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The Thought Gang

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  1,095 ratings  ·  100 reviews
The setting is France: our hero, a washed-up middle-aged British philosopher named Eddie Coffin. Broke and unsure as to his next meal, he meets Hubert, an incompetent, freshly-released, one-armed armed robber, and the "thought gang" is born. Applying philosophy to larceny, these unlikely bandits question the meaning of life, the value of money, and the role of banks as the ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 15th 1997 by Scribner (first published 1994)
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The Stranger by Albert CamusCrime and Punishment by Fyodor DostoyevskyNotes from Underground by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky1984 by George Orwell
Best Philosophical Fiction
70th out of 146 books — 303 voters
Madame Bovary by Gustave FlaubertLes Misérables by Victor HugoThe Three Musketeers by Alexandre DumasThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre DumasPerfume by Patrick Süskind
Set in France: Fiction
172nd out of 279 books — 89 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,805)
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Don't ever try to read this book on an airplane. People will think you're crazy on accounts of your random bursts of hysterical laughter. It's weird, it's hysterical, it's wrong on many levels and it uses the letter "z" more than any other book in the history of novels. In short, it's perfect.
As an editor, how can I not like a novel in which an underachieving Oxford don is handcuffed to a radiator until he writes his manuscript? And then produces something so bad that his editor has to write the book?

Extraordinarily funny. Bank robbery on philosophical principles.
Jordan Halsey
Jan 12, 2013 Jordan Halsey rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Carbon-based lifeforms
This still might be my favorite book. The Lord of the Rings had more impact and Infinite Jest was more ground-breaking but those are the only books that are even in the running, which should tell you how much I love the Thought Gang. Granted, there's hardly a word Tibor Fischer has written that I don't love, but the Thought Gang stands apart even in that company.

It's funny, and sad, and it's the story of everyone, although really it is about a broken-down, middle-aged Cambridge philosophy profes
I bought this book in London (I think used) and read it on the plane. It went from my eyes to some place lost .... Nevertheless I enjoyed it, but maybe more for the idea of bank robbers who are philosphers. I like the idea of it, which is fantastic. But is the idea better than this book? Perhaps so, but nevertheless I enjoyed the read - which made the travel more... focused on the book then the plan delays, etc.
"I smell a nosebleed."

I'm always a sucker for smart writers doing really elaborate lowbrow kick-in-the-nuts/cheap pun type humor. And, TTG has more adjectiveized verbs than any other book I own.
Marc Nash
First book I've opted for from my GR recommendations algorithm. And algy me old mate, you did a helluva job.

From page 1 Fisher's voice gets right inside you and carries you throughout its length. This book joining my select pantheon of books with a laugh out loud moment on virtually every page, along with "Karoo" and "A Fraction Of The Whole". No mean feat.

A middle aged loafer sybarite has conned his way from undergraduate to Cambridge philosophy Don. Unfortunately his predilections for alcohol,
Sep 21, 2007 Dane rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Sort of ...
Shelves: fiction-read
Tibor Fischer's novel Thought Gang presents, for me, a reader's paradox. On one hand, it is incredibly well written, genuinely funny and the plot premise is incredible.

Allow me a quick synopsis.

A terminal slacker, drunkard, balding philosophy professor/philosopher named Eddie (our protagonist) sets out to flee his native London in the face of professional doom and pending legal action as he is found naked and hung over in a room full of child porn (no explanation on how or why he is there is eve
Forget the book jacket netherworld, where "darkly comic," "sardonic," "sly," "witty," "riotous," and "uproarious" all mean "you won't laugh once."

End to end, only the opening of Todd McEwan's Arithmetic Town and Redmond O'Hanlon's travelogues rival this novel for laughs per page. Read this in public at your peril. You'll laugh. Out loud. Repeatedly.

The only caveats are 1) give it twenty pages, and 2) yes, there's one offputting, unfunny ten page stretch during the narrator's graduate school days
Brent Legault
Oct 18, 2007 Brent Legault rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: zambonists, zouaves
Late in this novel, just a few thousand thankful words away from the end, the narrator has this to say: The virtue of self-discipline is a great one, and one of my cheif deficiencies, . . This could be the engine that runs The Thought Gang. Not its plot so much but its style. Fischer doesn't know when to let an outlandish metaphor lie fallow. Or perhaps he does know but ignores good sense. Either way, the result is cacaphony and my inner ear was hurting by page something-teen. I had a headache t ...more
This is one of the most linguistically inventive and cleverly conceived books I've read. The real joy is in the language. Every sentence is a work of art (pop art, maybe). Tibor's phrases blend philosophy with lechery with alcoholism, and not a small amount of gluttony. The result is a supremely clever narrator who plays Twister with his words, but always in a forward-moving way. For a lingo-centric novel, the plot is more than approachable, the character deeply wrought. I'm impressed by the eas ...more
Matthew L.
Mar 09, 2008 Matthew L. rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: intellectuals
Recommended to Matthew by: Bonnie McDonald
Shelves: fiction
"I contemplate the possibility that I have an indestructible liver, one that will be a medical prodigy for centuries, and that long after the rest of me has melted me away, my liver will be transplanted from patient to patient, like a family heirloom."

This book was recommended to me by a formerly great friend. Though I'm not certain it stands up as a novel, it is an interesting stream of consciousness piece with some quotable quotes.

It's worth a read, but if you're not into it in the first thir
Carol Lindsey
Ahhhhhhh.. I am in love with Tibor Fischer's brain. His parents were both professional Hungarian basketball players. The guy has won literary awards, offended and delighted people with his book reviews (he isn't afraid to loose a job over an opinion). This book is such a freaking good tale, my sister and I read it aloud to oneanother on a 10 hour road trip to visit relatives in cajun country. You will laugh until a hernia pops out. I will not spoil it for you, find a copy and prepare to become a ...more
Maria Grazia
L'idea è geniale. Un filosofo cialtrone, truffatore e amante della bella vita incontra un rapinatore menomato ma affamato di conoscenza, e i due si uniscono per rapinare banche allo scopo di riempirsi le tasche e diffondere la zetetica (onorata branca della filosofia).
Il libro è divertente, ma purtroppo spesso ripetitivo e i tentativi di risolvere alcune situazioni con un fraseggio mirabolante alla lunga stancano.
Da leggere, ma difficilmente da rileggere.
Chris Morton
Took me a while to get into it because it keeps going off the subject but once a friend explained to me that the protagonist had a kind of ADD and that the use of so many z-words is a running gag, I gave it more of a chance and ended up loving it. Just wish the dictionary at the back for all the z-words had included all the z-words used, not just a selection of the most obscure ones. Anyway, a book about bank robberies has never been more fun.
A good and entertaining book with an interesting premise. I thought the story execution could have been better though. The end left something to be desired too, and I kept thinking that it would have been a better movie than book which for me is usually not the case.
Outside of some humorous wordplay, there is absolutely nothing of interest or substance in this book.
I was supposed to have read this book for school several weeks ago, but only got about halfway through and just bullshitted my way through the week, and I have a terrible excuse as to why I did not finish in time: it's a dense, very complex read, and I was lazy and didn't want to. lol. But I've let very few books unfinished, because it's just a compulsion that a lot of people have, including me. Soooo I have reluctantly finished.
-The high point of the book for me was the diction. The phrases Fi
Helen Wagner
I found my copy of The Thought Gang at a used book fair in Cambridge- rather fitting I soon discovered, as it chronicles the accidental bank-robbing adventures of an ex-Cambridge philosophy professor and his one armed, one legged, hemophiliac partner in-crime.
To be fair, I can easily see this book taking a lot of flack for its pretentious use of words- not only those beginning with "z" (which the narrator is quite delighted by), but also the numerous others which far surpass the vocabulary of th
Fischer's sharp from the first sentence and never holds back. A self-proclaimed lay-about (who's doctorate in philosophy from Cambridge does nothing to protect him from mayhem for most of his life), Eddie Coffin begins his journey into midlife crisis with a bang: he is found by one eyed sociopath Hubert who's prosthetic leg and hand don't stop him from being seriously violent, and driven to bump off French banks for an easy Franc (published before the Euro). Sound like a Guy Ritchie film yet?

Jacqueline Ellis
Fabulous!!!A phlosophy lecturer teamed with a one armed one legged robber,who become the bank robbing duo 'The thought gang' What's not to love.Laugh out loud funny,intelligent and informative.Thoroughly enjoyable!
This is really a great read for entertainment, very witty and well-written. A Guy Ritchie-esque novel (pre Sherlock Holmes)
Evita la monostella solo perché l'autore sa scrivere bene.
Per me, peggior libro dell'anno (per ora).
Babak Fakhamzadeh
An enjoyable book, similar in style and quality to Fischer's The Collector Collector, but nowhere near his magnificent Under the Frog, which was a total masterpiece for being based in reality.
Fischer uses his absurdist style once more, which most often works, but is lacking at times, being too far fetched or too much a construct.
There is no dictionary that can accommodate you reading this book; you're just going to have to go with Fischer's context clues to deciper his stunning vocabulary. He does love to get it out.

I didn't like this as much as The Collector Collector, perhaps because I'm not a student of philosophy. There are a lot of in-jokes in there. Fischer is one of a very few authors I read that actually makes me laugh out loud, as opposed to going, "Hm, very funny" and moving along. Let's cheer for him to have
Quentin Pongratz
If I wasn't laughing, I knew there was a joke flying over my head. Beautifully constructed.
This book sure tries hard to be clever, but only once in awhile was I amused by all the rampant wordplay and puns. The flashbacks are, at times, amusing but don't mean much to the story. The characters are as deep as Bruce Willis in Die Hard (not that there's any correlation between stories... just the first analogy that popped to mind.) As for insight, sure, there's some.

Over-hyped, but entertaining nonetheless.
Doug Orleans
Sep 25, 2009 Doug Orleans rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Doug by: Lars Hansen
A meandering tale told by a washed-up philosopher who becomes a successful bank robber. Lots of clever non-pun-based wordplay, plus an inordinate number of words starting with Z (including both "zarf" and "zendo", which amused me). There are a few moments of profundity, but for the most part it's not very deep, just rollicking and/or absurd.
So many astounding snippets, one-liners, and moments; really, the best book I didn't enjoy.

Fischer is usually a favorite, but I think he was overly nostalgic for Hungarian wordplay while writing this. Or possibly attempting to fill the apparent vacant philosophy chair without having to fill out an application
Alla fin fine, tutti i nostri manufatti emotivi e neoetici, le nostre risoluzioni, le sicurezze, le grazie fideistiche, le nostre cornici zimmeriane dei dogma, tutte le pose assunte dalla mente non sono altro che la formica (una Zacryptocerus soldato) che dichiara "Sono ben dura" mentre su di lei cala lo scarpone.
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Tibor Fischer is a British novelist and short story writer. In 1993 he was selected by the influential literary magazine Granta as one of the 20 best young British writers.

Fischer's parents were Hungarian basketball players, who fled Hungary in 1956. The bloody 1956 revolution, and his father's background, informed Fischer's debut novel Under the Frog, a Rabelaisian yarn about a Hungarian basketba
More about Tibor Fischer...
Under the Frog The Collector Collector Voyage to the End of the Room Don't Read This Book If You're Stupid: Stories Good To Be God

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“No amount of intelligence can save you from stupidity.” 12 likes
“Many of us, I suppose, see our existences not as lives, but as life-holders, zarfs, waiting for the job, the person, the event to fill it.” 6 likes
More quotes…