One man wants to publish, so another must perish, in this darkly witty philosophical novel by “a spectacularly gifted comic writer” (Newsweek).
The Third Policeman follows a narrator who is obsessed with the work of a scientist and philosopher named de Selby (who believes that Earth is not round but sausage-shaped)—and has finally completed what he believes is the definitive text on the subject. But, broke and desperate for money to get his scholarly masterpiece published, he winds up committing robbery—and murder.
From here, this remarkably imaginative dark comedy proceeds into a world of riddles, contradictions, and questions about the nature of eternity as our narrator meets some policemen with an obsession of their own (specifically, bicycles), and engages in an extended conversation with his dead victim—and his own soul, which he nicknames Joe.
By the celebrated Irish author praised by James Joyce as “a real writer, with the true comic spirit,” The Third Policeman is an incomparable work of fiction.
“’Tis the odd joke of modern Irish literature—of the three novelists in its holy trinity, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Flann O’Brien, the easiest and most accessible of the lot is O’Brien. . . . Flann O’Brien was too much his own man, Ireland’s man, to speak in any but his own tongue.” —The Washington Post
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. This is a comic/surreal tale of a one-legged gentleman farmer who participates in a poorly planned botched robbery-turned-murder, only to find himself having a long conversation with the dead man shortly after the deed. In addition he hears from his own soul, who he names "Joe." Joe's voice is that of a wry observer with a voice of calm, removed authority, whereas dead man Mathers' voice is completely nasal, at once sickly and droll. Mathers sends the farmer to a two-dimensional barracks of three metaphysical policemen. Here he finds himself in a world where people can become bicycles and eternity is within walking distance. Norton's rendition of the main policeman, Sergeant Pluck, tips the reading into a full-out performance. The enormous blustery fellow with red cheeks and brushy mustache and eyebrows is portrayed like a jolly yet dangerous Disney walrus. Norton's Irish brogue, accentuated to different degrees with the various characters, ties the ribbon on a perfect presentation of this absurd and chilling masterpiece.