Dale Ahlquist introduces this nightmare at the AMC website:
At first glance, The Man Who Was Thursday is a detective story filled with poetry and politics. But it is mystery that grows more mysterious, until it is nothing less than the mystery of creation itself.This is Chesterton’s most famous novel. Never out of print since it was first published in 1908, critics immediately hailed it as “amazingly clever,” “a remarkable acrobatic performance,” and “a scurrying, door-slamming farce that ends like a chapter in the Apocalypse.” One reviewer described how he had read it in one sitting and put it down, “completely dazed.” Thirty years later, Orson Welles called it “shamelessly beautiful prose” and made a radio dramatization of it with his Mercury Radio Theater of the Air. (Unfortunately, he upstaged himself two weeks later with a production of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.)
Gabriel Syme is a poet and a police detective. Lucien Gregory is poet and a bomb-throwing anarchist. At the beginning of the novel, Syme infiltrates a secret meeting of anarchists and gets himself elected as “Thursday,” one of the seven members of the High Council of Anarchists. If you think it is paradoxical that there should be a governing body of those dedicated to destroying governing body, a hierarchy for blowing up hierarchies, you might be right. You might also note that the main reason Syme becomes a detective in the first place is because he is a rebel against rebellion. The policeman who recruits him explains that there is a difference between the real anarchists and the innocent ones who merely think rules are bad and should be broken. The real anarchists are something far worse than that. “They mean death. When they say that mankind shall be free at last, they mean that mankind shall commit suicide. When they talk of a paradise without right or wrong, they mean the grave. They have but two objects, to destroy humanity and then themselves.” This is a prophetic description of the philosophy of the “real anarchists” who really would bring us the Culture of Death.
Our goal is to discuss the first half of the book this Friday--then we will celebrate Christmas in December--and finish the book in January 2019! I read it years ago and look forward our meeting this Friday.