altThe Man Who Was Thursday:  A Nightmare by G. K. Chesterton (original copyright 1908)

We should have more such nightmares.  Wikipedia refers to The Man Who Was Thursday as a "metaphysical thriller," and I suppose that's as close as possible to giving it a label.  Like Chesterton's Manalive, this tale of anarchy and adventure is a wild ride, but it is shot through with goodness—not to mention Chesterton's characteristic mental gymnastics and wordplay.

It's hard to imagine that Garth Nix, author of the Keys to the Kingdom series, owes no debt to The Man Who Was Thursday in his use of the days of the week.  At least, having recently read the series on the recommendation of my grandson, it was obvious to me, especially since Nix throws in innumerable other literary references.  Equally obvious, and more signficant (because closer in intent and feeling), is the influence of the clothing in the final chapter on the gowns worn at the end of C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength.

Such is the nature of The Man Who Was Thursday that I can confidently quote a large section from near the end without fear of giving anything away:

"You! " he cried. "You never hated because you never lived. I know what you are all of you, from first to last—you are the people in power! You are the police—the great fat, smiling men in blue and buttons! You are the Law, and you have never been broken. But is there a free soul alive that does not long to break you, only because you have never been broken? We in revolt talk all kind of nonsense doubtless about this crime or that crime of the Government. It is all folly! The only crime of the Government is that it governs. The unpardonable sin of the supreme power is that it is supreme. I do not curse you for being cruel. I do not curse you (though I might) for being kind. I curse you for being safe! You sit in your chairs of stone, and have never come down from them. You are the seven angels of heaven, and you have had no troubles. Oh, I could forgive you everything, you that rule all mankind, if I could feel for once that you had suffered for one hour a real agony such as I—"

Syme sprang to his feet, shaking from head to foot.

"I see everything," he cried, "everything that there is. Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe? For the same reason that I had to be alone in the dreadful Council of the Days. So that each thing that obeys law may have the glory and isolation of the anarchist. So that each man fighting for order may be as brave and good a man as the dynamiter. So that the real lie of Satan may be flung back in the face of this blasphemer, so that by tears and torture we may earn the right to say to this man, 'You lie!' No agonies can be too great to buy the right to say to this accuser, 'We also have suffered.'"

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 6, 2013 at 6:44 am | Edit
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By the way, both Thursday and Manalive are available for free on Kindle.

Posted by Peter V on Monday, May 06, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Maybe Jonathan should give them a try!

Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, May 06, 2013 at 1:52 pm
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