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The Ball and the Cross

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,495 Ratings  ·  114 Reviews
I cannot understand the people who take literature seriously; but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this book. It is a collection of crude and shapeless papers upon current or rather flying subjects; and they must be published pretty much as they stand. They were written, as a rule, at the last moment; they were handed in the moment bef ...more
Paperback, 215 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Barnes & Noble, Inc. (first published 1909)
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Catechism of the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul IIStory of a Soul by Thérèse de LisieuxThe Confessions by Augustine of HippoThe New American Bible by AnonymousDark Night of the Soul by San Juan de la Cruz
Roman Catholic Reading
121st out of 378 books — 196 voters
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. LewisThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. LewisThe Great Divorce by C.S. LewisLeaper by Geoffrey  Wood
Recommended Fiction by Christian Authors
186th out of 401 books — 106 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Cooper Williams
Jul 20, 2013 Cooper Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
My second Chesterton work has awakened in me a most wonderful kind of rage. It is the rage that drives a fervent Catholic to hurl a rock through the window of an editorial office. It is the rage with which an atheist prints blasphemy and logical syllogisms. The rage by which both men take up swords time and again to defend their views.

On the other hand, Chesterton's gentlemanly prose exudes forgiveness. Similarly to The Man Who Was Thursday, the author paints a picture of the cosmos's workings t
Ken Bickley
Many reviewers have called this entire novel a confusing allegory, and even Chesterton himself confessed in later years that he was a bit confused by it. Nevertheless, the story of an atheist and an orthodox Roman Catholic trying to fight a duel over faith, despite continual police intervention, is amusing and interesting. Duels were decidedly uncouth in Edwardian England, as indeed was any public discussion of religion. Religion was a private matter, after all. The climax is a bit more puzzling ...more
Jul 27, 2016 Suzannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read July 27, 2016.

Read March 4, 2013.
Chesterton’s novels almost stand in a genre of their own. Heavily philosophical, wildly allegorical, unapologetically adventurous, and comically surreal, it can be difficult even to describe them. And of them all, perhaps The Ball and the Cross is the most peculiar; which might be to say the worst, if you could even use a superlative negative in a sentence about Chesterton’s works. At least it does not operate on the same level of high genius as The Man Who
May 16, 2011 Ladygwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Utterly fantastic! I see now why all my Hillsdalians rave over Chesterton. I will certainly look for more of his works :) The Scandal in the Village chapter is perfect!
1. You cannot defeat the Cross, for it is defeat
2. The difference between Jesus and Satan is that Jesus wanted to descend, and so rose, while Satan wanted to rise and so fell.
Manuel Alfonseca
Mar 08, 2016 Manuel Alfonseca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written one year later, this novel is the counterpoint to "The man who was Thursday", which I read five times many years ago. On the other hand, I have just read once "The ball & the cross". Perhaps this is the reason why I gave five stars to the former, and only four to the latter.

I am not disclosing anything if I say that the main antagonist in this novel represents the Devil, for from the beginning he is called Dr. Lucifer. The main characters are one atheist and a Catholic who pass the w
Johan Haneveld
Aug 16, 2014 Johan Haneveld rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great book by G.K. Chesterton. The more I read of him, the more I'm a fan. Yes, I do think Chesterton is in the 'hate it or love it' category, and I think one must have a taste for his pretty peculiar way of writing, but if one does, all of his works are like draughts from a spring of fresh, clear water. This one is no exception, filled to the brim with his trademark paradoxes and witticisms, coupling an alagorical story with lively descriptions and characters that feel fully alive, marr ...more
Apr 02, 2014 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian, philosophy
Another Sci-Fi story from Chesterton, however much easier to follow than The Man Who Was Thursday. A real duel with arms needs to take place between a Catholic and an atheist, they struggle to find the right place and so they become fugitives and comrades. Their adventures are both funny and witty and both of them start leaning towards his enemy.

Chesterton again surprised me by being able (in such a short book) to portray two opposite characters in such a way that the reader feels sympathy for b
Dec 23, 2011 Matthew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Bizarre but certainly entertaining and provocative. I'm a big fan of Chesterton with his rollicking plots and writing style and the question is why he is not more widely read today, albeit having a niche group of fans that apparently includes Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I had a glimmer of the answer in reading his collected Essays -- including one in which he defends the jury as opposed to the single judge system, in the spirit of democracy; his argument, to me, felt dated, although i empat ...more
Marcos Junior
Feb 07, 2016 Marcos Junior rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literatura, 2016
The Ball and the Cross é a transposição para a ficção dos temas abordados em Hereges e, especialmente, em Ortodoxia. A esfera é o símbolo do racionalismo, uma forma perfeita, mas que possui limites que não consegue superar; a cruz, por outro lado, aponta em todas as direções e simboliza a abertura para o mistério. O livro se divide em duas partes. Na primeira, o racionalista ateu Turnbull e o católico MacIan tentam, sem sucesso, duelar até a morte pela existência de Deus. Na segunda, ambos enfre ...more
Don Incognito
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 12, 2009 Virgiliana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: conservative Christians, GKC fans
I just finished rereading The Ball and The Cross. It's not a very good novel--Chesterton himself did not like how it turned out--but I enjoyed it--it was at least a good idea for a story, and expresses, if poorly, some very fun and interesting ideas. I also reread Martin Gardner's introduction to the book and thought it was not very good. Contrary to what he says, the novel isn't really about the conflict between the Catholic and the atheist--it's about what brings them together--that specifical ...more
Dave/Maggie Bean
I purchased the Dover edition, which contains a fantastic foreword by Martin Gardner. Said foreword is worth the price of the book – a pittance at $7.95. The text itself is worth twenty times more. TBATC was purportedly inspired by Chesterton’s debates with (deservedly) forgotten R.P.G. Blatchford. (I doubt even Gardner -- who refers to ciphers and numerology in his foreword-- caught the "woo-woo" significance of Blatchford’s initials: Blatchford, like the Soviets, whose B-40/RPG-7 became a weap ...more
Jan 03, 2013 Joel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not about the everyday world. It has little in common with the modern novels I am used to. It is not interested in exploring the nuances of introspection and social interaction. It seemed to me to be more like a farce with characters running around implausibly, saying witty, profound things. It also felt at times like a morality play with characters declaring their views on the state of the universe and of each other.

In the end, it is its own sort of book, a book obsessed not with "
Sometimes Chesterton just gets a little too nuts for me. The premise of the novel - the conflict between the "ball" (the world/atheistic science) and the cross (Catholicism) - opened well, and being a very hotheaded Catholic myself, I sympathized deeply with Evan MacIan from the moment he was introduced. But when the lunatic asylum came around I began to be very, very lost. I kept waiting for the big reveal, the explanation to all the ruckus, but when it came it wasn't quite as explanatory as I ...more
Mar 29, 2012 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful and thought provoking as ever. Highly recommended. However, I think it is best appreciated when there is a familiarity with some of Chesterton's other works in general and ORTHODOXY in particular. I saw many ideas and settings from ORTHODOXY which actually took place in this book. Insane asylums, the men who discover England, what things are worth fighting for, believing in oneself... all shared by both ORTHODOXY and THE BALL AND THE CROSS. They really need to be read together.

Morris Nelms
This is the first work of fiction by Chesterton I've read. It's a fine book. Elegant and witty writing prevails throughout. Chesterton, a devout Catholic, makes the atheist the most lovable character.
It's funny. It's funny like Twain and Wodehouse are funny. It's also deep at times, often at the same time that it's being funny.

This book may not be for everyone. Some will find it too philosophical. Some will say that Chesterton is engaging in straw man arguments, that he does a poor job present
Dennis Henn
Sep 26, 2015 Dennis Henn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The opening chapter establishes the premise of two antagonists--the cross and the world. The two concluding chapters bring the story together of this conflict depicted in two men who represent the church with its excesses and materialism with its emptiness. Chesterton possesses quite the wit.
Sep 21, 2008 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Probably the best of Chesterton's fiction that I have read. I think this book may be better than The Man Who Was Thursday. The society outlined in this book looks eerily like our own. The whole world has gone insane, yet it has placed the sane in the asylum. Chesterton does justice to the fact that there can be friendship between disagreeing parties, and this friendship can do more than all the battles to soften hearts and make them receptive to the grace of God.
Luke Paulsen
Jun 12, 2016 Luke Paulsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you’re thinking of reading G.K. Chesterton’s fiction, this is a good place to start. Though I prefer The Napoleon of Notting Hill for entertainment value and The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare for philosophical depth, The Ball and the Cross runs a close second in each category and is probably Chesterton’s most characteristic novel. It’s all here: towering allegory, madcap action, intellectual banter, social commentary, and plot twist upon hilarious plot twist.

Chesterton’s fiction works re
Jul 12, 2014 Todd rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alert--some spoilers follow. Overall, an entertaining work of fiction by Chesterton. The first chapter is a bit hit-you-over-the-head allegorical, but that rapidly changes pace with the duellers in the following chapters. The Catholic and rationalist duellers are quite entertaining up through the point where they chase after the violence worshipper together. After that, their continued antics begin to wear a bit thin. The story livens up some at the mental asylum, which somewhat precedes the far ...more
Jul 19, 2015 Gretchen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full of symbolism that borders on allegory, this narrative of dueling Scotchmen leads the reader through themes of camaraderie between enemies, devotion to religious causes, and sanity. The central objects of the ball and cross fade to the background, yet form a frame for the story.

Definitely one of Chesterton's more complex works--not in plot, which is relatively simple, but in ideas. Each character contributes to the struggle typified between the duelists. At stake is the battle between atheis
A funny, farcical story about a Christian and an atheist who keep trying to fight a duel, but are constantly waylaid.

Read for Dr. Wood's Oxford Christians course at Baylor (Fall 2014).
John Yelverton
The book started off being very interesting, and made several great points on the atheism/Catholicism debate; but then it just nose dived into absurdity at the end.
Jul 24, 2016 Mo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
still sorting through my thoughts on this book, though it strikes me as one that I would get more out of on a reread.
Donovan Richards
The Good News?

“Have you spread the Gospel?”

This question operates as a foundational principle for the majority of Evangelicals. The core purpose—maybe even the only purpose—surrounds converting souls.

Family must be Christian. When a child is born, the mission of the parents exists only to bring the child to Christ. Unbelievers throughout the family need the cross. I would venture most awkward holiday conversations emerge from this evangelical mandate.

Work does not exist for work’s sake, or for p
John Carter
An intriguing book, although rather heavy on the philosophical debate between Evan MacIan, a devout Catholic from the Highlands, and James Turnbull, publisher of a newsletter called The Atheist. Heavy and inconsistent. MacIan is newly arrived in London, hugely naïve, “without having properly realised that there were in the world any people who were not Roman Catholics. […] He did not see the word ‘atheist’, or if he did, it is quite possible that he did not know the meaning of the word.” But bef ...more
A thimbleful of cyberpunk, a dash of magical realism, and a pint of Chestertonian philosophy.

In early 20th century London, the editor of The Atheist publishes an article comparing the Virgin Mary to a Mesopotamian goddess, and finally (!) gets the attention he craves; a young and devout Catholic, first time in the city, accidently reads the article, breaks the window of the editor’s office, and challenges him to a duel. With swords, like gentlemen. And to the death, because it is that important
Robert Corzine
Dec 08, 2013 Robert Corzine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought I was re-reading The Ball and the Cross this weekend. Turns out I was reading half of it for the first time. You see, Chesterton published it twice. I had read the 1905 version which is ten chapters long and ends rather abruptly. In 1907, he published the finished version, twenty chapters long. It holds together a lot better. I always wondered why he had dropped the old monk Michael after the first chapter (he turns up again in the last chapters). The main story line features two men, ...more
Sep 13, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chesterton gives us the archetypal Christian and the archetypal atheist, embroiled in a series of exciting and often hilarious adventures throughout England as they try to find somewhere to duel in peace.

Chesterton's characters are so passionate and full of joy in life that while they are not particularly realistic, I always get the sense that they are what people should be if they would only be true to themselves and to what is really important.

For the most part I think Chesterton fairly presen
Mar 10, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find a recurring pattern when I read Chesterton. I start out nodding along, occasionally laughing and marveling at Chesterton's genius. Then I finish the book wondering what the heck just happened and I have no idea when the change over occurred.

Anyhow, the book is about two young men who propose to fight a duel to the death. You see, one is an atheist who has insulted the Virgin Mary and the other is a devout Catholic who would defend her honor.

So, all of society mobilizes to stop them. To st
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Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born in London, educated at St. Paul’s, and went to art school at University College London. In 1900, he was asked to contribute a few magazine articles on art criticism, and went on to become one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote a hundred books, contributions to 200 more, hundreds of poems, including the epic Ballad of the White Horse, fi ...more
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“What is the good of words if they aren't important enough to quarrel over? Why do we choose one word more than another if there isn't any difference between them? If you called a woman a chimpanzee instead of an angel, wouldn't there be a quarrel about a word? If you're not going to argue about words, what are you going to argue about? Are you going to convey your meaning to me by moving your ears? The Church and the heresies always used to fight about words, because they are the only thing worth fighting about.” 70 likes
“The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times.” 9 likes
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