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The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton

The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)

by G. K. Chesterton

Other authors: Martin Gardner (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,042125895 (3.81)205
  1. 20
    The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie (rockhopper_penguin)
    rockhopper_penguin: I read 'The Secret Adversary' just after reading 'The Man Who Was Thursday'. At the time, 'The Secret Adversary' seemed like the book you *thought* you were getting for quite a lot of 'The Man Who Was Thursday'. Clever, and a good mystery, but not as good (or weird) as 'The Man Who Was Thursday'.… (more)
  2. 10
    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (shelfoflisa)
  3. 10
    The Chronicles of Amber, Volume I (Nine Princes in Amber and The Guns of Avalon) by Roger Zelazny (mulrah)
    mulrah: The twists and turns sometimes fall flat, but the ride is wild in both cases as the protagonist slowly comes to terms with a new "reality." Buckle up.
  4. 10
    The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G. K. Chesterton (kkunker)
    kkunker: These books have a similar fast paced wild feel to them. I read "Napoleon" while in London, which just made the book seem so much more alive. Both very good books by Chesterton.
  5. 21
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel by Susanna Clarke (flissp)
  6. 00
    Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Concerning a mysterious and allegorical secret society
  7. 00
    Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (ben_a)
  8. 00
    The Magus by John Fowles (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Secret societies whose aims you are made to reassess.
  9. 00
    The Deadly Percheron by John Franklin Bardin (SomeGuyInVirginia)
  10. 12
    Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (sirparsifal)
  11. 03
    CliffsNotes on Joyce's Ulysses by Edward A. Kopper (sirparsifal)

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» See also 205 mentions

English (114)  Spanish (4)  Portuguese (2)  Czech (1)  Catalan (1)  French (1)  German (1)  Danish (1)  All (125)
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
A note in the front of my paperback copy of this 1908 novel says 2/16/1967. That's when I bought it, and soon afterward I enjoyed a first reading. A few years later I reread it with the same pleasure. And then it sat in the hidden second tier of a shelf among hundreds of other books for at least four decades, until something sent me looking for it about a month ago. Amazingly, I was able to go right to it. Hurray: I haven't yet lost that store-and-retrieve connection. I'll be in trouble when I do, because there's nothing overtly systematic about my system. I usually find things by snapshot visual memory.

But as to the story, all I recalled was the main setup of the plot, namely, that a man named Syme infiltrates an anarchists' cell whose members have as code names the days of the week. The anarchists set off on a mission to prevent the prevention of a planned bombing incident. Our main character plays along while trying to think of ways to foil it himself.

Then, 7/8 of the way through this short (194-page) novel, it suddenly turns metaphysical. In fact, we begin to see that it has been allegorical all along, even though the fantastic element had seemed well anchored in a recognizable terrestrial reality. It has been so long since I last read this that it surprised me; so I guess what was memorable about it was less its own particulars than the fact that I enjoyed it so long ago.

Now it seems to me a bit manipulative, although not crudely so, and treats of themes that I am well tired of meeting as if by ambush around shadowy corners.

But this is not the fault of the book, which is unchanged--indeed, demonstrably so, for I am reading the selfsame edition that I purchased more than 40 years ago. This is one way that a book or movie or memento or landmark can be a mirror to us: if we know that it is a constant, then our altered perception of or response to it denotes a change in ourselves. In the case of this novel, I felt as if I had been conned, and yet at the same time it's hard not to feel elevated as well, even from the point in the story where the balloon goes aloft. Chesterton achieves his transformation competently and respectably, and the element of mystery still enchants.

I just don't think I'll be going along with it again. There's too much left that I've never read at all.

A sampling of passages that I liked:

Through all this ordeal his root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one. That is why, in spite of a hundred disadvantages, the world will always return to monogamy. (page 89)

[Syme speaking] "Shall I tell you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a face? If we could only get round in front..." (page 176)

The philosopher may sometimes love the infinite; the poet always loves the finite. For him the great moment is not the creation of light, but the creation of the sun and moon. (page 183)

When I first listed this book in my library, I rated it five stars based on the old memory. Now I find it very hard to rate, never mind classify; but I settled on three and a half stars just to hold as consistently as possible to my own ratings values. I would still recommend this book, though, to any reader who likes to think about things from different angles. ( )
1 vote Meredy | Apr 30, 2018 |
Don't remember much but there seemed to be some kind of idea, rather thick and somewhat greasy that G. K. kept poking me with. And though I was a tender youth who generally loved to be poked with ideas, there was something greasy about that particular idea; and my Soviet past and mindset kept telling me there was a smell. So, the idea made my Soviet past and mindset talk to me which was a bad thing already then.

I remembered some of that when I read Bely's "Peterburg" for some reason. There, a similar idea type thing was immaculately dissolved in the impeccable style, doing no harm, poking no one. If I had to choose, I'd choose Bely. If I had to choose Chesterton, I'd choose Father Brown, however smug. ( )
1 vote alik-fuchs | Apr 27, 2018 |
Dawn was breaking over everything in colours at once clear and timid; as if Nature made a first attempt at yellow and a first attempt at rose.

Public domain i know but flipping through my books i found this old jem

We follow gregory sym a secret detective and an anarchist now witch is he is the question. As orson wells stated in his brodcast adaptation

“roughly speeking its a book abbout anarchists…roughly speeking its a mystery story. Many dont get it and if you dont you ask”

This is verry true for a book that starts sedate in a park outside london then decides on a whim to do a abbout face runn arround in a fasion so eratic it makes plutos orbit seem regular. Then will stop just as suddenly and drop you somewhere compleetly diffrent give you a hug and make a speech that makes Shakespeare look mute. It philosophies a little abbout right and wrong makes you look twice at the neerest lamp post and think abbout it for a week.

It is briliantly written for all the reasons above and one more as you read you see the coulers of london and the french country side around you “and are left with a profound insight into, into whatever the book was abbout”
1 vote dawbre42 | Jan 28, 2018 |
  stevholt | Nov 19, 2017 |
I'm not really sure what to make of this surreal and absurd novel. ( )
  kasyapa | Oct 9, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
The novel increasingly revels in the disorder of dreams. Chesterton's great achievement is to imbue the everyday world with wonder; everything becomes exotic and fantastical. His portrayal of London in particular is an enchanting evocation of the modern metropolis – the city is rendered as a psychedelic wonderland, as both an ocean and a mountain range, as both the depths of hell and the unexplored surface of a foreign planet.

» Add other authors (52 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chesterton, G. K.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gardner, MartinEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amis, KingsleyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Covell, WalterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gallardo, GervasioCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gentleman, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keith, RonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lethem, JonathanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muniz, Alicia BleibergTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorn, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Edmund Clerihew Bentley
Edmund C. Bentley
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The suburb of Saffron Park lay on the sunset side of London, as red and ragged as a cloud of sunset.
"can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375757910, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:02 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

In a park in London, secret policeman Gabriel Syme strikes up a conversation with an anarchist. Sworn to do his duty, Syme uses his new acquaintance to go undercover in Europe's Central Anarchist Council and infiltrate their deadly mission, even managing to have himself voted to the position of 'Thursday'. When Syme discovers another undercover policeman on the Council, however, he starts to question his role in their operations. And as a desperate chase across Europe begins, his confusion grows, as well as his confidence in his ability to outwit his enemies. But he has still to face the greatest terror that the Council has: a man named Sunday, whose true nature is worse than Syme could ever have imagined..… (more)

» see all 22 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141031255, 0141191465, 0141199776

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