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The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G. K. Chesterton
Review by SaiphI read this book for my formal paper topic in my British Fiction class, and it is one of the coolest books I've read all semester. Chesterton is one of my favorite authors. Just some background info: Chesterton was a journalist, poet, and essayist from about the 1890's to 1936 when he died. He's most remembered for his rapier wit and his Christian apologetics. TMWWT is semi-autobigraphical of his experience in the pessimistic days of the 1890's when he was coming of age as a writer and feeling the first pulls toward the Christian faith. I'm taking most of this review from my paper, so that's why it might sound a little stiff. *l*
Many consider The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare to be G. K. Chesterton's masterpiece in the realm of fiction. The story of detective Gabriel Syme's struggle against the Supreme Council of bomb-throwing anarchists begins much like Chesterton's popular Father Brown short stories about a Roman Catholic priest who also solves murders. However, Thursday quickly crosses the borders of Father Brown and Sherlock Holmes and enters the world of Kafka's Metamorphisis. What begins solidly in the world of detective fiction ends mystically in the world of the surreal. The story of one detective fighting six anarchists quickly changes into the story of six philosophers chasing one man, whose name is Sunday.
The novel begins as a detective story. The hero, Gabriel Syme, is a member of a special anti-anarchist police force lead by a mysterious commander who only takes appointments in a pitch dark room. By tricking the rash anarchist poet Lucian Gregory, Syme infiltrates the Supreme Council, led by the universally feared and physically huge Sunday. The members of the council all have code names corresponding to the days of the week, and Syme takes the seat of the recently deceased Thursday. The plot thickens when Syme discovers that the men he originally thought were his arch enemies are all comrades from his own task force. The bewildered detectives return to Sunday to demand answers, and then things get really weird.
Chesterton was never very secretive about what the ending of the novel meant, or who Sunday really is, but I'll leave it a mystery for those of you who want to read it. I do highly recommend seeking out his commentary on the novel after you read it.
Perhaps one of the best things about the book is the prose. It might take some getting used to for first time readers of Chesterton (it sure did for me), but I've come to love his vividly poetic descriptions.
Another nice thing about the book is you don't have to buy it. *l* Besides being nice to the pocket book, this is also a plus because Chesterton's work is sometimes hard to get a hold of. It's in the public domain, so quite a few web sites have the text online. I've included a link at the bottom to the version with the easiest to read format.
(Slight Disclaimer for That Site: There's a quote under the picture of Chesterton that makes it look like it's a summary of his opinion. It's NOT. That quote comes from the villain of the novel and is precisely the opposite of G.K.'s views. Silly Bartleby people. Bah!)
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