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The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

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3.84  ·  Rating details ·  27,657 ratings  ·  2,808 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 Intr
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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)
Pedro Soares It seems a lot like Chesterton has lost his way in the ending. Maybe there was too much information and wonder even for his imaginative mind to bear.…moreIt seems a lot like Chesterton has lost his way in the ending. Maybe there was too much information and wonder even for his imaginative mind to bear. (less)

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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  27,657 ratings  ·  2,808 reviews


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Chris
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 d
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Fergus
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
The madcap adventures of a mild-mannered Scotland Yard investigator who has stumbled onto an Anarchist plot in Edwardian London, but can't reveal it to anyone.

Substitute "terrorist" for "anarchist", substitute "post-Brexit" for "Edwardian" London, and you have the makings of a rollicking good yarn.

And Chesterton delivers!

Being Catholic, he has an acutely suspicious eye for pure evil - which sobriquet precisely fits this odd and ornery assortment of bad guys.

And he expertly holds o
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Paul Bryant
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
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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
Lyn
May 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
What…?

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 ending … a steaming hot cup of damnedifIknowwhatthehellhewasgettingatsomekindofChristianallegory.

Chesterton’s mastery of the English
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Praj
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 attack ...more
Jeff
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,
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Evgeny
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
A buddy reads with my friends Carmen, Jeff, and Ginger - if she ever decides to join.

The true rating is 2.5 stars.

The plot is impossible to describe. All readers agree that this is a psychological thriller. This is the only point commonly agreed on. In any case the books starts with two poets arguing whether poetry should serve the law or anarchy - in other words, a typical first world problem.
first world problem
Very quickly we move onto international conspiracy and after this all the way into bizarre and way beyond. Think Alice in Wonderland writjoin.
The
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Carmen
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Kafka, Lewis, Camus, Borges
Recommended to Carmen by: Non-Crunchy
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
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Boy, this was really good until it wasn't at all anymore. An intriguing story which suddenly turned into some sort of muddled message about patriotism? Capitalism? Christianity? Anarchy? Communism? The soul of all mankind? How redheads are hot and god is fat? Don't know, don't care.

Blah. Skip it.
PattyMacDotComma
2★
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
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Nancy
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.
Matthias
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthias by: Deux Ex
Shelves: my-reviews, favorites
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
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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 when I be/>The
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Laura
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The question "What is your favorite book?" has always been impossible for me to answer, but this is the only book I have ever felt comfortable defaulting to. I've read it at least a half a dozen times since I discovered a copy of it in a used bookstore when I was in middle school; I will probably reread it a dozen more in the next ten years. I get something different out of it every time I reread it.

The story itself makes no sense, until you come back to the subtitle: A Nightmare. Li
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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
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K.D. Absolutely
Apr 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
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 Sym
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Jason Pettus
Feb 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apatt
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 Googl
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Dahlia
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
Hadrian
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Welp.

This started off as a charming and fast-paced mystery story, and went completely fantastical/nuts by the end. Reminded me a bit of the Temptation of Saint Anthony combined with Kafka. As if PKD was plopped down in Victorian England and told to write a story before his drugs kicked in.

I've always liked G. K. Chesteron - for distributism, for fighting eugenics, etc. As it turns out, he's also a very charming writer. I'm glad to become more acquainted with him.
Jeannette Nikolova
Jan 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Also available on the WondrousBooks blog.


BEHOLD... "The Man Who Was High". Once you've read this book, you'll know. My boyfriend, with whom I buddy-read it, and I discussed the topic and settled on opium (because it was written on the pre-LSD times).
"The Marquis had taken off his nose and turned out to be a detective."

That is to say, I did enjoy this book. The rating here is very subjective and it was calculated on the basis of how much I enjoyed it vs. how much it has influenced me and whether it did anything to.../>
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Jason
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 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 situatio
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Seemita
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
Paul Christensen
Jun 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I think this is some kind of anti-gnostic parable, with Sunday as the gnostic demiurge Abraxas, though it’s hard to be sure. Weird book.
Duane
Religious and philosophical messages in novels usually go over my head, or maybe I absorb them sub-consciously, I don't know. This book has them, so they say; most of Chesterton's books do I believe. I read it because it's on Guardian's list of 1,000 books to read before you die. I'll never finish that list, but I use it to browse for interesting books to read. I haven't told you much about the book yet because frankly, I couldn't make much of it. It seems to be a dream the protagonist was havin ...more
James
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
...more
Wastrel

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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JonathanT
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: classics
Basically I'm completely and totally confused as to what happened to who and why it happened to whomever it happened to. There was A LOT going on here. I kept getting all the characters confused, except for Syme. And I understood nothing really... haha. It felt more like philosophy than fiction.

The subtitle is 'a nightmare', and it fits. This has a very dream-like, surreal quality, but it didn't make much sense to me. Plus it was sort of dark and creepy and yet not at the same time?

IDK GUYS I'
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Stef Rozitis
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1900-1910
Ok so I didn't hate it, at times I could almost have been said to be enjoying myself in the midst of this pointless, grandiose, waffling, pompous and from my 2015 point of view predictable romp to nowhere (not really a spoiler). I know Chesterton from the Father Brown series and I wasn't expecting him to pass the Bechdel test or anything and I knew to expect weird sort of conservative Christiany-slanted metaphysics and philosophy. It gets two stars because it avoided being as hard-core right win ...more
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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, five plays, five n ...more
“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--” 233 likes
“Always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do?” 195 likes
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