Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Man who was Thursday

I hardly know what to say about this G.K. Chesterton book. It is a surreal classic; subtitled "A Nightmare". The main character, Gabriel Syme, is a young poet/policeman who befriends an anarchist poet in an attempt to infiltrate a secret anarchist organization in which the leaders go by the names of the days of the week. Syme talks his way into being elected as "Thursday" and then is whirled into a manic world of espionage and excitement. One by one the other members of the Council reveal themselves as policemen also, until they realize that everyone but the all-powerful Chairman Sunday belongs to the police and they've all been set to watching each other instead of real anarchists. The action mounts frenetically from Syme's first steps, which are quite logical, to a whirlwind of wild events - duels, car chases, mob shootouts, elephant chases, balloon escapes - until it culminates in a costumed garden party in which they are all dressed allegorically as their Day of the Week, and Sunday appears as a huge deity-like being. It is very strange, and very like a dream, in which nothing really makes sense but you feel there is something representative about it all. Unfortunately, although I can sense there is something here that I'm missing, I'm ultimately just not interested enough to puzzle out the meaning of this dream. It's a weird little book; I can't say whether I liked or disliked it. It's a book for sustained study - but I can't be bothered unravelling this allegory.

1 comment:

  1. I think I could get more out of some of the classics if I was taking a class that discussed them. I guess we could learn from the internet, but it's like you say - some you just don't want to bother unravelling.


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