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The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  36,943 ratings  ·  3,689 reviews
G. K. Chesterton's surreal masterpiece is a psychological thriller that centers on seven anarchists in turn-of-the-century London who call themselves by the names of the days of the week. Chesterton explores the meanings of their disguised identities in what is a fascinating mystery and, ultimately, a spellbinding allegory.

As Jonathan Lethem remarks in his Introduction, Th
Paperback, 182 pages
Published October 9th 2001 by Modern Library (first published 1908)
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Margaret It's definitely deeper. At it's heart of hearts it answers the question "Why does God allow suffering?" set against the backdrop of martyrs for their …moreIt's definitely deeper. At it's heart of hearts it answers the question "Why does God allow suffering?" set against the backdrop of martyrs for their cause, heroic virtues in the face of absolute terror and a grand chase where nothing is ever as it seems. (less)
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) I simply couldn't get into it. It was overdescribed and none of the characters engaged me. I couldn't summon up enough interest to keep reading.…moreI simply couldn't get into it. It was overdescribed and none of the characters engaged me. I couldn't summon up enough interest to keep reading.(less)

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Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
Gilbert Keith Chesterton’s own life stories were every bit as madcap and zany as this book is. I’ll tell you a bit more, if you like...

One day, during the days of his éminence grise littéraire - the days late in his unbuttoned life, entre deux guerres - we find him on his own madcap mystery tour on the de rigeur readings and signings circuit. The total stress and if-this-is-Friday-it-must-be-Paris kaleidoscopic feeling of it all, must have overwhelmed this poor, usually windbaggish bonhomme...

Jan 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I lost my backpack thanks to this book.

It was years and years ago, probably my first winter in Japan, and I'd picked up this book at Maruzen. I had heard about Chesterton, mainly from the dedication page of Pratchett and Gamian's Good Omens ("The authors would like to join the demon Crowley in dedicating this book to the memory of G.K. Chesterton. A man who knew what was going on.") and the title looked weird enough to be entertaining. So, I was reading the book on the train, as I often do, and
Paul Bryant
Aug 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
They say that LSD was first synthesisterised in 1938, so it couldn't be that. But opium was imbibed in British society as we know from Thomas de Quincy up to Sherlock Holmes, so I'm going with opium.

This strange novel is a phantasmagoria which begins as a surrealistic spoof of Boy's-Own detective adventures in which our hero infiltrates the central council of the evil anarchists who are bent on destroying human society. Gathering more absurd elements (elephant chases through central London, medi
Leonard Gaya
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Possibly the shortest way to describe Chesterton’s famous novel is to say that it is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for grownups. The story of Gabriel Syme is just as bizarre as that of little Alice. It also echoes in many ways with the oppressing nightmares of Kafka and Dostoyevsky.

Still, The Man Who Was Thursday starts like a rather typical detective novel. The protagonist comes in contact with a small group of anarchists/nihilists in a London basement who, to all appearances, are planning a
May 06, 2015 rated it it was ok

What the hell did I just read?

Anarchists and poets. That part was deliciously, rebelliously fun to read. No doubt this is a novel idea and Chesterton’s imagination is superb. The first 30-40 pages were awesome and I thought this could be my next 5 star rating. As I began to read this book enthralled; I found myself smiling frequently, laughing often, and being thoroughly impressed.

Then I found myself lost in an absurdist, magical realism murky realm of steam punk whatthehell???

And then the
Jeffrey Keeten
Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: victorian
”A man’s brain is a bomb,” he cried out, loosening suddenly his strange passion and striking his own skull with violence. “My brain feels like a bomb, night and day. It must expand! It must expand! A man’s brain must expand, if it breaks up the universe.”

 photo e0a5ece4-ff40-49cc-b5ed-bd860cea1a26_zpsm117iexx.png

Gabriel Syme attends a dinner party of his friend, the poet Lucian Gregory. He is there under a pretense of friendship, but his true intention is to find out if his friend can be his entry into joining a group of anarchists. You see, Gabriel
Dan Schwent
Oct 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Man Who Was Thursday reads like P.G. Wodehouse writing from a Phillip K. Dick plot while on a Nyquil bender. It begins with two poets arguing in the park about whether poetry is more akin to law or anarchy. It turns out that the poet espousing anarchy is actually a member of an anarchist soceity and takes Syme, the other poet, to their meeting place to prove it after a vow of secrecy. Syme is actually a member of an anti-anarchy branch of Scotland Yard and usurps Gregory's spot as the new Th ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A sure fire cure for writer’s block.

Now, my opium-toking friend, you are on the road to writing a classic, time-tested piece of literature that’ll influence writers for decades to come.

It’s difficult to give any sort of concrete plot synopsis without major spoilers, but, Gabriel Syme, a police detective recruited by odd means into an anti-terrorist squad, infiltrates a band of seven anarchists all named after the days of the week. Sunday is the leader; Mr. Syme is now Thursday.

Wacky surreal nihi
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘Humanity crushed once again’. ‘50 dead, 120 injured’. ‘Grave face of terror strikes again’. Familiar headlines scream through the pages of the newspapers each time a bomb goes off annihilating blameless lives. Through teeth gritting resilience, public outcry resonates through the deafened ears of failed intelligence and faith in the state’s law and order hangs by a thin string. As the weeks pass by rapid sketches of the alleged bombers, email links, forensic reports, collected evidence from the ...more
Lucien Gregory, an anarchist poet, is amidst controversy with his colleague Gabriel Syme, the poet of order and reason. Mr Syme plays a double game. It is an agent of the secret police whose mission is to infiltrate the Central Council of the Anarchists of Europe. This organization has more the air of a cenacle of strongly degraded dressed up than a dispensary of dangerous nihilists. The chef's name is Sunday and his colleagues, like him, bear the name of one of the days of the week. During a me ...more
Loved the language and loved the beginning. It’s like a mad Monty Python story, but it lost me half way through. And to be fair, the Python crew, Terry Pratchett and others may well have been weaned on tales from Chesterton, so perhaps he should get more credit.

The main character, Syme, is a detective who is invited to a secret meeting of anarchists who are preparing to overthrow governments using bombs. He promises Gregory, the man who invited him, not to divulge anything of what he says. Gre
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. 45%

Okay, a lot of what I have to say about this book will be spoilers. I am going to hide the spoilers.

First, let's examine what I can say with
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's really not that hard to describe this novel, but it's hard to really capture the real flavor of something, from 1908, really belongs in a melting pot that includes the Keystone Cops, Kafka, Peter Sellars, and a hefty dose of LSD comedy. If that isn't enough absurdity for you, then please take a BIG helping of Christian Allegory.

*Wait. Did he just say what I think he said?*

Yes, I just lumped Christian Allegory in with all that. Bite me.

Seriously, though, reading this was often a wild and fun
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, my-reviews
This book is on my favorite shelf but was missing a review, even though I loved it from the very first time I encountered it.* Time to set things straight.

"The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare" is a unique book, that starts as a spy novel with a very compelling premise of underground anarchists, a mysterious police force and a game of hide-and-seek. Pretty early on there's shimmers of philosophical ramblings that will grow into an overpowering element later in the book. A table in a bar that tu
Oct 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very original, wonderfully quirky, thought-provoking little book about an English detective who infiltrates a group of anarchists. Part fantasy, part mystery, part philosophical, lots of Christian symbolism that is not apparent until later in the book, but you don't have to be a Christian to enjoy it. There is so much going on here that I will have to reread it at some point. ...more
Jonathan Terrington

The Man Who Was Thursday is my first venture into the writing of G.K. Chesterton having discovered the existence of this writer earlier in the year. Of course the first I heard of him was in reference to his Father Brown stories, one volume of which I have on my to read stack. I then heard that his most recognised book is this one, so naturally I organised to read it.

The Man Who Was Thursday is truly a classic detective tale, yet it is also an allegory. I didn't realise the book was an allegory
K.D. Absolutely
This is my first book by G. K. Chesterton (1874-1036) and I am very much impressed. This is one of the classic books included in the 501 Must-Read Books so I bought it three years ago but I only read this now because a good friend wanted to borrow this book.

This is a story of a undercover detective called Syme who joins Europe's Central Anarchist Council to infiltrate and fight against the growing anarchist movement. The central council members are named after the days of the week so when Syme j
Jason Pettus
Feb 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
I finished this book on Thursday September 26, 2013. Coincidence? Fortuitous? Ironic? Or just plain irrelevant?

I went into this book without any inkling of what it is about . All I know is that it is by G.K. Chesterton, the author of Father Brown the priestly super sleuth. The main reason I decided to read it is that the free Librivox audiobook version comes highly recommended. Librivox audiobooks are all free but the quality is variable, if you want to find which titles are the good ones Google
Liam O'Leary
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-spirituality
My 6th best read of 2020.
I've never seen spirituality and surrealism paired explicitly together. It's hilarious, but surprisingly fitting.

It's very close to the perfect book I think — it's funny, minimalist, exciting and serious. And I am glad to finally have found a good British author writing a good story set in London!

Some might not like it because it certainly does fail the Bechdel test, with only a single female character who barely talks in the entire book, or because it has messages of Ch
Roy Lotz
Sep 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is a ride of which ‘wild’ would be a fair descriptor. As virtually every reviewer (tearing out their hair) says, the book defies genre. Personally, I would describe it as an arresting mixture of James Bond, Franz Kafka, Monty Python, and the Bible—though, of course, except for the last one, the influence would run the other way.

Chesterton was prolific. Apart from his 80 odd books, and sundry other writings, he penned over 4,000 essays. This is a man who wrote quickly; and The Man Who
Feb 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't remember the last novel I've read which had such a promising start. I was amazed by this book's introduction. You want to know how awesome I found it? How about the fact I made notes on almost every single page. The characters, Gabriel Syme and Lucian Gregory, blew me away. Their interaction was so interesting I couldn’t stop re-reading some of the passages. The dialogue was witty and captivating. Imagine a poet/detective and another poet/ bomb-throwing anarchist at a party, talking abou ...more
Nov 11, 2021 rated it it was ok
I don't like allegorical literature, and I'm not particularly crazy about murder and detective stories, nor absurdist stories. This book is all these in one, so this clearly wasn't my thing. I can hear you think: "My God, what a dull person this reviewer is!", and perhaps I am. Now, I must concede there’s much to laugh about in this 'nightmare' tale, because Chesterton has turned it into a really hilarious satire. And certain action scenes are darn well written and keep you captivated, like a br ...more
Jul 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
A rollicking, jolly good adventure.

This bit of classic spy fiction is whimsical, lively, and a tad farcical. Our protagonist, Gabriel Syme, is an honorable poet that is nothing if not respectable and respecting of the rule of law. Being such a virtuous specimen, Syme is recruited by law-enforcement and so endeavors to infiltrate an anarchist society and do what he can to protect the values he holds dear against this subversive lot, but doing so gets him into quite the spiraling nightmare situat
Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
What a taut thriller! This exquisite metaphysical thriller went with the breakneck speed of a man on a mission, which pretty much was what the story was about. The chapters are so well etched that I forgot at various points that there indeed is a central character (in this case, Syme). But much before I reached the last page, I realized that Chesterton has pulled off a beauty by awarding ALL characters, centre-stage. Not an easy task in a thriller, where the consequences of few people's action f ...more
Katie Hanna
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fantasy
Umpteenth re-read, May 2020:

"What are we going to do?" asked the Professor.

"At this moment," said Syme, with scientific detachment, "I think we are going to smash into a lamp-post."

A+++ for dialogue, action, adventure, atmosphere, and a good dollop of philosophy thrown in there at the end.
I always say that I read G.K. Chesterton to better understand C.S. Lewis. And once again, I feel like I understand Aslan better because I've met Sunday.
The story itself is crazy but I love it.
This Penguin edition also does a really good job exploring the subtitle here: "A Nightmare." I appreciated the Introduction and how it ties in to the article by Chesterton included at the end.
James Henderson
More than one hundred years ago in 1908 Gilbert Keith Chesterton wrote a mysterious fantasy called The Man Who Was Thursday. Sixty years later while I was a student at The University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin I discovered this wonderful book.
More recently I attended a stage adaptation by Chicago's New Leaf Theatre Company the satire about a man who finds himself tapped by Scotland Yard to infiltrate a council of anarchists. The unique qualities that fascinated me as a college student r

A unique and joyous book: mystery, adventure, thriller, spy novel, farce, social satire, political satire, religious allegory, philosophical rumination, psychological study, surrealism, absurdism... an exuberrant and devastatingly talented romp that's at the same time a very serious novel.

I didn't find it a very emotionally engaging novel - characters who wear masks, a flippant tone, and a brakeneck pace (with countless twists) combine to make it hard to really viscerally care about anything or
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Gilbert Keith Chesterton was an English writer, philosopher, lay theologian, and literary and art critic.

He was 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

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