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A Novel of Espionage, Ideas, Farce, and the Fantastic

  • Jun 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, the work is supremely entertaining.

The book begins in London, sometime around the turn of the nineteenth century. Immediately, both the setting and the tone reminded me of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, an interesting comparative read to this one. Very soon however, we are introduced to the main character, Gabriel Syme, a philosopher-poet, and all Conradian overtones are discarded. In short order, Syme, in typical Chestertonian fashion, engages in friendly debate about the superiority order over chaos with an implacable enemy, the anarchist Lucian Gregory. This initial spat leads Syme into a mysterious anarchist syndicate—led by an even more mysterious figure named Sunday—which he infiltrates. Needless to say, adventure ensues, and he soon finds everything he suspected turned upside down.

Part of the charm and intrigue of this novel is its multifarious character. If you enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes stories, you will enjoy this book. If you enjoyed the nonsense-prose of Lewis Carroll, you will enjoy this book. If you enjoyed the breezy intellectual banter in Oscar Wilde’s plays, you will enjoy this book. Finally, if you enjoyed the fantastic imaginative worlds of C.S. Lewis or George MacDonald, give this book a try.

If you are already a fan of Chesterton, what more need I say. Read this book. The full-text is available online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

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June 22, 2010
This sounds like a book that I would enjoy, especially if you compare the tone to Joseph Conrad's piece. I'm a fan of his works. I also enjoy C.S. Lewis, so this sounds like a good fit. Thanks for the recommendation!
More The Man Who Was Thursday: A Ni... reviews
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, …
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Leave your iceblock in the rain see it clearcreek down the drain. Mom hollered down the moon with her big bingo arms. Old coyote sniffs out the fire with a nose wetter than two oceans. Meals in the rainstring … more
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About this book


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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