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Posted from Wikipedia - 06/22/10

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare is a novel by G. K. Chesterton, first published in 1908. The book is sometimes referred to as a metaphysical thriller. Its importance was recognized in its later revival in paperback by Ballantine Books as the thirty-second volume of the celebrated Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in July 1971.

Although it deals with anarchists, the novel is not an exploration or rebuttal of anarchist thought; Chesterton's ad hoc construction of "Philosophical Anarchism" is distinguished from ordinary anarchism and is referred to several times not so much as a rebellion against government but as a rebellion against God.

The novel has been described as "one of the hidden hinges of twentieth-century writing, the place where, before our eyes, the nonsense-fantastical tradition of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear pivots and becomes the nightmare-fantastical tradition of Kafka and Borges."

Plot Summary **SPOILER WARNING**

In a surreal turn-of-the-century London, Gabriel Syme is recruited to a secret anti-anarchist taskforce at Scotland Yard. Lucian Gregory, an openly-anarchist poet, lives in the suburb of Saffron Park unchallenged until Syme meets Gregory at a party and debates with him about the meaning of poetry. Gregory argues that revolt is at the core of poetry, while Syme insists that safety and orderliness (specifically, a timetable for the London Underground) are the greatest human achievements, and suggests that Gregory isn't really serious about his anarchism. This so irritates Gregory that he takes Syme to an underground anarchist meeting place, revealing that his open support of anarchy is a ruse to make him look harmless and ward off suspicion, when in fact he is an influential member of the local chapter of the European anarchist council. The central council consists of seven men, each using the name of a day of the week as a code name, and the position of Thursday is about to be elected by Gregory's local chapter. Gregory expects to win the election and take the position, but just before the election Syme reveals to Gregory under an oath of secrecy that he is a secret policeman, and, fearing prosecution due to the presence of Syme, Gregory cannot convince the local chapter that he is dangerous enough for the job. Syme makes a rousing speech pretending to be an anarchist and wins the vote, and is sent immediately as their delegate to the central council.

In his efforts to thwart the council's intentions, however, Syme discovers that five of the other six members are also undercover detectives; each was just as mysteriously employed and assigned to defeat the Council of Days. They all soon find out that they are fighting each other and not real anarchists; such was the mastermind plan of their president Sunday. In a dizzying and surreal conclusion, Sunday himself is unmasked as only appearing terrible; in fact, he is a force of good like the detectives. However, he is unable to give an answer to the question of why he caused so much trouble and pain for the detectives. Gregory, the only real anarchist, appears to challenge the good council. His accusation is that they, ruling from high above, have never suffered like Gregory and their other subjects, and so their power is illegitimate. However, Syme is able to refute this accusation immediately because of the terrors inflicted by Sunday on the rest of the council. The dream ends violently when Sunday himself is asked if he has ever suffered.

Full Text Online

Additionally, the entire text of this novel may be found at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

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Details

Author:  G. K. (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton
Genre:  Mystery, Literature
Publisher:  Modern Library
Date Published:  2001
ISBN:  0-375-75791-0
Format:  Paperback
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review by . September 30, 2012
If you have read Chesterton's stunningly prescient and relevant Heretics (see my review here) first, you might read this novel, as I did, as an extended allegorical example of Heresy in action.        When Chesterton was writing Thursday, the heresy of his day was anarchism, like the terrorism of our century.  So "Thursday" was actually Gabriel Syme, an undercover policeman elected to one of seven seats on a top-secret worldwide council of anarchists, …
review by . June 22, 2010
   This novel is my favorite fictional work by Mr. Chesterton. For those readers familiar with and fond of his epigrammatic style, you will find The Man Who Was Thursday to be no less quotable or clever. However, in addition to his usual wit, Chesterton displays a keen control of plot and suspense in this novel. An odd, hard to classify tale, The Man Who Was Thursday is part spy thriller, part philosophical dialogue, part farce, and finally part fantasy. Regardless of its protean genre, …
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