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The Napoleon of Notting Hill [Paperback]

G. K. Chesterton , W. Graham Robertson
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
Price: 4.22 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

30 Nov 2007
British writer GILBERT KEITH CHESTERTON (1874-1936) expounded prolifically about his wide-ranging philosophies-he is impossible to categorize as "liberal" or "conservative," for instance-across a wide variety of avenues: he was a literary critic, historian, playwright, novelist, columnist, and poet. His witty, humorous style earned him the title of the "prince of paradox," and his works-80 books and nearly 4,000 essays-remain among the most beloved in the English language First published in 1904, this allegorical fantasy is, perhaps, Chesterton's most curious book, a futuristic satire on public apathy, the corruption of the ruling class, and the collapse of local tradition. Though set in the year 1984, Chesterton does not concern himself with exploring the possible technological advances on the horizon at the beginning of the century: instead, he looks to the sociological, and so produced a work that comes startlingly close to predicting the indifference of the modern hoi polloi. Known to have inspired the hero of Irish independence, Michael Collins, as well as, perhaps, George Orwell's 1984, this is a stellar example of Chesterton's comic genius.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Cosimo Classics (30 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602068704
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602068704
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 13.3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 200,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'An utterly original surreal fantasy … This great book imagines a London composed of medieval city states with Notting Hill ranged in a war against the other boroughs. Has the unexpected, surreal tone of Chestertons other masterpiece, The Man Who Was Thursday.' --The American Chesterton Society --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Geboren am 29.05.1874 in London; gestorben am 14.06.1936 in Beaconsfield. Chesterton war der Sohn eines Auktionators. Er besuchte die Kunstschule und arbeitete als Karrikaturist und Journalist. Ab 1900 war er hauptberuflich Schriftsteller. Er heiratete 1901. Chesterton betätigte sich in allen literarischen Sparten. Bekannt geworden ist er ist er vor allem durch seine Detektivgeschichten des "Father Brown". --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars utterly original surreal fantasy 11 Oct 1999
By A Customer
This great book imagines a london composed of medieval city states - with notting hill ranged in a war against the other boroughs. Has the unexpected, surreal tone of Chesteron's other masterpiece, The Man who was Thursday.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of his most under-rated works 29 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Many people will be familiar with he Father Brown stories but Chesterton wrote so much more. This book follows the development of a practical joke devised by England's randomly elected king - a man who acknowledges only humour - when it collides with a serious idealist, who has taken the idea wholly to heart.
As always with GKC, moral messages overflow from every page but the action rolls along, includes a couple of battles ands with the two men realising that they are but two sides of the same coin.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absurd novel with a serious message 25 Dec 2010
"The Napoleon of Notting Hill" is probably the most absurd novel I've ever read. The author, G K Chesterton, was a colorful, verbose and highly eclectic British intellectual. He supported the Boer and the Irish, opposed the suffragettes, and collaborated with Guild Socialists, only to become entangled with the notorious Catholic fundamentalist Hilaire Belloc. I honestly admit that I don't quite understand the man!

Still, there seem to be some unifying themes in Chesterton's voluminous writings. The most obvious is traditional Christianity, first in the form of Anglicanism, later as Catholicism. The reader shouldn't be surprised if some of the characters in his novels turn out to be angels, the Devil, or God himself. Second is a kind of populism. Chesterton emphasizes common sense, the opinions of the common man, the everyday life of the common people, etc. As one of the characters in "The Napoleon of Notting Hill" puts it: "The human being, the common man, whom mere geniuses like you and me can only worship like a god". In his economic writings, he idealizes the peasantry. In other contexts, Chesterton says that life in the city is intrinsically interesting, and calls on realist writers to relate to it. Finally, there is a search for authenticity, as opposed to the artificial greyness of modernity and the tyranny of the Zeitgeist. Somehow, Chesterton believed that this authenticity could be found among ordinary people, hence making a connection to his populism.

All three themes are present in "The Napoleon of Notting Hill", published in 1904 and one of Chesterton's earliest novels. Both the setting and the plot are completely absurd, although the absurdity is revealed to have a point at the very end of the story. The setting is a futuristic Britain.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriousness sends men mad 6 Sep 2008
Imagine a 1984 London where society has frozen at turn-of-the-century levels, a King is randomly selected from the populace, and nobody really takes politics seriously.

Of course, it only takes one wise, weird little man to turn all of that on its head. G.K. Chesterton's magnificently absurd comic novel explores a common theme in his books -- a person who entertains himself with an absurdly serious world -- in an increasingly heated situation where the little boroughs of London have become warring kingdoms. Not much in the way of sci-fi, but a delicious little social satire.

Friends of the eccentric Auberon Quin are understandably shocked when he is selected as the new King of England... especially since his main focus is definitely not power ("Oh! I will toil for you, my faithful people! You shall have a banquet of humour!"). After bumping into a young boy with a toy sword, Quin decides to revive the old city-states of medieval times, with city walls, banners, halberdiers, coat of arms, and ruling provosts -- all as a joke.

But ten years later, a young man named Adam Wayne -- who happens to be the little boy who inspired Quin -- refuses to let a road go through Notting Hill. Quin is first delighted and then perplexed by Wayne, a man who treats the King's joke with deadly seriousness. Now a full-out medieval battle is brewing between the boroughs of London, and Auberon Quin finds that his joke may have some very serious consequences...

G.K. Chesterton was no H.G. Wells when it came from trying to imagine the future --- the 1984 London he imagined was pretty much the same, technologically and socially, as the London of 1904.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting 22 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A tragi-comedy. very philosophical and with wonderful characters and descriptions. Everyone should read G K chesterton. Discusses humman nature at a remarkably deep level but with laughs.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The humour of G.K.Chesterton is sometimes completely zany, but most of the time delightfully inventive. I found the opening few pages of the zany type quite irritating. They were intended to introduce two themes: (1) you never know what kind of a monarch you get from a hereditary monarchy: you might just as well pick a monarch at random. (2) Auberon Quin is as mad as a hatter - at this stage there appears to be no method in his surrealistic sense of humour. And then he is picked on as the next king.

As king, however, there is method in his madness and purpose in Chesterton's wit. The King is determined to take nothing seriously, and politics the least of all. One day he hits on the idea how amusing it would be to give autonomy to the boroughs of London, to revive their antiquity (he makes up what might be the historical origin of names like Kensington, Bayswater, Notting Hill etc) and to equip them with medieval coats of arms and a medieval set of officials like High Provosts who may enter his presence only when escorted by a group of halberdiers in the liveries designed by the King. And that is what he does.

After ten years, however, conflict breaks out between some of these boroughs, when businessmen plan to drive a highway through three of them, from Hammersmith to Westbourne Grove. Adam Wayne, the passionate 19 year old High Provost of Notting Hill, objected to the demolition of a little street in the borough. It is not only a question of independence: it is a question of maintaining a stand against Modernity. To the King's confusion, what Quin had constructed as a matter of whimsical amusement, Wayne was taking as a matter of deadly seriousness, a sacred ideal worth fighting for.
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