LBC - The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien

Thethirdpoliceman LOST Book Club - LBC


The Third Policeman is a novel by Irish author Brian O'Nolan, writing under the pseudonym Flann O'Brien. It was written between 1939 and 1940, but after it initially failed to find a publisher, the author withdrew the manuscript from circulation and claimed he had lost it. At the time of his death in 1966, the book was still unpublished. It was finally published in 1967 by McGibbon & Kee.

This story is set in rural Ireland and is narrated by a dedicated amateur scholar of De Selby, a scientist and philosopher. The narrator, whose name we never learn, is orphaned at a young age. At boarding school, he discovers the work of de Selby and becomes a fanatically dedicated student of it. One night he breaks his leg under mysterious circumstances – "if you like, it was broken for me" – and he is ultimately fitted with a wooden leg to replace the original one. On returning to his family home, he meets and befriends John Divney who is in charge of the family farm and pub. Over the next few years, the narrator devotes himself to the study of de Selby's work and leaves Divney to run the family business.

LOST References

  • The writers of LOST have specifically referenced this book as providing "ammunition" which may aid with interpretation of the show's plot.
  • LOST writer Craig Wright claims he is the one who had the idea to insert The Third Policeman into LOST. He says the book was chosen very specifically for a reason.
  • Desmond appears to be reading The Third Policeman when the Hatch is finally infiltrated by the mid-section survivors at the start of Season 2.

The Author

Flann O'Brien was an Irish novelist and political commentator. Born in County Tyrone, and raised in Dublin, he entered the Irish civil service in 1937 and formally retired in 1953. From 1940 until his death, he wrote a political column called "Cruiskeen Lawn" for The Irish Times under the pseudonym of Myles na Gopaleen; his biting, satiric commentaries made him the conscience of the Irish government. As Flann O'Brien, he published three novels, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939, rep. 1960), The Dalkey Archive (1964), and The Third Policeman (1967). He also published a play, Faustus Kelly (1943).

See Also - LBC - LOST Book Club Authors


It was as if the daylight had changed with unnatural suddenness, as if the temperature of the evening had altered greatly in an instant or as if the air had become twice as rare or twice as dense as it had been in the winking of an eye; perhaps all of these and other things happened together for all my senses were bewildered all at once and could give me no explanation.

It looked as if it were painted like an advertisement on a board on the roadside and indeed very poorly painted. It looked completely false and unconvincing.

--The Narrator at various points in The Third Policeman

The particular death you die is not even a death (which is an inferior phenomenon at best) only an insanitary abstraction in the backyard...

Is it about a Bicycle?

--Sargent Pluck at various points in The Third Policeman

The Characters

The Narrator

John Divney


Phillip Mathers

Discussion Points

  • What is unique about the setting of the story?
Does this setting enhance or take away from the story?
  • What specific themes are discovered throughout the story?
Do you see any themes also relating to the story of LOST?
What is the message conveyed by the story themes?
  • Do the characters seem real and believable?
Which characters remind you of similar characters in LOST?
Are their predicaments similar to any in LOST?
  • How do characters change or evolve in the story?
What triggers those changes?
What are the similarities and differences with LOST characters?
How are they the same/different from LOST's philosophical views?
  • Do you see any metaphors or symbolism in the characters, themes, philosophy, or setting of this book?
How are they similar or different to metaphors/symbolism in LOST?
  • Why were the creators and writers of LOST inspired by this book?

Discussion Guidelines

  • Keep the discussion related to the specific book and related LOST content.
  • Be specific and provide examples to back up your point of view.
  • To make the discussion more interesting, feel free to ask your own questions.
  • Please be considerate of all points of view.
  • Encourage participation.

Happy Reading and Thanks!

--Just Sayin' JSTalk LBC LBCTalk eMail 08:28, August 23, 2010 (UTC)

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