“I am the world’s champion gawm.” – The Third Policeman
Brian O’Nolan, writing under the pseudonym of Flann O’Brien, penned The Third Policeman in 1940, but, failing to find a publisher for it, the book didn’t appear on shelves until after his death in 1966. The Third Policeman is a proto science-fiction novel of sorts. The story is set in rural Ireland and recounted by an unnamed narrator with a wooden leg and a fixation with a fictional scientist called de Selby.
The narrator commits murder in order to come into possession of a mysterious black box. Following his crime, he finds himself in a strange alternate reality in which he stumbles across a barracks. The policemen there concern themselves with resolving all manner of bicycle-related crime. Bicycles play an important role in the book and are used for comic effect on many occasions. One of the policemen even explains that certain members of the community have become part bicycle.
Flann O’Brien is a comic genius. His style and sense of humour are timeless. While in the process of reading The Third Policeman, I visited the new Books Upstairs store on Dublin’s D’Olier Street. It showcases a range of interesting literature and also has a splendid café with a huge bay window. Alongside being unable to recommend reading The Third Policeman enough, I would also encourage a visit to The 3rd Policeman shop in Rathmines for an eye feast of interesting curios.