Flann O’Brien in Lost?

Flann O’Brien has been a firm favorite in Ireland for the many years since the eloquent man from Strabane (aka Briain Ó Nuallain, aka Myles na gCopaleen) died back in 1966. Now he’s been a big hit in the US since after a scriptwriter on the US TV series Lost, hinted that one its characters was reading O’Brien’s The Third Policeman had been chosen “very specifically for a reason”. The book is full of weird metaphysics, which more than once our brightest and best have put good secondary use in describing Northern Ireland (weird? metaphysics? how else to describe our political life!). More forensic detail from Blather, and thanks to Ciaran for the heads up!

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  • Grassy Noel

    Yeah this was in the RTE Guide at Xmas in their ‘What’s on TV in 2006’ section. For some reason I thought it was J.P. Donleavy whose work was going to feature. Anyway next week’s episode is cancelled because of the Oscars so everyone’s got 2 weeks (give or take) to rush out & read the book and try to guess the connection.

  • andy

    Given the ending the implication is fairly clear…. And is one I believe has been mooted before on fan forums.

    Unless the “specific reason” was to introduce a red herring.

  • I remember reading that it sold 15,000 copies in three weeks after it appeared in Lost. I read it way back and its a bit of a head wrecker. Suspect there’ll be a lot of people left scratching their heads.

  • missfitz

    They can then move on to At Swim Two Birds, which will really clear things up!

  • George

    Grassy Noel,
    the episode featuring the book already ran on February 20 on RTE2.

  • P Ring

    Good to see Flann O’Brien coming back into some kind of vogue. The Third Policeman and then At Swim Two Birds as well as An Beal Bocht and the other less lauded but still fantastically interesting and entertaining books, The Hard Life and The Dalkey Archive, were standard ‘cult’ choices when I were a lad. The Third Policeman, being published when it was (late ’60’s)was definitely one for the afficionados of hallucinogens and it is easy to see why.

  • Grassy Noel


    I’m fairly sure I saw that episode,it was a disappointing one if I remember… I must have missed something. What was the Flann O’Brien reference???

  • It wasn’t a reference as such. The book’s cover was apparently shown on screen for a second or two.

  • George

    Grassy Noel,
    it was the book lying open on the Scottish guy’s bed as he gathered up his stuff to leave the bunker. Only popped up for a millisecond. Sheesh I’m sounding like an anorak.

  • Haven’t seen “Lost” anything that gets people reading Flann O’Brien is a good thing.

    “The Dalkey Archive” which, I think, was published during the authors lifetime stole ideas from “The Third Policeman” but is still well worth a read if only for the the description of an underwater conversation with St. Augustine.

  • andy

    marginally interesting fact of the day:
    Sting owns the film rights to The Third Policeman

  • For anyone interested, there are a number of articles relating to Flann O’Brien on Blather.net:

    Flann on Blather.net

  • Jill Robinson

    Very overrated rated writer IMO. At Swim-Two Birds was good, but he went progressively down hill from there. Clearly a case of losing one too many brain cells to Mr. A. Guinness 🙂

    His contributions to the Irish Times were sometimes cringe-makingly awful.

    But all of the above is no excuse for the royalties on T.T.P. going to Sting. Like he needs the money.

  • Paddy Reilly

    As I recall, the < > was renamed < > in the far distant Amurikey. Which of these two titles appeared on the television programme? If the former, won’t that confuse the poor benighted Americans?

  • Paddy Reilly


    The last comment was by me, not Grassy Noel.


  • DK

    My favourite is “the poor mouth” – although in English as I can’t read Gaelic. The other two I agree with Jill that he is over-rated, although possibly ahead of his time.