Surrealpolitik: The Third Policeman

Author: Flann O'Brien

London: Picador (1974, first published in 1967)

Quick Summary

Flann O'Brien at his most surreal, and simultaneously his funniest and blackest work. This is the shit.


There are 14 quotes currently associated with this book.

I clambered through the opening and found myself, not at once in a room, but crawling along the deepest window-ledge I have ever seen. When I reached the floor and jumped noisily down upon it, the open window seemed very far away and much too small to have admitted me. (page 20)
Tags: [Surrealism, Literary/Poetic]
'There is one puzzle,' I remarked, 'that is hurting the back of my head and causing me a lot of curiosity. It is about the bicycle. I have never heard of detective-work as good as that being done before. Not only did you find the lost bicycle but you found all the clues as well. I find it is a great strain for me to believe what I see, and I am becoming afraid occasionally to look at some things in case they would have to be believed. What is the secret of your constabulary virtuosity?'

He laughed at my earnest inquiries and shook his head with great indulgence at my simplicity. (page 71)
Tags: [Truth & Real, Literary/Poetic]
'Atomics is a very intricate theorem and can be worked out with algebra but you would want to take it by degrees because you might spend the whole night proving a bit of it with rulers and cosines and similar other instruments and then at the wind-up not believe what you had proved at all. If that happened you would have to go back over it till you got a place where you could believe your own facts and figures as delineated from Hall and Knight's Algebra and then go on again from that particular place till you had the whole thing properly believed and not have bits of it half-believed or a doubt in your head hurting you like when you lose the stud of your shirt in bed.' (page 73)
Tags: [Surrealism & Politics, Truth & Real, Literary/Poetic]
Apparently there is no limit, Joe remarked. Anything can be said in this place and it will be true and will have to be believed. (page 74)
Tags: [Surrealism & Politics, Truth & Real, Disinformation, Literary/Poetic]
The scene was real and incontrovertible, and at variance with the talk of the Sergeant, but I knew that the Sergeant was talking the truth and if it was a question of taking my choice, it was possible that I would have to forego the reality of all the simple things my eyes were looking at. (page 75)
Tags: [Surrealism, Truth & Real, Rationality, Literary/Poetic]
'It is true,' he said, 'that you cannot commit a crime and that the right arm of the law cannot lay its finger on you irrespective of the degree of your criminality. Anything you do is a lie and nothing that happens to you is true.'

I nodded my agreement comfortably.

'For that reason alone,' said the Sergeant, 'we can take you and hang the life out of you and you are not hanged at all and there is no entry to be made in the death papers. The particular death you die is not even a death (which is an inferior phenomenon at the best) only an insanitary abstraction in the backyard, a piece of negative nullity neutralized and rendered void by asphyxiation and the fracture of the spinal string. If it is not a lie to say that you have been given the final hammer behind the barrack, equally it is true to say that nothing has happened to you.'

'You mean that because I have no name I cannot die and that you cannot be held answerable for death even if you kill me?'

'That is about the size of it,' said the Sergeant. (page 88)
Tags: [Politics & Novels, Truth & Real, Literary/Poetic]
The silence in the room was so unusually quiet that the beginning of it seemed rather loud when the utter stillness of the end of it had been encountered. (page 91-92)
Tags: [Humor, Literary/Poetic]
Every inch of my person gained weight with every second until the total burden on the bed was approximately five hundred thousand tons. This was evenly distributed on the four wooden legs of the bed, which had by now become an integral part of the universe. My eyelids, each weighting no less than four tons, slewed ponderously across my eyeballs. My narrow shins, itchier and more remote in their agony of relaxation, moved further away from me till my happy toes pressed closely on the bars. My position was completely horizontal, ponderous, absolute and incontrovertible. United with the bed I became momentous and planetary....Robbing me of the reassurance of my eyesight, [the night] was disintegrating my bodily personality into a flux of colour, smell, recollection, desire -- all the strange uncounted essences of terrestrial and spiritual existence. I was deprived of definition, position and magnitude and my significance was considerably diminished. (page 100-101)
Tags: [Surrealism, Literary/Poetic]
It was always there and MacCruiskeen is certain that it was there even before that. (page 107)
Tags: [Humor, Literary/Poetic]
Then what is up the lane?

I cannot say. If he said that eternity was up the lane and left it at that, I would not kick so hard. But when we are told that we are coming back from there in a lift -- well, I, begin to think that he is confusing night-clubs with heaven. A lift!

Surely, I argued, if we concede that eternity is up the lane, the question of the lift is a minor matter. That is a case for swallowing a horse and cart and straining at a flea.

No. I bar the lift. (page 109)
Tags: [Surrealism, Politics & Novels, Humor, Truth & Real, Rationality, Conspiracy, Disinformation, Literary/Poetic]
'It is here somewhere,' the Sergeant said, 'or beside a place somewhere near the next place adjacent.' (page 110)
Tags: [Surrealism, Humor, Rationality, Literary/Poetic]
I did not understand the significance of anything but I thought the scene was so real that much of my fear was groundless. I trod firmly beside the Sergeant, who was still real enough for anybody. (page 113)
Tags: [Surrealism, Truth & Real, Literary/Poetic]
My brain was like an ivy near where swallows fly. Thoughts were darting around me like a sky that was loud and dark with birds but none came into me or near enough. Forever in my ear was the click of heavy shutting doors, the whine of boughs trailing their loose leaves in a swift springing and the clang of hobnails on metal plates. (page 124)
Tags: [Surrealism, Literary/Poetic]
I swung round in amazement. Before me, almost blocking out the night, was an enormous policeman. He looked a policeman from his great size but I could see the dim sign of his buttons suspended straight before my face, tracing out the curvature of his great chest. His face was completely hidden in the dark and nothing was clear to me except his overbearing policemanship, his massive rearing of wide strengthy flesh, his domination and his unimpeachable reality. He dwelt upon my mind so strongly that I felt many times more submissive than afraid. (page 156)
Tags: [Surrealism & Politics, Truth & Real, Fascism, Literary/Poetic]