is amazing, funky; it floats and bursts from the page. Like Joyce and other Irish writers, O'Brien OWNs the English language (it is merely mortgaged to us mortals). Reading O'Brien is like watching one of those strange kids who can keep a soccer ball from ever hitting the ground. Gravity just doesn't matter. But let's bounce back to bikes and literature >

    So, Flann O'Brien's novel seems to exist in a strange purgatory between Sterne's 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman' and DFW's 'The Broom of the System'. It is full of digressions, wooden legs, bicycles, murder, policemen (obviously), footnotes*, and much much more. This is one of those novels where rules are murdered and post-modernism is both born and twisted. There are books that are written to be sold and novels written to be worshiped. Get on your knees fellow travelers and start praying.

    Norton's narration is brilliant. Seriously, BRILLIANT.

    *O'Brien was out DFWing DFW before DFW was born.

    20 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert JACKSONVILLE, FL, United States 02-18-09
    Robert JACKSONVILLE, FL, United States 02-18-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worth the Effort"

    It is hard to figure out where this book is going at times, however it has many comical parts and the narrator does a great job. It is written in the same style as Joseph Heller's Catch 22 and I would think that if you liked that book you would also like this one. The book might not make total sense until you finish it though.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 05-29-15
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 05-29-15 Member Since 2010

    Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Other Policeman's Ball"

    I recall that in the 90s there was a series of comedic/musical shows put on by Amnesty International and, at least originally, led by John Cleese (Monty Python), called "The Secret Policeman's Ball". I have no idea if this title inspired the name of those farcical, funny shows (which you can still find parts of on You Tube), but it could well have done.
    This book, often regarded as at the forefront of the Post Modernest movement in literature, has everything and nothing. It is full to the brim, yet empty of content. It is insightful about things that really are of no consequence. And it is very, very clever.
    However, it is not for everyone. It is very difficult to follow if you don't listen carefully. Example: my practice is to listen to books in the car to work and back; but not this book. It is too dense with detail and the devil is not only to be found there, but finding him/her is not enough. You then have to pour them a cup of tea and sup' with them for fear that you too will petrify over time, turn into a bicycle or come to admit understanding of something that is not capable of rational thought. Put another way, if you like "Catch 22", you will probably find this book illogical!
    I can't say I enjoyed the book. It was a bit too much like hard work. But I admire it immensely, I am astounded by its breath of literary allusion and I loved the Irish wit (what an Aussie might call, "taking the piss"!). The ludicrous footnotes to the works of de Selby are a good example of this.
    I agree with the other reviewers that Norton's reading is nothing short of brilliant.
    Finally, a reminder that, like all Naxos productions I have downloaded, there is a PDF that comes with the title. They are generally worth the effort to open up (from the My Books table on the Audible site) and that is true in this case, too.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily 01-03-15
    Emily 01-03-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Now that was a fine pancake"

    On another continent, Flann O'Brien could masquerade as John Kennedy Toole. Delightful wit. I can recommend it without any reservation.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harriet United Kingdom 12-31-14
    Harriet United Kingdom 12-31-14 Member Since 2012

    Retired dentist after 37 yrs & with strong artistic interests left intensive reading until my latter years and am having a ball!

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    "A leap of imagination! Actually pleasurable."

    Unusual humour which kept me listening on and off but could never discount it's originality which kept me listening even though I wasn't laughing! I genuinely liked this book . The narration was brilliantly done.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer LONDON, United Kingdom 05-18-10
    Amazon Customer LONDON, United Kingdom 05-18-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Rambling and funny"

    Flann O'Brien is an acquired taste but give him a chance - he's worth it.

    He has a free associative style of writing and sometimes you wonder where you're going and where you've been - but he's funny, very funny.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis ST Louis, MO, USA 08-16-08
    Dennis ST Louis, MO, USA 08-16-08
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    "Patience"

    Stick with it; this book is surprisingly good,funny very Irish

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Josephine West Hempstead, NY, United States 12-17-14
    Josephine West Hempstead, NY, United States 12-17-14 Member Since 2015
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    "I just didn't get it..."

    I am honest enough to say I didn't get this book and confident enough to admit that it was probably just me. I was able to follow the book, per say, meaning I knew what was going on, but the whole time I kept saying, "What?". I felt lost. Hey - that might have been the point though. The narrator was good - and really it was his soothing voice that kept me going. I kept waiting for something to happen. While tons did in fact happened, but they all left me thinking, "okay NOW it's going to make sense". That never happened. It is a well written book, but, well, just not my kind of book I suppose.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    zozo 08-23-14
    zozo 08-23-14
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    "Delightful but odd!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    There are a couple of my friends who am sure would enjoy the quirkiness of this novel.


    What other book might you compare The Third Policeman to and why?

    I really can't think of a book to compare it to.


    Have you listened to any of Jim Norton’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This is the only novel I have heard Jim Norton narrate but I would like to listen to him again.


    Any additional comments?

    The Third Policeman is a very strange story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was very well narrated by Jim Norton and it is a novel I can see myself listening to again and again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Neil
    Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom
    12/29/07
    Overall
    "On a Different Planet . . ."

    Many reviews have been written about this title elsewhere on the web, so there seems little point in going into granular detail of what it?s about here. Just visit them and I think you?ll get the general picture. As for my opinion of it ? to be honest I?m left in two minds. I started off loving it, then hated it and at the end couldn?t really decide whether I?d enjoyed it or not! Yes, without doubt it?s strange, immensely clever, original (almost a forerunner to Father Ted in some of the more comic elements - guessing a stranger?s name immediately springs to mind for those of you who are fans of the series) and contains some of the best writing I have ?listened to?. The narration is also first rate (yet another Father Ted connection here too).

    However, it could just be me but parts of this simply bored the pants off of me. I normally get through a lengthy (12 hours) audio book in a week or two but this one took me over a month and its just under seven hours long! The reason - well there?s only so much otherworldly ?nonsense? you can listen to and not let your thoughts drift off. If you let that happen then you loose the plot of course (not that I?m sure that really matters at times in this case) and have to 'rewind' or take a break from it.

    So ? should you get this? It?s difficult to say really. I think some will absolutely love it and others hate it. To be honest its complete rubbish but then again wonderful rubbish ? I?m not being very helpful here am I? Oh go on, if you want to try something different then give it a go and see how you feel at the end of it ? what?s a few quid eh? Now I know how it ends I may even have a re-listen to see how it all pieces together. How many audio books can you say that about? I think I must have liked it (probably)!

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Nigel Nicholson
    London England
    3/10/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Imaginative brilliance"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Third Policeman to be better than the print version?

    Jim Norton is the best reader of audiobooks bar none. His reading of Ulysses is a revelation - making the book readable to me for the first time, but this is also inspiring - and very very funny for O'Brien's tale is a wonderful demonstration of how to make a nonsensical and unfilmable plot into something tangible and compelling. It is a perfect demonstration of how the requirements of logic can appear to be suspended and yet still operating at a narrative level. Totally brilliant all round.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • John
    Lisbellaw, United Kingdom
    2/16/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A tricky man with a tricky pipe!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Third Policeman the most enjoyable?

    Wonderful language and beautifully pitched narration. Lovely use of odd descriptive terms


    What did you like best about this story?

    The use of language and the characters. Its not about the destination....its all about the journey


    Have you listened to any of Jim Norton’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    No


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Like the lovechild of Father Ted and The Guard on acid


    Any additional comments?

    Flann O'Brien wrote extensively in an Irish version of English. The odd grammar reflects elements of Irish sentence structure that helps imbue the language with extra absurdity. Its a shame that the influence of the Irish language will be superceded by the cocacolanistion of Ireland (and the UK) by the dominant American media culture

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • S Ounsworth
    brighton,
    11/8/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Terrific reading of a great book"
    Any additional comments?

    This is one of the two or three best audiobooks I've yet heard (Julian Rhind-Tutt's Master and Margarita and Anthony Heald's Crime and Punishment both being worth a mention as well.) I'd actually recommend this above just reading the book straight, because Jim Norton's command southern Irish accents and total understanding of the text bring out the humour in a way no voice in your head is likely to. Someone should drag this man bodily back into the studio and MAKE him record At Swim-Two-Birds.

    As for the book itself... well, it's possibly the weirdest book I know. Kind of Crime and Punishment meets Alice with a hint of Father Ted thrown into the mix. I think it's a (slightly flawed) masterpiece, others think it's a mess. But even if it doesn't hold together for you, it's probably still worth it just for some absolutely fabulous flights of the comic imagination.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sile
    Kent, England
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "An Oddity"

    As has been mentioned on another review, this book is not the usual fayre and thus has been received by many with mixed feelings.



    It's an odd read: strange happenings - a lot involving bicycles - in pursuit of ill gotten gains. Treachery abounds in a place populated by unusual souls. I kind of understood the main character's predicament and so there were no suprises in the ending for me.



    This version is well narrated, though I may have had the occasional quibble with pronunciation. There are footnotes in this book (be warned!) mostly relating to the work of a fictional scientist and philosopher, de Selby, which interrupt the storyline and I'm not sure how these contribute to the plot - really - but Mr Norton deals with these deftly.



    I'm not sure I could recommend this book; it certainly held my interest on long, boring commutes, but is that really a recommendation? I don't think I would intentionally sit down to read it; in fact, I've had a hard copy on my bookshelves for a few years now never having passed the first page. Still, the audio was pleasant, but it truly was an odd choice of material.



    If you want something weird, odd, strange and befuddling, this is the audio book for you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ken
    Congleton, Cheshire, United Kingdom
    2/25/11
    Overall
    "Not for me"

    Whilst I could see the whimsy aspect it became repetitive and ultimately boring.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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