THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY: A Nightmare (1908) by G. K. Chesterton
is most famous for his "Father Brown" detective stories - which I have
enjoyed. This novel, however, is structured more like a thriller.
surface plot is about secret police infiltrating an Anarchist cabal
that's plotting terrorist attacks. But it turns out the Anarchist menace
is not what it seems...
I recall reading THE MAN WHO WAS
THURSDAY when I was younger - and it made a better impression on me
then, even though it mystified me... or rather I was impressed because I
didn't quite understand it.
Now, when I read it as a more
mature man, I understand it perfectly. It is a tract on behalf of the
Catholic Church (which Chesterton converted to), pretending to be a
(The title ought to be simply "Join Us: A Tract".)
not only tries to make this tract "entertaining" by cloaking the
message in genre fiction, he also dumbs it down until it becomes
patronizing. It is embarrassing to see an obviously intelligent writer
dumb himself down for the sake of propaganda.
For example: in
one passage, the characters are in need of a torchlight for their car.
Someone brings a lantern that emits a cross-shaped light...
that's not allegorical enough for Chesterton! He describes in
sentimental terms how the lantern was delivered by a good man, and
spells out in the text that the sight of the characters using that
lantern seems like an allegory. (You know, in case the readers were too stupid to "get it.")
heavy-handed enough? How about the protagonist actually SAYING "the
infallibility of the Pope" without irony? Or how about when Chesterton
writes that a suspicious character looks "Jewish"? Groan. (There isn't room here for the issue of Chesterton's anti-Semitic tendencies, but they are duly noted.)
If you're a Christian - or if you dislike being condescended to - please avoid this book.
(Or read the "Father Brown" stories instead.)
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