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Chesterton's allegory of heresy

  • Sep 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, led by the shadowy and larger-than-life figure known only as Sunday.   At times the slim novel bubbles along with electric energy and Chesterton's characteristic good humor.  Its narrative framework fits the fledgling genre of the spy novel, popular then in the hothouse political atmosphere that generated the first Great War just a few years in the future.  But like many an allegory (or "nightmare", as Cheterton's subtitle declares it), it breaks down over the long run, leading to unanswered questions and unrevealed mysteries.  

While the story is worth reading, if you are interested in the philosophy behind the story go straight to Heretics.  If you are interested in Chesterton's fiction, he is better known for his Father Brown series of mysteries.

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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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Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #36
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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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 ...

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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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