The Third Policeman—Flann O'Brien, which is a pseudonym for Brian O'Nolan—wrote that "Hell goes round and round. In shape it is circular and by nature it is interminable, repetitive and very nearly unbearable." It's a poignant statement made all the more so because his book so perfectly captured what hell must feel like. I found reading The Third Policeman to be a particularly unpleasant experience. After discussing it with my wife for a few minutes she posited that maybe that was exactly the point of the book, which I don't dispute. It very well could have been; therefore, I suppose on some levels The Third Policeman is successful as a book, but on so many other levels it's a book I would gladly forget.
The Third Policeman begins off-kilter and gets stranger and stranger with each turn of the page. I want to emphasize that the strangeness of the narrative was not the problem. Rather, the seeming aimlessness of it all definitely was. To quote a line from the book: "Your talk is surely the handiwork of wisdom because not one word of it do I understand." Or is it? The book is so surreal it feels silly and vapid. Although much of the book is intended to be humorous, I laughed very little and was entertained even less. I recognize any book dabbling in ideas regarding reality and fiction has a difficult storytelling job, and I'm not opposed to surrealism and fantasy on the face of it, but The Third Policeman left me totally annoyed and aggravated.
It's obvious at this point that I don't have much to recommend The Third Policeman. I will admit that some of the humor was effective and the prose was anything but elementary. The metaphysical point is made, I guess, but when the point is pointless, then why should I care? It's not as deeply depressing as an Albert Camus book, but I have as much interest in reading another O'Nolan book as I do a Camus one.
There probably isn't much more for me to say about The Third Policeman. I didn't like it. It could potentially spark some worthy conversation, but those sparks could probably be found from much better sources.
Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Reflections: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Memorable Moments: The Illustrated Man - 'Make a wish! Make a wish!'