Flann O'Brien: The Third Policeman

(2064 words)
  • Carol Taaffe (Trinity College Dublin )

The Third Policeman has a peculiar, and unfortunate, publication history. In January 1940, Brian O'Nolan (Flann O'Brien) submitted the manuscript to the publishers of his first novel, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939). At Swim was a critical success, but had failed commercially and Longman's were unhappy with the new novel, advising that: “he should become less fantastic and in this new novel he is more so”. More rejections followed. O'Nolan wrote despondently to William Saroyan in September 1940 that: “I got so sick looking at a ragged […] copy of that story I wrote about the policeman that I flew into a frenzy (the Sweeny kind), put it into a box with 2 short stories and sent the whole lot across the sea to Matson &…

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Taaffe, Carol. "The Third Policeman". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 20 September 2002
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=7924, accessed 01 December 2015.]