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THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY: A NIGHTMARE. Intro., Garry Wills.

Chesterton, G.K.

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ISBN 10: 0836205944 / ISBN 13: 9780836205947
Published by NY: Sheed & Ward, 1975
Used Condition: Very Good Hardcover
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VG+, unmarked HB; DJ-VG. xxx + 199 pp. Bookseller Inventory # 004978

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Bibliographic Details

Title: THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY: A NIGHTMARE. Intro...

Publisher: NY: Sheed & Ward

Publication Date: 1975

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

About this title

Synopsis:

A group of anarchists dedicated to overthrowing the world order are under surveillance by Scotland Yard and are about to be infiltrated, in this fast-moving, funny, surreal detective story with a highly anarchic take on anarchy Gabriel Syme is dispatched by Scotland Yard on a secret mission to infiltrate the Central Anarchist Council—an organization plotting to bring down the existing social order. The seven members of the group are named after days of the week, with the mysterious Sunday, who calls himself "the Sabbath and the peace of God," as their leader and mastermind. Having successfully infiltrated their ranks, Syme himself becomes known as "Thursday." But he soon finds himself in a surreal waking nightmare, in which the lines between freedom and order, fact and fiction, become irrevocably blurred. Written in 1908, and drawing heavily on contemporary fears of anarchist conspiracies and bomb plots, this tale of panic and paranoia remains uncannily relevant. It is a fascinating mystery, a spellbinding allegory, and an entirely chilling classic of crime fiction.

Review:

In an article published the day before his death, G.K. Chesterton called The Man Who Was Thursday "a very melodramatic sort of moonshine." Set in a phantasmagoric London where policemen are poets and anarchists camouflage themselves as, well, anarchists, his 1907 novel offers up one highly colored enigma after another. If that weren't enough, the author also throws in an elephant chase and a hot-air-balloon pursuit in which the pursuers suffer from "the persistent refusal of the balloon to follow the roads, and the still more persistent refusal of the cabmen to follow the balloon."

But Chesterton is also concerned with more serious questions of honor and truth (and less serious ones, perhaps, of duels and dualism). Our hero is Gabriel Syme, a policeman who cannot reveal that his fellow poet Lucian Gregory is an anarchist. In Chesterton's agile, antic hands, Syme is the virtual embodiment of paradox:

He came of a family of cranks, in which all the oldest people had all the newest notions. One of his uncles always walked about without a hat, and another had made an unsuccessful attempt to walk about with a hat and nothing else. His father cultivated art and self-realization; his mother went in for simplicity and hygiene. Hence the child, during his tenderer years, was wholly unacquainted with any drink between the extremes of absinthe and cocoa, of both of which he had a healthy dislike.... Being surrounded with every conceivable kind of revolt from infancy, Gabriel had to revolt into something, so he revolted into the only thing left--sanity.
Elected undercover into the Central European Council of anarchists, Syme must avoid discovery and save the world from any bombings in the offing. As Thursday (each anarchist takes the name of a weekday--the only quotidian thing about this fantasia) does his best to undo his new colleagues, the masks multiply. The question then becomes: Do they reveal or conceal? And who, not to mention what, can be believed? As The Man Who Was Thursday proceeds, it becomes a hilarious numbers game with a more serious undertone--what happens if most members of the council actually turn out to be on the side of right? Chesterton's tour de force is a thriller that is best read slowly, so as to savor his highly anarchic take on anarchy. --Kerry Fried

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