Monday, October 31, 2011

The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton

This book is a slightly fantastical, slightly confusing but very fun read. It's set in the future (1984 - Oh yeah, it was published in 1904) and looks at an England that randomly chooses it's kings. One day, it chooses the absurdist Auberon Quin, and he goes about making England into a fantastical, medieval place, with couriers and such. Most of his subjects get annoyed, save one - Adam Wayne, and "civil war" eventually rages.

I must admit, this is not the most straightforward book from Chesterton that I've read. At first, it seemed to be in the same vein as Heretics or Orthodoxy, with very profound and/or quotable lines such as

"For human beings, being children, have the childish willfulness and the childish secrecy."

But it abruptly switches to Auberon, establishing his character before showing how he became King. The story grows more, dare I say, fantastical by the moment. Suddenly, because of Adam Wayne, who will not let Notting Hill be turned into a major road, civil war is raged and the book becomes concerned with the events of war. But since this is not a war book (or poem, such as Wilfred Owen's), it's not about "the pity of War". To me, it seems to be talking about how absurd mankind can become if all they do is aim for rationality.

In a sense, this book resembles The Man Who Was Thursday, in its implausibility. Yet, I find that The Man Who Was Thursday as an easier, more straightforward read, since certain parts seem to be very allegorical (Such as the role of Sunday). And even though it's fantastical, it still feels coherent to me.

There were times in this book where I had to re-read passages, because I wasn't sure what was going on. But that could also be because I was distracted (studying) and so, wasn't paying the book the attention it deserved. But towards the end, everything became more coherent, and I love the ending, where the humour and the passion is reconciled. To cite another author, this time Frederick Buechner, Chesterton seems to be presenting another way of looking of Christianity. In Telling The Truth: the Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale, Buechner opens our eyes to other ways we can see the gospel. Here, we see themes echoed in Orthodoxy of how Christianity is a paradox, and what makes it great.

Hmm... Sorry, but I'm a little incoherent today. I hope I made sense, and I shall absent myself until I regain sensibility.

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