Abstract

Symmetry: Culture and Science
Volume 28, Number 4, pages 373-382 (2017)
https://doi.org/10.26830/symmetry_2017_4_373

FRACTALS OF ‘THE WORLD OF THE DEAD – AND THE DAMNED’ IN THE THIRD POLICEMAN BY FLANN O’BRIEN

Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya

Philologist, writer, artist (b. Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, 1963)
Address: Russian New University, 22, ul. Radio, Moscow, 105005, Department of Humanitarian Technologies, Russia
E-mail: tbonch@gmail.com

Abstract: In a number of literary works written in the 20th century and long before, there are complicated formal structures. Some of these texts look chaotic and disordered, while some seem too structured and ordered like a labyrinth with many ways of reading and understanding of the text. To analyse these texts, it is possible to apply mathematical and physical concepts. I will study The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien using the fractal concept. In accordance with Mandelbrot’s definition of a fractal as a structure made of parts that are in some ways similar to the whole, I will focus on endless repetition and returns in this novel. The protagonist of The Third Policeman commits murder and soon finds himself in a carefully constructed hell, which is indistinguishable from an ordinary landscape, habituated by the characters indistinguishable from ordinary people. Flann O’Brien leads the reader to the understanding of his ‘the world of the dead – and the damned’ by introducing several quasi-endless sequences. In this privately designed hell, the torture occurs by multiplication of the objects and phenomena in variations and coincidences. The reader meets spatial, dimensional and temporal disturbances, as well as loss of memory and proper names, paradoxes of life-in-death and death-in-death. Here arises the concept of the Hegelian false infinity (die Schlecht-Unendliche) as repetition of similar and at the same unbearable, terrible events and phenomena, irresistible and attractive like abyss. The protagonist’s circular wandering would continue endlessly but never leads him into life again. In contrast to the illusions created by Georges Perec, this does not bring pleasure, just the same tremor in front of illusory world swirling around the protagonist, and these are two possible implementations of the fractal concept in literature.

Keywords: Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman, fractals, fractals in literature.