Thursday, October 05, 2006

Flann O'Brien

The following is from Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman. It's doing my head in. "Joe" is the name the narrator's given his own soul.

...I was deprived of definition, position and magnitude and my significance was considerably diminished. Lying there, I felt the weariness ebbing from me slowly, like a tide retiring over limitless sands. The feeling was so pleasurable and profound that I sighed again a long sound of happiness. Almost at once I heard another sigh and heard Joe murmuring some contented incoherency. His voice was near me, yet did not seem to come from the accustomed place within. I thought that he must be lying beside me in the bed and I kept my hands carefully at my sides in case I should accidentally touch him. I felt, for no reason, that his diminutive body would be horrible to the human touch--scaly or slimy like an eel or with a repelling roughness like a cat's tongue.
That's not very logical--or complimentary either, he said suddenly.
What isn't?
That about my body. Why scaly?
That's only my joke, I chuckled drowsily. I know you have no body. Except my own, perhaps.
But why scaly?
I don't know. How can I know why I think my thoughts?
By God I won't be called scaly.
His voice to my surprise had become shrill with petulance. Then he seemed to fill the world with resentment, not by speaking but by remaining silent after he had spoken.
Now, now, Joe, I murmured soothingly.
Because if you are looking for trouble you can have your bellyful, he snapped.
You have no body, Joe.
Then why do you say I have? And why scaly?
Here I had a strange idea not unworthy of de Selby. Why was Joe so disturbed at the suggestion that he had a body? What if he had a body? A body with another body inside it in turn, thousands of such bodies within each other like the skin of an onion, receding to some unimaginable ultimum? Was i in turn merely a link in a vast sequence of imponderable beings, the world I knew merely the interior of the being whose inner voice I myself was? Who or what was the core and what monster in what world was the final uncontained colossus? God? Nothing? Was I receiving these wild thoughts from Lower Down or were they brewing newly in me to be transmitted Higher Up?
From lower down, Joe barked.
Thank you.
I'm leaving.

It gets better from there. O'Brien couldn't find a publisher for this particular work when he was alive. I stand amazed in the presence...If anyone's read (or is looking to read) it. Me want to talk.

Check it,


Mike said...

just ordered it on amazon. will have in it about a week.

looking forward to the read based on your recommendation and what i have read about it.

if it is bad i hold you responsible.

just kidding.

but seriously.

mister tumnus said...

our trevor has read it, but i expect you know that already. this reminds me though, there is a book i want to recommend to sarah and i shall do so via the medium of 'blog' presently...

The Father said...

ah JDD glad you discovered Myles ...aka Flann ... he wrote under a few different names in ireland because he worked for the government.

I read that book many years ago - you would also enjoy the Dalkey Archives ...where nthe protagonists manage to meet up with John the Baptist amongst others in an underwater cave just south of Dublin .

Anyway will be in Nashvegas this time next week - look forward to breaking bread with you and the family then .....


jdaviddark said...

he's indeed amazing.
do lettuce know what you make of it, mike.
mr. tumnus (still cecking thy blog for the recommendation) and mark, i THINK trevor sez he found out about o'brien through ROY, of all people. oh the connections. i think i read it all a little more knowingly seeing as i know you guys and i done passed a li'l bit of me life over on your chunk of land.
anybody else dig the excerpt?
don't know my own heart, but i figure that wee passage would be enough to send me to the library. such a laugh.
any word on what joyce or beckett thought of the fellow?


mister tumnus said...

google says joyce said o'brien was 'a writer with the true comic spirit'.

will be posting the recommendation later today providing that my baby (who is, at this minute, walking around with a paper gift bag on her head) sleeps.

Trevor said...

there were some nice little gems from Flann in this article:

I do hope that you also try the Dalkey Archives when you get a chance. I just remembered that Joyce spends a lot of time denying that he wrote his own books in the one.

Dan Morehead said...

Sounds interesting.

Caleb said...

Hi David,
This is Caleb we hung out last night at the Bazan show, I was correct in my reccolection that I had a copy of TGATA in my house. I read it, in it's entirety last night when I got home at eleven thirty pm.

Well done, sir, well done.

The Haberdasher said...

The part where he goes to get the black box and runs into dead Mathers has got my head spinning. He seems to be asking if people in general are real. "but the eyes were horrible . Looking at them I got the feeling that they were not genuine eyes at all but mechanical dummies animated by electricity or the like. He goes on about how there is a smaller eye within the eye within another. Is there a real eye at all beneath those thousands of disguises. I tend to internalize questions. And I had to ask myself, "is this my real eye or some bionic faker." Of course not in those words but it makes the problem real. Then I could ask myself is this a real problem or a fake eye. So I can see the writers' or characters' trouble here. We have discovered perpetual motion Captain, or well perpetual questions maybe.

jdaviddark said...

So very glad to hear from you. I regretted you exiting the building (Dave Bazan show, sweet fellow-lurkers) before we got a chance to talk some more. Let me know when you're round our way again. OR consider coming out to DPC one of them Sundays. I'd like you to meet our peoples.
AND Haberdasher,
Who are you? WHO ARE YOU? I kind of wonder if you're brent cokenauer, but I don't think so. THIS inquiring mind wants to know.


Caleb said...

I absolutely will stop by sometime, the pleasure was all on this side of the table, I assure you.

Mike said...

ok. so i love this book. i had my doubts but he is irish so i gotta keep with my people...

but then i read the chapters where the policeman explains atomic theory and how people become bicycles.

now i am hooked.

i am a construction worker and now i have to wonder if i am not 25% hammer or 45% jackhammer? i am certain that my favorite set of pipe wrenches is like 35% human.

will finish it on the plane to boston tomarrow and would love to chat it up.

shoot me an email david if you are up for it:

The Haberdasher said...

Hello I have been having a hard time figuring what the point of the Sergeant's boxes were. I mean I could make some assumptions, but I have been sick of my own thoughts lately and I was wondering what other people thought. I think it was steinbeck who said that we only start approaching something like creativity through the imitation of others. View point is important yo.

sink sink socks said...

Caught, by gravy! ejaculated the driver, ehenutte ramona and, for the second time,he brought the coach to an abrupt stop.

Mike said...


i think there may be two answers to the boxes... first, the book is meant to be absurd like say, Candide and so it may be that there is no meaning - other than to set the main character at dis-ease at the seeming infinity of the boxes.


it could be a symbol of the whole dimension/place (we latter learn is hell) in that for the character hell is a continual looping of this absurd little adventure and the boxes repeating themselves ad nauseum is an internal marker of that part of the narrative.

that is my take on it.

Mike said...

it could also be a simbol of the box he was trying to rob from the old man.

the real question is what % of one's keyboard/desk chair we have become over the years.

is my keyboard more me than keyboard? is my chair more me than a chair? that would explain why my butt is flat and my chair smells like my butt.

The Haberdasher said...

Well in answer to that question I am one fifth guitar. My hair has slowy been taking on a metallic string quality. Bad hair day, you better really watch out these wayward split ends will put your eye right out. 2/5ths pillow and matress which might explain the loss of my rock hard abs (I WISH HA)! About a 1/10 movie 1/10 paper and a fifth synthesizer. All though the last one I am really working on changing, because I break into these interludes where I can only talk like a speak and spell. I t iS V eRy ch OP y anD R IdicU lous. It is a good question though, do our things define us, or vice versa. I will think about it yo. cheers

Mike said...

did anyone else find it interesting that hell for this guy was to be constantly at unease? the box, the policemen, the whole world he was in seemed to disturb him, to be anything but peaceful and all that in a constant loop.

yet, from a judeo/christian standpoint "heaven" might be thought of as shalom, as peace or wholeness that is infinite.

The Haberdasher said...

I agree, especially since the absence of God would invite an absolute numbness or unease. My soul hurts from just the slightest of infractions, like a migraine that will not go away, a high pitched frequency drilling my brain. The condition of the sinner or guilty man is pictured really well, but I have not finished the story yet. Soon though. Without God would there ever be ease? The Psalmist portrays good as his still waters. So yeah Shalom dude!

The Haberdasher said...

That last line is supposed to be God not good, what was I thinking!

Mike said...


i don't know if there would be ease but man i frickin hope so.

Ziomal said...

Very nice! I like it. critical thinking puzzles

Wasp Jerky said...

I've been meaning to pick a copy of this up for a while.

Incidentally, for those who are into Lost, I've heard the producers of the show crib from The Third Policeman a good bit.