Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
[Long review:] “Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules repeated without end,” said the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot. This very enjoyable comic novel reveals that, when irreverently applied to science and metaphysics, this observation could just as easily read “bottomless absurdities” or “bottomless horrors” (mind you, Mandelbrot’s fractal theory ‘proves’ that the coastline of any island is infinitely long, which is at once absurd, horrible and true). Falling somewhere in the triangle between Alice in Wonderland, Waiting for Godot and The Exploits and Opinions of Dr Faustroll, ‘Pataphysician, The Third Policeman tells of a chain of events triggered by a murder committed by the narrator (a scholar of the eccentric philosopher de Selby), his visit to a rural police station in a strangely altered bucolic Ireland, and his encounter with two singular policemen who introduce him to such wonders as a spear so sharp it draws blood some distance beyond its visible point, the base substance omnium that is manifest in any form, and an atomic theory that explains the slow transformation of humans into bicycles (and vice-versa) due to rough roads insufficiently maintained by the County Council. All of this (not to mention the crazed inventiveness of Sergeant Pluck’s diction) is a lot of fun if having the rug whipped out from under your feet only to discover that there is no floor beneath is your idea of fun. I have been haunted for years by the scene in which Policeman MacCruiskeen pulls out smaller and smaller boxes from inside each other far into the infravisible, and works on crafting a yet smaller box only to lose it on the floor and have it found by chance by a character named Gilhaney who was only pretending to find it.

[Short review:] It's about a bicycle.

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