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2. The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien

Brian O'Nolan (Irish: Brian Ó Nualláin; 5 October 1911 – 1 April 1966), better known by his pen name Flann O'Brien, was an Irish novelist, playwright and satirist, considered a major figure in twentieth century Irish literature. Born in StrabaneCounty Tyrone, he is regarded as a key figure in modernist and postmodern literature. His English language novels, such as At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman, were written under the O’Brien pen name. His many satirical columns in The Irish Times and an Irish language novel An Béal Bocht were written under the name Myles na gCopaleen.

  • At Swim-Two-Birds (Longman Green & Co. 1939)

  • The Third Policeman (written 1939–1940, published posthumously by MacGibbon & Kee 1967)

  • An Béal Bocht (credited to Myles na gCopaleen, published by An Preas Náisiúnta 1941, translated by Patrick C. Power as The Poor Mouth 1973)

  • The Hard Life (MacGibbon & Kee 1961)

  • The Dalkey Archive (MacGibbon & Kee 1964)

  • Slattery's Sago Saga (seven chapters of an unfinished novel written circa 1964–1966, later published in the collections Stories and Plays, Hart-Davis, MacGibbon 1973, and The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien, Dalkey Archive Press 2013, edited by Neil Murphy & Keith Hopper.[48] It was also adapted as a play in 2010.[49]

Selected newspaper columns

The best known newspaper column by O’Brien, "Cruiskeen Lawn", appeared regularly in the Irish Times between 1940 and 1966. The column was initially credited to Myles na gCopaleen, but from late 1952 onwards it was published as by Myles na Gopaleen. Selections from this column have appeared in four collections:

  • The Best of Myles (MacGibbon & Kee 1968)

  • Further Cuttings from Cruiskeen Lawn (Hart-Davis, MacGibbon 1976)

  • The Hair of the Dogma (Hart-Davis 1977)

  • Flann O'Brien at War: Myles na gCopaleen 1940–1945 (Duckworth 1999); also published as At War.

O'Brien also wrote a column, "Bones of Contention", which appeared under the name George Knowall in The Nationalist and Leinster Times of Carlow between 1960 and 1966. Selections have been published as

  • Myles Away from Dublin (Granada 1985).

Other collections

  • A Bash in the Tunnel (O'Brien's essay on James Joyce with this title appears in this book edited by John Ryan, published by Clifton Books 1970, alongside essays by Patrick Kavanagh, Samuel Beckett, Ulick O'Connor and Edna O'Brien).

  • Stories and Plays (Hart-Davis, MacGibbon 1973), comprising Slattery’s Sago Saga, "The Martyr’s Crown", "John Duffy’s Brother", "Faustus Kelly" and "A Bash in the Tunnel"

  • The Various Lives of Keats and Chapman and The Brother, edited and introduced by Benedict Kiely, Hart-Davis, MacGibbon 1976

  • Myles Before Myles (Granada 1985), a selection of writings by Brian O’Nolan from the 1930s.

  • Rhapsody in St Stephen's Green (play, an adaptation of Pictures from the Insects' Life), (Lilliput Press 1994)[50]

  • The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien, edited by Neil Murphy & Keith Hopper (Dalkey Archive Press 2013), including "John Duffy’s Brother", "Drink and Time in Dublin" and "The Martyr’s Crown"

  • Plays & Teleplays, edited by Daniel Keith Jernigan, Dalkey Archive Press 


First Sentence: Not everybody knows how I killed old Phillip Mathers, smashing his jaw in with my spade; but first it is better to speak of my friendship with John Divney because it was he who first knocked old Mathers down by giving him a great blow in the neck with a special bicycle-pumo which he manufactured himself out of a hollow iron bar.


Last Sentence: "Is it about a bucyle?" he asked.


Cellular Sentence: "It seems a a very dificult sort of easiness," I answered.

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