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About bicycles and murder most foul
on 31 December 2013
I found a lot of The Third Policeman esoteric,high falutin nonsense,subject to footnotes and theories of one De Selby,a philosopher and scientist,of whom the nameless narrator is an acolyte.Murder is an intimate theme, surrealistic conversation and conceptions of reality that lead the characters,John Divney,narrator,Joe,Old Mathers,the three policemen,Martin Finnucane,a right merry dance.Science is married to insanity in a pedantic, pedagogical exercise that destroys the laws of physics,theknown laws of the universe,creating altered states of reality,the soul and the afterlife,marrying Dosteyevsky and Alice in Wonderland. We are talking about hell and bicycles like you've never seen them before.In a strange way it is akin to treating the whole of reality and human life on earth as if it is subject to scientific theories or as treating the spiritual life as an experimental phenomenon to be tried and tested or repeated endlessly to prove an ultimate hypothesis.I suspect there was a reason that Brian O'Nolan didn't publish it in his lifetime(although he couldn't get itpublished):his fine Catholic conscience. Using a mangle of time with light at one end and sound at the other,the screams of Divney,the black box,omnium("is the essential inherent interior essence which is hidden inside the root of the kernel of everything"),can we wonder why? Was it the civil servant more civil than the devil?
I grew exasperated and impatient with its never-ending soliloquies of nonsense and its fine non sequitors,what policemen did with bicycles or carved boxes,whether a man is alive or dead or resurrected for the sake of the story.There were moments of comedy like when bicycles become like people or people become like bicycles, but it was overall not funny.Yet it was a marvellous work of imaginative fantasy.The characters didn't come alive for me,they were too much alchemical conceptions in the mind of their author.The murder is over too soon and the perpetrator revealed at the story's start.The narrator's guilt provides his only reality,the story immersed in a conception of hell which is at times macabre,frightening and grim.We are reading a novel of the dead,fixed and immovable,not celebrating characters who were ever alive.Flan O'Brien is like Banquo's ghost haunting the modernists Joyce and Beckett with his post-modernist musings.The bits that moved me most were when O'Brien is writing about nature,the landscape,the elements,the light in a way that recalled Knut Hamsun at his peak,showing what an accomplished,beautiful writer he was.